Reading Analysis: “The Gravedigger’s Daughter”

Produce a reading of the following text.

In constructing your reading, you might consider:

  • the ideas suggested;
  • your reaction based on your attitudes and values;
  • the use of language and generic conventions;
  • the ways in which readers might be encouraged to respond to the text.
  • Remember that to construct a reading, you must actually provide an explanation of what you believe is at the centre of the text.

    Due: Wednesday, March 9

    The following is an extract from the 2007 novel, The Gravedigger’s Daughter, by Joyce Carol Oates.

    Chautauqua Falls, New York

    One afternoon in September 1959 a young woman factory worker was walking home on the towpath of the Erie Barge Canal, east of the small city of Chautauqua Falls, when she began to notice that she was being followed, at a distance of about thirty feet, by a man in a panama hat.

    A panama hat! And strange light-colored clothes, of a kind not commonly seen in Chautauqua Falls.

    The young woman’s name was Rebecca Tignor. She was married, her husband’s name Tignor was one of which she was terribly vain.

    “Tignor.”

    So in love, and so childish in her vanity, though not a girl any longer, a married woman a mother. Still she uttered “Tignor” a dozen times a day.

    Thinking now as she began to walk faster He better not be following me, Tignor won’t like it.

    To discourage the man in the panama hat from wishing to catch up with her and talk to her as men sometimes, not often but sometimes, did, Rebecca dug the heels of her work shoes into the towpath, gracelessly. She was nerved-up anyway, irritable as a horse tormented by flies.

    She’d almost smashed her hand in a press, that day. God damn she’d been distracted!

    And now this. This guy! Sent him a mean look over her shoulder, not to be encouraged.

    No one she knew?

    Didn’t look like he belonged here.

    In Chautauqua Falls, men followed her sometimes. At least, with their eyes. Most times Rebecca tried not to notice. She’d lived with brothers, she knew “men.” She wasn’t the shy fearful little-girl type. She was strong, fleshy. Wanting to think she could take care of herself.

    But this afternoon felt different, somehow. One of those wan warm sepia-tinted days. A day to make you feel like crying, Christ knew why.

    Not that Rebecca Tignor cried. Never.

    And: the towpath was deserted. If she shouted for help …

    This stretch of towpath she knew like the back of her hand. A forty-minute walk home, little under two miles. Five days a week Rebecca hiked the towpath to Chautauqua Falls, and five days a week she hiked back home. Quick as she could manage in her damn clumsy work shoes.

    Sometimes a barge passed her on the canal. Livening things up a little. Exchanging greetings, wisecracks with guys on the barges. Got to know a few of them.

    But the canal was empty now, both directions.

    God damn she was nervous! Nape of her neck sweating. And inside her clothes, armpits leaking. And her heart beating in that way that hurt like something sharp was caught between her ribs.

    “Tignor. Where the hell are you.”

    She didn’t blame him, really. Oh but hell she blamed him.

    Tignor had brought her here to live. In late summer 1956. First thing Rebecca read in the Chautauqua Falls newspaper was so nasty she could not believe it: a local man who’d murdered his wife, beat her and threw her into the canal somewhere along this very-same deserted stretch, and threw rocks at her until she drowned. Rocks! It had taken maybe ten minutes, the man told police. He had not boasted but he had not been ashamed, either.

    Bitch was tryin to leave me, he said.

    Wantin to take my son.

    Such a nasty story, Rebecca wished she’d never read it. The worst thing was, every guy who read it, including Niles Tignor, shook his head, made a sniggering noise with his mouth.

    Rebecca asked Tignor what the hell that meant: laughing?

    “You make your bed, now lay in it.”

    That’s what Tignor said.

    Rebecca had a theory, every female in the Chautauqua Valley knew that story, or one like it. What to do if a man throws you into the canal. (Could be the river, too. Same difference.) So when she’d started working in town, hiking the towpath, Rebecca dreamt up a way of saving herself if/when the time came.

    Her thoughts were so bright and vivid she’d soon come to imagine it had already happened to her, or almost. Somebody (no face, no name, a guy bigger than she was) shoved her into the muddy-looking water, and she had to struggle to save her life. Right away pry off your left shoe with the toe of your right shoe then the other quick! And then- She’d have only a few seconds, the heavy work shoes would sink her like anvils. Once the shoes were off she’d have a chance at least, tearing at her jacket, getting it off before it was soaked through. Damn work pants would be hard to get off, with a fly front, and buttons, and the legs kind of tight at the thighs, Oh shit she’d have to be swimming, too, in the direction the opposite of her murderer …

    Christ! Rebecca was beginning to scare herself. This guy behind her, guy in a panama hat, probably it was just coincidence. He wasn’t following her only just behind her.

    Not deliberate only just accident.

    Yet: the bastard had to know she was conscious of him, he was scaring her. A man following a woman, a lonely place like this.

    God damn she hated to be followed! Hated any man following her with his eyes, even.

    Ma had put the fear of the Lord in her, years ago. You would not want anything to happen to you, Rebecca! A girl by herself, men will follow. Even boys you know, you can’t trust.

    Even Rebecca’s big brother Herschel, Ma had worried he might do something to her. Poor Ma!

    Nothing had happened to Rebecca, for all Ma’s worrying.

    At least, nothing she could remember.

    Ma had been wrong about so many damn things …

    Rebecca smiled to think of that old life of hers when she’d been a girl in Milburn. Not yet a married woman.

    14 Responses

    1. This excerpt from the beginning of The Gravedigger’s Daughter by Joyce Carol Oates, published on 1st June 2007, details the main character, Rebecca Tignor, and her walk home in the evening from work. This pivotal scene provides the reader with and introduction to both the characters and the main ideas which will undoubtedly be prevalent throughout the rest of the novel. In this way, the reader is able to establish the ideas that are suggested, the way language and generic conventions have an effect on the reader, and the reader’s reactions based on their attitudes and values.

