62 pages 2 hours read

Joyce Carol Oates

We Were the Mulvaneys

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 1996

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Part 1, Chapters 1-6Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Part 1: “Family Pictures”

Chapter 1 Summary: “Storybook House”

The narrator, Judson Andrew Mulvaney, known as Judd, and in his family as Dimple, Pretty Boy, Baby, and Ranger, is 30 years old in 1993, and works as an editor-in-chief at Chautauqua Falls Journal in the town of Mt. Ephraim, New York. He is the youngest of four children of Michael and Corinne Mulvaney, who from 1955 to 1980 owned High Point Farm, a local landmark. His siblings are Michael Junior, Patrick, and Marianne.

As the youngest child, Judd always had the feeling that he missed the best in family history: “the Mulvaneys were a family in which […] everything that was precious was stored in memory and everyone had a history” (5). Judd implies that something happened to change the family and how the town regarded them. Judd reveals that although everyone considers him “wonderfully civilized” (6), he has been involved in two felonies and was almost an accessory to murder, which his brother Patrick might have committed. He thinks of his writing as family album and not a document, hoping, as a “neutral observer” to “set down what is truth” (14) by telling the story of his family, using facts and conjecture, “imagined but not invented” (14).