"You": A Girl amidst Images and Sounds of Adult Violence in Joyce Carol Oates’s Rape: A Love Story


Teena Maguire and her child, Bethie, are brutally attacked and beaten by a mob of violent young men in a park at night. While the mother is gang raped and nearly killed, the daughter is both the witness and the victim of physical and psychological violence. Through its innovative second-person narration, Joyce Carol Oates’s novella Rape: A Love Story (2004) contributes to her sustained interest in family relationships, violence, crime and justice. However, rather than focusing on the victim of the rape, Oates writes a coming-of-age story that explores the daughter’s trauma, posttraumatic stress disorder and fight for survival, a struggle that coincides with the girl’s critical passage from childhood to adulthood. During the months after the assault, Bethie’s innocence is also repeatedly violated by the aggressors’ intrusion into her life and the hostility of the community in the town of Niagara Falls and its social institutions, such as police, school, media, healthcare and the judicial system. Unable to cling to girlhood or to find maternal protection, her forced witnessing of her mother’s gang rape compels Bethie to mature too early while experiencing her first love for a man.

Author Biography

Francisco José Cortés Vieco, Universidad Complutense de Madrid
Francisco José Cortés Vieco holds a PhD in Gender Studies from Alcalá University and a PhD in Literary Studies from the Complutense University of Madrid. He is Associate Professor in the Department of English Studies at the Complutense University, where he teaches English and US literature and gender studies. He has been Visiting Fellow at Harvard University and his main research interests are feminism and women’s literature from the nineteenth century onwards.


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