      One of the most explicitly shown ideas in The Gravedigger’s Daughter is that of domestic violence and abuse. This is shown in a number of ways: firstly, it is shown through Rebecca’s retelling of the article in the Chautauqua Falls newspaper – “a local man who’d murdered his wife, beat her and threw her into the canal somewhere along this very-same deserted stretch”. Secondly, the man who appears to be following Rebecca exaggerates the marginalisation of women and the victimisation that they are shown to suffer. This idea seems to not only be occurring for her at the moment, but was instilled within her by her mother when she was very young: “Ma had put the fear of the Lord in her, years ago. You would not want anything to happen to you, Rebecca! A girl by herself, men will follow. Even boys you know, you can’t trust”. This marginalisation not only is about the abuse and the diminishment of women, but rather the overall disregard for what they have to say and the disregard of equality and fairness – a male-dominant society which was typical of the late 1950s. These ideas could perhaps foreshadow the later conflicts that might occur in the novel, especially to do with gender differences and equality. In order to articulate these ideas, Joyce Carol Oates uses particular language effects and generic conventions within the excerpt.

      One of the most prevalent factors to do with language within this text is the insight that the reader is given into the mind of Rebecca: her increasingly frantic thoughts about the man following her and the stories that she read about domestic abuse. Her thoughts begin with her saying that she was simply “nerved-up… irritable as a horse tormented by flies”. However, as she continues to be followed, her thoughts escalate to a much more frantic level, where she reveals that the man “was scaring her”. In conjunction with this change in her mental state, the length and smoothness of sentences at the beginning of the excerpt change to very short and concise sentences towards the end, which reflect the more worried nature of her emotional state. Rebecca tries to comfort herself by saying “he wasn’t following her, only just behind her. Not deliberate, only just an accident”. Men and women seem to be separated, with the female group shown as the victims, while the male group is shown as the predators. This is exaggerated by the reference to the article in the Chautauqua Falls newspaper, which details the story of a man who brutally murdered his wife because she tried to leave him and take their son. There also appears to be an un-written rule or way of thinking among the women who live here: “A girl by herself, men will follow”, prompting them to group together in a safety-in-numbers fashion. Lastly, these ideas and language effects can invoke different reactions for different readers according to their attitudes and values.

      Today, we live in a society of equality. A person is simply a person and they are not judged or discriminated upon according to their gender. For example, Australia has a female Prime Minister, and the recent flooding in north-eastern Australia was taken care of by Queensland Premier – another female in an authoritative position – who was well recognised for her leadership and her strength. Although women in the 1950s – when The Gravedigger’s Daughter was set – may have displayed these qualities, they were often overlooked in the belief the men were simply better than women. This idea is shown in the novel, and can encourage modern readers to take exception to the treatment of women that is being shown. Also, today’s society is much more exposed to domestic violence. The Claremont serial killer is an example which is similar to the serial killer from the text. There are advertisements on television which condemn abuse, and the consequences of domestic violence have been made very clear, not only the immediate ramifications of receiving a fine or going to jail, but particular emphasis has been put upon the effects on the children, and the damage that can come of this later in life.

      Several varying ideas are presented in Joyce Carol Oates’s novel The Gravedigger’s Daughter, especially those to do with domestic violence and the marginalisation of women. These ideas are presented through the particular use of language and generic conventions, and can invoke different reactions for different readers based upon their attitudes and values.

    2. Joyce Carol Oates’s novel ‘The Gravedigger’s Daughter’ explores the complexities of gender roles and especially gender inequality throughout the 1950’s, and even earlier than that. Showing just how dominant males where over women. This inequality between male and female is expressed through the character Rebecca Tignor, who is in fear for her own well being when she notices a male following her when walking home from work. As we know, the ideas of gender oppression presented in the text through this scene have a high chance of prevailing further throughout the rest of the novel.
      Rebecca recounts how she read in the newspaper of how a husband in the river that she is nearby, went and beat his wife, then threw her into the river and stoned her until she drowned. It doesn’t play so much a part in the domestic abuse element but more so in the oppression of gender’s as she lives in the fear that some ‘Male’ could do the same to her too. She has to live in a fear herself because she believes that a male could do the same to her – which emphasizes the oppression and makes it clear as though males are extremely violent and willing to kill their own wives over something. The fear in herself extends this violence out to ‘all’ men, which is also shown through the man that is following her.
      The continual stereotype of male power follows through with the man following Rebecca. “Yet: the bastard had to know she was conscious of him, he was scaring her. A man following a woman, a lonely place like this.” The man emphasizes fear into the woman as a way of controlling her, and all these thoughts run wild in Rebecca’s head simply because of the man following her. It also shows how women are only treated only for their sexual appeal which once again shows this oppression. “God damn she hated to be followed! Hated any man following her with his eyes, even.” Rebecca hates how men constantly follow her with their eyes, which is representing her beauty and women are only seen for their sexual qualities. “Ma had put the fear of the Lord in her, years ago. You would not want anything to happen to you, Rebecca! A girl by herself, men will follow. Even boys you know, you can’t trust.” Continues to emphasize how women are only looked at for their sexual appeal, which represents one of the major forms of gender oppression represented through the text.
      Although this is strongly prevalent throughout the text, some of its elements do still apply to modern society and others do not. We still look to women for their sexual appeal, but compared to the oppression that is being dealt with in the text ‘The Gravedigger’s Daughter,’ this oppression is much different too today. We no longer follow the idea that women only have to be housewives, and although the novel is being set in the 1950’s shows Rebecca working, it is given a superstitious feeling as though it is regarded as something wrong, with the men watching her at such a late hour. Now we do not believe in the same thing. Women work just the same as men, and are considered just as close to their leadership roles as men do. We have a female Prime Minister, and although some people are still opposed to it, most people do not have a problem with a woman running the country, although that would be shocking if presented 50 years ago.
      So that the oppression of females and the gender inequality that we are presented with in the text ‘The Gravedigger’s Daughter’ more so shows a historic look back on how women were treated and how the times of the past have changed compared to the times of today. It’s a lesson to be learnt on how our values of the roles of each gender have changed through the years, and this novel shows just how wrong we supposedly got it.

