62 pages 2 hours read

Joyce Carol Oates

We Were the Mulvaneys

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 1996

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Character Analysis

Corinne Mulvaney

The matriarch of the Mulvaney family, Corrine is a woman of 33 when her youngest child, Judd, is born, and at the time of the events surrounding Marianne’s rape, she is 46. She is “tall, lanky, loose-jointed and freckled […] noisily girlish, with a lean horsey face often flushed, carrot-colored hair so frizzed, she laughingly complained, she could hardly draw a curry comb through it” (27-28). The family life revolves around her, and her charmingly erratic behavior serves both as a source of merriment and sometimes frustration for her husband and children. She is a self-styled antique dealer, keeping a shed full of old things she has bought at various auctions, not based on worth but on whether she likes them, which is why she rarely sells anything. She leads a secluded life at High Point Farm, surrounded by many pets, and organizing family chores.

Corinne is deeply religious, a Christian nondenominational Protestant. She believes in her family, but most of all, she believes in her husband, Michael. Knowing him to be a man of fragile ego, Corinne has taken over the many everyday arrangements, but she also believes she nurtures Michael’s soul, saving him frequently from himself and from others.