    3. Reading Analysis: “The Gravedigger’s Daughter”
      The 2007 novel, The Gravedigger’s Daughter, by Joyce Carol Oates positions the reader to respond upon the issue of equality within class and sex. The extract details Rebecca Tignor’s walk along the towpath, by the canal, from the factory to home whilst being followed by a man wearing a panama hat during September 1959. It positions the reader to react upon the issue of equality, as this issue is explored through the ideas of class and sex in the extract.
      The idea of class is touched upon through Oates’ use of the generic convention setting. Rebecca is set as a factory worker, so the reader assumes that she is of the lower class. The fact that she is walking along the canal, and not catching the ferry as others do also supports the probability that she is of the lower class, “…a young woman factory worker was walking home on the towpath of the Erie Barge Canal…”. The inequality in class presented to the reader is through the conflict that Rebecca experiences whilst walking home from work. This is through the unknown stalker trailing Rebecca in a ‘panama’ hat. As a result of the inequality of class she’s forced to walk home alone, unsecure, and fearful of the stranger stalking her, as the reader could see as a symbol of the upper-class causing uncertainty and insecurity within Rebecca. She’s constantly looking over her shoulder and being watched by the upper-class/her overseer would be a linking point. “…she began to notice that she was being followed, at a distance of about thirty feet, by a man in a panama hat. A panama hat! And strange light-colored clothes, of a kind not commonly seen in Chautauqua Falls.”, this gives the reader the chance to respond upon equality between classes, and how Chautauqua Falls is shown as a lower class, rundown, and insecure highlighting the inequality between class, however the inequality upon sex is touched upon greatly in the extract, and links with the concept of inequality in class.

      The idea of sex runs as a strong theme throughout the extract. The inequality of sex in the novel is evidenced numerously throughout the text. Not only does the male stalker signify the traditional theory of male dominance over women in the setting, but the development of the conflict, and Rebecca’s reflection and thoughts of the background of the city and its society suggest that Chautauqua Falls is a symbol of the inequality between sexes. “In Chautauqua Falls, men followed her sometimes. At least, with their eyes. Most times Rebecca tried not to notice. She’d lived with brothers, she knew “men.” She wasn’t the shy fearful little-girl type. She was strong, fleshy. Wanting to think she could take care of herself.” this is evidence of Rebecca’s ‘wariness’ of men, and her mistrust of them which is present for a good reason. When the reader is enlightened as to what Rebecca has read and influenced her, the reader is also better positioned to comment on the inequality between sexes in the text “First thing Rebecca read in the Chautauqua Falls newspaper was so nasty she could not believe it: a local man who’d murdered his wife, beat her and threw her into the canal somewhere along this very-same deserted stretch, and threw rocks at her until she drowned”. The inequality between sexes is clearly constructed through the narrative convention of setting and the construction of Rebecca’s character (characterisation).
      The text presents the reader with linking concepts on the idea of inequality, through inequality on sex and class. Chautauqua Falls is a representation of these linking concepts developed through Oates’ use of narrative conventions like setting, conflict and characterisation. The author is encouraged to respond upon the issue of inequality by commenting on the linking ideas of inequality in sex and class.

    4. Joyce Carol Oates’s novel ‘The Gravedigger’s Daughter’ explores the complexities of gender roles and gender inequality, in the past and present. This inequality between male and female is expressed through the character Rebecca Tignor, who is in fear for her own well being when she notices a male following her when walking home from work. The ideas of gender oppression presented in the text through this extract can also be related to the context of the author and the audience. The text also links this oppression of females to sexuality.

      By looking at the context we can see these issues of gender roles and gender inequality presented by the text. Today, we live in a society that openly promotes equality, but this doesn’t mean that these issues aren’t present. For example, the presence of domestic violence in society, but there are also advertisements on television which condemn abuse, and show the consequences of domestic violence, with particular emphasis has been put upon the effects on the children, and the damage that can come of this later in life. When compared to the setting of the 1950’s there were no acceptance in the mainstream that these issues were important or should be talked about at all. We can also look at females in power in society today, i.e. Australia has a female Prime Minister, when compared to the 1950’s idea of the housewife, that women are there to look after the family and if they are in the workforce it is only in low end jobs, like in the factory that Rebecca is said to work in. These aspects of context present the text as a warning of the problems of the past and as reminded of the beginning of the women’s rights movement, as this was around that time, e.g. Rebecca has a job. The context is important but must be linked to other features of the text, i.e. the representations of the power relationship between men and women.

      The power of males over women presented in the text emphasis’s the idea of gender inequality and gender role. This can be seen in the fears of the female character Rebecca. This can be seen in Rebecca’s retelling of the article in the Chautauqua Falls newspaper – “a local man who’d murdered his wife, beat her and threw her into the canal somewhere along this very-same deserted stretch”. Also, the man who appears to be following Rebecca shows the fear that women have of this power the men seem to have over them. This power can also be seen in Rebecca’s need for he husband to protect her, “Tignor. Where the hell are you.” These show the idea of gender inequality as a problem created by both males and females, males being set up to be dominate and females accepting this dominance and conforming to it. The power relationship is important to the meaning of this text and can be linked to the idea of this oppression being caused by sexuality.

      The text also presents women as being part of this oppression due to sexuality. The text shows how women are only treated only for their sexual appeal. “God damn she hated to be followed! Hated any man following her with his eyes, even.” Rebecca hates how men constantly follow her with their eyes, which is representing her beauty and women are only seen for their sexual qualities. This could be conveying a message about women conforming to this sexual appeal, i.e. acting provocatively, or wearing “skimpy” clothes, are adding to their own oppression and are allowing themselves to be dominated by males. “Ma had put the fear of the Lord in her, years ago. You would not want anything to happen to you, Rebecca! A girl by herself, men will follow. Even boys you know, you can’t trust.” Continues to emphasize how women are only looked at for their sexual appeal, but also presents a fear of it and a sense of not taking action.

      The complexities of gender roles and gender inequality past and present, are explored in Joyce Carol Oates’s novel ‘The Gravedigger’s Daughter’. This inequality between male and female is expressed through the character Rebecca Tignor, who is in fear for her own well being when she notices a male following her when walking home from work. The ideas of gender oppression presented in the text through this extract can also be related to the context of the author and the audience. The text also links this oppression of females to sexuality. The idea of gender is explored in this text showing many different points, ie causes and resolutions.

    5. This extract from The Gravedigger’s daughter, by Joyce Carol Oates, is in many ways a modern interpretation of the downfall and trap of marriage. It also explores the unjust relationship between a man and a woman, particularly when sexism was at its peak, in the 1905’s. The novel is written in 2007, so it can simply be related a modern context. Language, symbolism and figurative language are all used to express the message of what Oates is trying to communicate.
      The first few paragraphs set up the themes for the rest of the novel, (I’m presuming this is the opening chapter). It states that Rebecca is married to a vain main, but it is made clear that she isn’t exactly happy with being married. In the first line Joyce says, “A young woman”, this could be referring to the trap of marrying at a young age, which is pretty uncommon in today’s society. The reference to Tigner is an interesting one, at first it seems as she repeats it daily just in disbelief or unacceptance of what she has done, (marriage). When Rebecca says that “Tigner wouldn’t like this” I immediately recognized numerous things, firstly that she could be referring to her husband would not like this, not necessarily that she isn’t enjoying the attention (she could be overreacting and this is simply a man just walking home not someone seeking to attack her). Secondly, the last name Tigner represents her marriage to this man. Therefore, saying “Tigner is not going to like this” could very well be metaphorically referring to marriage will not like this.
      This extract also deals a large part with anxiety, and the weakness of women. Stereotypically, women are not as strong as men. Thus, they cannot defend them self from an attacker, say as well as a man would be able to. This already puts Rebecca in a vulnerable situation. As I stated before, Rebecca is presuming this man following her has the intention to attack her. This is largely emphasised through the story she says she read when she first moved to Chautauqua Falls, about a woman being brutally murdered and drowned by her husband, a man. This further enforces my previous point about marriage; this story is used as over exaggeration of what could happen in a dysfunctional relationship. Rebecca’s constant thoughts of how she is going to protect herself, how she is going to avoiding being killed by this so called attacker, further expresses her weakness as a woman In the 1950’s. Most women in today’s society, would probably still be scared if they were alone with another man behind them, but usually women are a lot more confident in the way they carry themselves in social situations and in society in general. This has changed a lot from the 1950’s, when women had very stereotypical roles. The idea that Rebecca imagines, that to some extent every woman in the town knows the story of the woman shows the reader that women are fearful of men in the society presented by Oates. Oates is setting the path for the rest of the novel that women are going to be neglected, mistreated and abused throughout the novel because of the massive power imbalance taking place.
      A common theme presented by the snickering of the men, is the idea of, “this is what will happen to you leave”. The men do not directly say it aloud, that it was okay what the man did to his wife because she left, but they heavily imply it by their snickering. This to be represents the redneck culture, the makeup of Chautauqua Falls is almost 100% white. The whole idea of hitting a woman, a woman doing as you say and that’s final, all is very similar to rednecks in the United States. Also, the idea that she is working in a time when it was uncommon for a woman to work, and the description of the area she is, suggests she is in a low socio economic area, a redneck area.
      An alternative minor reading that could be made Is that Rebecca, representing women, use their looks to get what they want, or too stand out in the crowd. In other words, they play to their looks. The emphasis Rebecca has on her last name suggests ownership to the man, that she is not her own woman, she is her mans woman. Perhaps Oates is trying to explore the struggle women went through in the 50’s to be recognized, to have their voices heard.

    6. This extract from Joyce Carol Oates’s The Gravediggers Daughter, published June 2007, depicts the walk home from work by the protagonist, Rebecca Tignor, whilst being followed by an unnamed man. The use of these characters by Oates is to portray the different ideas that will be expressed further in the novel. Through this the reader is able to interpret the ideas represented, the way language is used to engage the reader, and the response of the reader based on their values and beliefs.

      The dominant idea that is portrayed in The Gravediggers Daughter was fear and uncertainty. The unnamed character is symbolic of the fear and uncertainty that most people would undergo in a setting similar to this one. The uncertainty of what the character is seeking out is what builds up the fear.” God damn she was nervous! Nape of her neck sweating. And inside her clothes, armpits leaking. And her heart beating in that way that hurt like something sharp was caught between her ribs.” This build up of fear gives the extract that feeling of suspense. Another idea that is portrayed in the novel is the disregard for female equality and opinion. As it was the 1950’s and equality of gender didn’t exist, you could say from a feminist point of view that the man following Rebecca could be symbolic of all men, who dominate women through fear and anxiety. Yet Rebecca’s character slightly challenges the idea of male dominance, her planned evasion of a murderer could be seen as a way for women to break out from the bonds of men and start their own life. These ideas are presented through Oates’s uses of language in the text.

      Oates’s uses 3rd person omniscient so the reader to gain insight into Rebecca’s character, and her feelings of the environment around her. The build up of suspense and anxiety manifests from Rebecca’s fear. At the beginning of the extract her fear is represented by a “horse tormented by flies”, yet as she continues to walk, her fear becomes bolder. Her retell of the murder in Chautauqua Falls heightens her frantic thoughts. Her constant repetition of her husband’s last name “Tignor. Where the hell are you?” is her character trying to reassure herself that she is protected. “…probably it was just coincidence. He wasn’t following her only just behind her. Not deliberate only just accident.” The thought of her husband helps calm her. The short sharp sentences towards the end of the extract demonstrate the change in Rebecca’s mental state. In the beginning the sentences are longer and easy flowing. But as her fear of the follower heightens the sentences become much shorter, and the pace increases, as if symbolizing the increase pace in her heart rate and walking. These different uses of language can encourage reactions from the readers based on their values and beliefs.

      The ideas present in the extract can invoke a great deal of reactions of modern readers. As the novel was set in the 1950’s, contextual information displays that the equality amongst gender didn’t exist. Women were only seen as a means to procreate. But readers in modern society would have means to challenge this idea (especially feminists). Also, today we have a fair amount of negativity towards abuse of women. Majority sees it as wrong and we have tried to prevent it at much as possible. Groups and communities attempt to shelter families from such abuse, especially children, by trying to maintain the families in healthy environments.

      Oates portrays a variety of ideas in her novel The Gravediggers Daughter which ultimately are centered on fear, uncertainty, and the neglect of women and their rights. These ideas are presented through the language of the character Rebecca, and the reactions of the readers.

    7. The extract from the novel The Gravedigger’s Daughter, by Joyce Carol Oates was published in June 2007. The extract tells in depth the experience and feeling in which character Rebecca Tignor has on her walk home, as she is being followed by a man in a panama hat. This extract uses language and generic conventions to give the reader a greater insight into the characters and the ideas that Carol is trying to portray. The use of language and generic conventions also help position the reader to respond to these ideas in a certain way. Such foundations of ideas that are being set up in this extract are that of male dominance and domestic abuse.

      The aspects of the character of Rebecca Tignor are shown by the use of first person point of view and language. Through the language used and through her own thoughts the author has been able to portray Rebecca in a certain way. In a way Rebecca Tignor appears to be trying to defy the male dominant society. She worked as “a young woman factory worker”, she also did her best not to fall into the emotional stereotype of women “A day to make you feel like crying, Christ knew why. Not that Rebecca Tignor cried. Never.” As much as Rebecca tries to defy this stereotype she cannot help but fall back into because of society’s expectations and what goes on around her. Rebecca being afraid of the man in the Panama is thinking of what she would do if she were attacked by a murderer. “What to do if a man throws you into the canal.” This reinforces the male dominance and the oppression of women in 1950’s society. Another statement that reinforces this view is “You would not want anything to happen to you, Rebecca! A girl by herself, men will follow. Even boys you know, you can’t trust.” Language helps construct the characters in the extract but also helps create the basis for the ideas that will be present in the novel.

      The language used has a major effect on the interpretation of the overall meaning of the extract. Through the language used in the extract the reader is to identify that this novel will contain the ideas of male dominance and domestic (or other forms of) abuse. The reader is able to gather this through this extract by the use of descriptive language that is used in the association with the man following her and additionally to the reference and constant worrying of the man who murdered his wife. “What to do if a man throws you into the canal.” Throughout the extract Rebecca has a constant fear of men that is slightly covered by her constant need to be independent. Although Rebecca is very independent and seems to think she can defend herself, she still falls into the stereotype of women because of her surrender to male dominance. The ideas present in the text can be reinforced by the context of the reader and the novel.

      Although in the readers’ context may be one of an Australian background which reinforces equality among all society, this does not in fact mean that there is equality in society. Although women do indeed have many positions in power this does not mean that the thought between the majorities of society has changed. Most women would indeed be scared by a man following them because men are supposed to be physical dominant over women. This allows a modern audience to relate to this extract because I am sure many people have experienced such a situation and had similar thoughts pass through their mind. In today’s society people are much more exposed to statistics and stories of random attacks and murders this means even if the person has not been in this situation they can easily relate to terror of it.

      The extract from the novel The Gravedigger’s Daughter, by Joyce Carol Oates uses generic convention and language to allow the author to portray the ideas that expressed in the text. The use of language and generic conventions also help position the reader to respond to these ideas in a certain way. Such foundations of ideas that are being set up in this extract are that of male dominance and domestic abuse.

    8. The above extract from Joyce Carol’s the Gravedigger’s Daughter was published in 2007 however is based in the 1950′s. The novel is based on Joyce’s grandmother and heavily revolves around ideas of silence and the nature of silence. We see the protagonist, Rebecca, being followed by a mysterious figure, a male. Rebecca remains on her set paths bothered by this character however she does not make a sound and so she remains alone, this illustrates the isolating nature of silence. Silence is something that is meant to feared as silence is in moments of suspense or oppression, this is important as this very much demonstrates the mood of much of the 1950′s, about a decade after the second world war when silence was encouraged and inflicted a sense of discomfort; this is the same for Rebecca and her experiences we witness. There also seems to be ideas of domestic abuse throughout the extract it is suggested that though Rebecca does not know she may have experienced some sort of domestic abuse and retells of another’s experience of it as the newspaper article she read is explained; this is important as silence is very much one of the aspects, which domestic abuse thrives from. The ides of isolation and silence are heavily intertwined and this is illustrated by Carol in the text.

      Isolation is a powerful tool in any text, it is highly suggestive and weakening to the character, this holds true for The Gravedigger’s Daughter, Rebecca mentions as she walks people who should be on the street but are not, and uses the excuse of them probably not being far away as reason for this being normal. This is the first aspect of silence we are introduced to in the text, Rebecca refuses to alert anyone and continues to run on alone. This is further suggested when we learn her plans for if she is pushed into the river or canal, that rather than crying for help she will just save herself and flee from her attacker. This reinforces the idea of isolation as an aspect of silence, this however forces the reader to question is the isolation self inflicted, even the fact that Rebecca was fantasising about being pushed into the river has suggestions towards this. Silence also in itself holds ideas of hear.

      The phrase,” the calm before the storm”, holds very true for the way silence is used in The Gravedigger’s Daughter, the reader is in full belief that something is going to happen to Rebecca but silence is used to maintain a peaceful and calm atmosphere surrounding the protagonist. The silence holds suspense in itself and ideas of oppression, like a child who has been silenced to be disciplined. The 1950 is a time still familiar with the silence that was enforced through World War Two with phrases like “even the walls have ears”, this silence is associated with discomfort and paranoia, this is and exact reflection of how Rebecca feels about the situation she has found herself in with the mysterious man that appears to be following her. This is an important aspect as Carol has managed to emulate the mood of the time and attitude of many its people through one single protagonist. Carols protagonist is an interesting aspect to the text as the reader must remember this is a representation of Carols grandmother, but Carol also admits she had to use her imagination for many parts of the character so Rebecca then becomes a representation of the family unit.

      Family to many is a highly important aspect of life, in one of the final paragraphs of the extract, Rebecca however is warned that a family member, her brother, may hurt her. This is important as shortly after Rebecca states that she has not suffered any abuse “that she could recall”. This shows that to many the idea of family which is meant to be a safe one, is no longer a place of protection rather, vulnerability. The fact that Rebecca states she dies not remember any abuse suggest that it may have occurred however once again a sense of silence has been enforced however this time it is on a far more psychological level. This shows the destructive nature of silence however it is a gentle destruction more of a decay. This is evident in the apparent decay of memories once held by Rebecca.
      The Gravedigger’s Daughter, by Joyce Carol introduces to the reader and explores various ideas on silence and it’s many faces. It does this through the idea of isolation that is inflicted through silence. The attitudes of the 1950s which this text is set in are also closely tied to silence which is all explored in the text. The fact that the text is based upon Carol’s grandmother pulls in the idea of family and silence and also carries through to idea of domestic abuse which are suggested in the text. Silence is demonstrated in various lights in this text though all are suggested to be fearful.

    9. The excerpt from The Gravedigger’s Daughter by Joyce Carol Oates was published on the 1st of June 2007, and serves as an introduction to the text. It describes the main character, Rebecca Tignor and gives an insight into her frame of mind and gives the prevailing ideas in the text. The extract describes Rebecca and the walk she does daily on the way home. This gives the reader an insight into the text and allows them to establish themes and ideas, such as domestic violence and the inequalities of society. Joyce Carol Oates does this through generic conventions as well as the use of particular language in the text.
      The most obvious idea in the extract from The Gravedigger’s Daughter is of domestic violence. Firstly, through the retelling of the newspaper extract in which Rebecca describes “a local man who’d murdered his wife, beat her and threw her into the canal somewhere.” Secondly, Rebecca describes the “sniggering noise” her husband made when reading the newspaper. This imparts upon the reader the impression of the inequalities of women in society, and their inferiority to males, with the man casually throwing rocks at his wife and his wife powerless to stop it or save herself. This sexism is shown again in the extract with Rebecca describing the values her mother imparted upon her, and the fear she held for men trying to take advantage of women. These ideas foreshadow potential conflict later in the text, particularly conflict between different genders. The very fact that Rebecca ahs thought about how she would escape if she were attacked strengthens this idea. This same idea also gives the reader and impression on the mind of Rebecca.
      The use of language in the text gives the reader an insight into the mind of Rebecca and her mother, and through this gives the reader a representation of the mind set of women in the text. Both Rebecca and her mother, the only two women presented to the reader in the excerpt, are fearful of the ways of men in society, and the power which they hold over women. Rebecca starts with an initial irritable mindset after discovering she is being followed by a man in a panama hat. However ass she continues away from her workplace along the towpath, and away from other people, she becomes more fearful and her mind changes to a less rational chain of thought, jumping to the worst possible outcomes. The text again portrays sexist values, but this time against men. The man in the text is always viewed as the aggressor, with the man in the panama hat following Rebecca viewed as a potential attacker, instead of a innocent bystander. This view is again strengthened by the newspaper, showing the man as the attacker, and the women free of all blame.
      The extract refers to a society in which not all are equal. In the context of the book, which is set in the 1950’s this view is acceptable, but not as strong as it once was. However in our society, all are treated equally, but the majority groups still subtly remain. In modern day society, most high ranking jobs are still held by men, and although it is not due to any defined rules, the subtle imprint of the majority of men in society remain. This allows the reader to connect with the text more thoroughly as it allows us to relate to the text. In our society, most women would still be scared walking in a deserted area followed by a man due to the supposed dominance and superiority of males.
      The extract form the text The Gravedigger’s Daughter, by Joyce Carol Oates uses both generic conventions and the use of particular language to impart upon the reader the views expressed in the text. The convention and language impart upon the reader the views of the suppose superiority of men and due to the context of most readers, is easily related to. These ideas foreshadow potential conflict in the novel and strengthen the ideas of domestic violence and male dominance in aspects of society.

    10. The Gravedigger’s Daughter by Joyce Carol Oates is a novel of which enlightens the reader to the immense complexities of gender, how society has defined it, and the inequalities presented through society. Gender is expressed through the character Rebecca Tignor, who experiences a bout of fear at the expense of a male following her on her way home from work.
      A central theme of the Gravedigger’s Daughter is the presence of domestic violence and abuse throughout society. This is explored throughout the text in a number of ways, particularly through the fear that Rebecca Tignor blatantly portrays through her actions, that is, the language of the text is tense in nature, and establishes a sense of suspense even in the calmest sections of the text. This if further intensified when Rebecca attempts to marginalise women, and sets up the role of gender in an almost feeble manner, one of which not only creates a sense of insecurity, but inequality, a portrayal of a male dominant society, something which was prominent in the 1950′s, and still carries weight today.
      Language is used in a highly efficient manner within the text. As a reader, we are given insight into the mind of Rebecca, her opinions, her fears, her concerns. As such, the reader is pulled into the atmosphere of the text, creating a sense of urgency, particularly when the sentences move from flowing, long sentences to sharp, precise sentences in order to reflect the level of panic Rebecca is experiencing.
      The language also serves to act as a catalyst in order to separate men and women, wherein woman are seen as victims, almost as if they are animals being hunted by the men, which seems to have aspired a ‘pack mentality’ within the female community.
      The variable ideas presented in Joyce Carol Oates’s novel, The Gravedigger’s Daughter can invoke particular reactions from an audience according to contextual background, i.e. social standards as set by a particular belief or value system, particularly those ideas relevant to domestic violence and the marginalisation of women.

    11. This small excerpt from Joyce Carol Oates’ 2007 novel, The Gravedigger’s Daughter, can be seen as making use of language and the ways of constructing a vision for the reader to create and provide for our consideration, several ideas including ones about gender struggles in the provided stories about the men and women of the story, in a way the self-degradation of women as the man has done nothing but follow her, and she has already attributed him incredible power, and the nature of fear and its true origins as from within a person.
      In the world of the story, we emerge and begin immediately to hear from the women about her being followed by a man in a panama hat. This immediate sets the seen as we are encouraged to become fearful with the women who then herself becomes fearful. In this way, we are given the first sense of the true injustices that men face in this constructed world. As the woman has said, ” She was nerved-up anyway, irritable as a horse tormented by flies.” and she turns this irritation further into a theoretical angst towards this unknown man who could simply be on his own way home, but is now the subject – due to her dissenting – of our own distrust and suspicions. ” She didn’t blame him, really. Oh but hell she blamed him.” Now, we aren’t given the whole text, so we’ll have to wait and see, but this could very easily be the beginnings of a story about the injustices men are made to face at the hands of women’s hyperbole of evil deeds and horror stories and other-mongering.
      The language is also used to create for us the view of how self-perpetuating the women’s role and place as subservient to men really is. Throughout the excerpt, we are given a women, who is subject to her own fears. In a way, one could possibly reference Freudian projection, as thus far, the man has done nothing wrong. There is the story perhaps that one could also reference, of the man who threw his wife over the bridge, she still has no proof that it will ever happen again – much less to her. Her own position as “below” men, is created by herself. By her own fears, and her own suspicions. ” Wanting to think she could take care of herself.” The men have to do very little, the portrayal here is of a woman, not who lives in a world that oppresses her, but a woman who – creates – a world which oppresses her.
      Continuing on with fear and her own creation, I think it is perfectly possible to theorize that the man in the story, who is following her, is not real, or even if he is, he is symbolic. There are several reasons for this. Firstly, her own mental state “Her thoughts were so bright and vivid she’d soon come to imagine it had already happened to her, or almost.” This statement itself gives us the profound idea that she is… lost in her own world. She is subject to her own fears, and the man following her, real or not, is purely the subject of her own creation. “she’d soon come to imagine it had already happened to her” it is more than possible, that through her own self-belief and fears, she has created for herself that fear, and is acting it out as if it were true. This could give us a profound view into the nature of fear? What is it? Fear, as many have said, is in the mind. And that is exactly what this excerpt would seem to portray.
      This small excerpt from Joyce Carol Oates’ 2007 novel, The Gravedigger’s Daughter, can be seen as making use of language and the ways of constructing a vision for the reader to create and provide for our consideration, several ideas including ones about gender struggles in the provided stories about the men and women of the story, in a way the self-degradation of women as the man has done nothing but follow her, and she has already attributed him incredible power, and the nature of fear and its true origins as from within a person.

    12. This short excerpt from Joyce Carol Oates’ 2007 novel, The Gravedigger’s Daughter, can be seen to make use of language, syntax, and structure to construct several ideas that can then lead to an interpretation of the characters, and potentially the remainder of the novel. At the onset of the extract, the reader is presented with some context and a scenario, perhaps given to being somewhat innocuous, with the following taking us into the mind of the character “Rebecca Tignor”, and presenting causes for concern. Following that, there is the portrayal or the woman’s growing trepidation with shorter sentences, word choices, and such creating an atmosphere with a heightened sense of the concern it began with. It could also be seen to add a commentary on the perception/roles of gender of the time, with her professed self-confidence being at moments a façade – for both herself and others around her.
      With the intro we get one of the few glimpses in the extract of the events taking place in the ‘current place and time’. Soon after we get caught up in Rebecca’s thoughts. Her doubts, her concerns, her past experiences. For a moment the reader is glimpsing into a wider world, before it contracts into the world of Rebecca’s fears. The reader enters a realm of speculation, whispers, one where at moments “[Rebecca's] thoughts were so bright and vivid she’d soon come to imagine [something terrible] had already happened to her,” and world outside of her mind is left alone for the moment. This structuring of the excerpt assists in creating a character who has evident reasons for concern, and really gives an insight into the true fragility of her current state of mind. It – her mind – even at times contradicts itself, when she states “She wasn’t the shy fearful little-girl type. She was strong, fleshy. Wanting to think she could take care of herself.” She wasn’t fearful – there is a more definite statement to herself, but just a sentence later she brings in the fact of “Wanting to think”, wishful, rather than definite. This positioning of that doubt after the certainty, that structuring of the sentence having left the reader lastly with the hint of uncertainty, could lend itself to the thought that she doubts herself and her abilities – trying to convince others, whilst still needing to convince herself.
      Rebecca Tignor’s trepidation is exuded in this excerpt by the way in which the language is used to describe her thoughts here. She is walking back home as usual – already “nerved-up anyway, irritable as a horse tormented by flies.”, and this disturbance acts as a catalyst for her to work herself up into an even greater frenzy. The one act of having a man following her, and she instantly brings to mind everything that she could perceive possibly going wrong in that scenario. She creates her own fears. The language used by ‘her’ in her thoughts, reflects her increasing worry. “No one she knew? Didn’t look like he belonged here.” Shortening of sentences and her conversely increasing sense of trepidation helps to create that atmosphere within her own mind – a place of terror it seems to be as well.
      This short excerpt from Joyce Carol Oates’ 2007 novel, The Gravedigger’s Daughter, can be seen to make use of language, syntax, and structure to construct several ideas that can then lead to an interpretation of the characters, and potentially the remainder of the novel. At the onset of the extract, the reader is presented with some context and a scenario, perhaps given to being somewhat innocuous, with the following taking us into the mind of the character “Rebecca Tignor”, and presenting causes for concern. Following that, there is the portrayal or the woman’s growing trepidation with shorter sentences, word choices, and such creating an atmosphere with a heightened sense of the concern it began with. It could also be seen to add a commentary on the perception/roles of gender of the time, with her professed self-confidence being at moments a façade – for both herself and others around her.

    13. Joyce Carol Oates’ The Gravedigger’s Daughter extract illustrates what at first glance is simplistic tale of the character Rebecca Tignor walking home from a from factory work, in 1959 rural America. As the narrative begin to illuminate Rebecca’s insecurities however the reader is subjected to deeper themes of gender inequality and the simpler values of the lower classes of this indicated time and place in history in a psychological thriller like style.

      As a an opening the first paragraph gives us a straight away reference point to work the 1959 Chautauqua Falls an existing area of rural America. This statement alone can orientate the reader to some inferences as a straight setting to work with is something that should follow along in the nature of realism. The point of view of Rebecca “a young woman factory worker walking home” is then straight away set to categorising her for her class and independence within her society. She is a woman that stands out not just because of her “light-coloured clothes” but because she as a women she needs to take up this role in order to support herself. The language too is also modelled to give some indication of class “She’d almost smashed her hand in a press, that day. God damn she’d been distracted!” demonstrates a vernacular that would be commonly associated with the more uneducated simple valued Americans; an association that inspire even from a reader’s point of view certain assumptions that she will never be able to rise very above in an intellectual opinion or in the hierarchy of wealth . This then reads as an attempt from Oates in writing her setting to also establish for the reader where here main character can develop in the eyes of society and what one of her limitations may be as the plot moves forward.

      The next point is the statement of gender inequality within the extract. Whether the man that is following her means her goodwill or harm we never find out, it is though the main conflict of the extract and what comes to surface instead however is her caution in the light of the opposite sex and how these fears have been passed down from her mother’s insecurities of the past. “Ma had put the fear of the Lord in her, years ago. You would not want anything to happen to you, Rebecca! A girl by herself, men will follow. Even boys you know, you can’t trust.” Includes the keyword fear along with a very harsh generalisation that alludes to a cold assumption that every man is motivated only by carnal temptation of the flesh. This is a belief that modern society would regard as old fashioned but even for the time period being linked to someone as seemingly strong as Rebecca makes the belief a very prevailing and powerful one shaping her perspective on the opposite sex so much that she often makes broad assumptions and as a reader we can see that her perspective has also been twisted to looking for these believed “universal” flaws in men “The worst thing was, every guy who read it, including Niles Tignor, shook his head, made a sniggering noise with his mouth”. Oates’ message could be read then to say that perhaps part of the nature of gender inequality relates to a sort of dismissive ignorance that in turn transforms to fear.

      Through an examination of the genre of this extract one may argue that it is a psychological thriller type text. The main growing tension of the piece does not rest solemnly with the following man psychically but the paranoid ideas Rebecca has inherited by the twisted influence of her mother. The prose themselves do not go so far into detail to make the story seem disgustingly horrific as one might find in the horror genre “First thing Rebecca read in the Chautauqua Falls newspaper was so nasty she could not believe it: a local man who’d murdered his wife, beat her and threw her into the canal somewhere along this very-same deserted stretch, and threw rocks at her until she drowned.” but give enough information to generate a feeling of disturbance and allow the reader to fill in the gaps to instil an understanding of the character’s fear. The realistic setting of the illustrated by Oates’ could also be worked to in regards to its detail to give strong reference to the mentality of someone living within that environment to give a realistic backing for examination of the minds of the characters another convention to the genre.

      In conclusion the extract of The Gravedigger’s Daughter by Joyce Carol Oates uses a simplistic plot for the development of many different themes. The setting of Rural 1959 America and the introduction of the character Rebecca Tignor can be used to develop themes of middle class positioning, gender inequality and along with the plot can be used to predict the possible unfolding of an entry to the genre of psychological thriller.

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