62 pages 2 hours read

Joyce Carol Oates

We Were the Mulvaneys

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 1996

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Symbols & Motifs

The Doe

In Chapter 2, Judd sees a doe one night drinking placidly from the pond at High Point Farm, only to be chased away into an uncertain future by a pack of enraged dogs. The wild yet gentle animal represents Marianne, and this early scene foreshadows her fate. As the dogs threaten the doe, so do the events of the novel test Marianne’s ability to survive in a world for which she is too sensitive. The dogs represent not just Zachary, her rapist, but also her family (some of the dogs that chase the doe are the Mulvaney dogs), whose decision to exile her from their midst additionally punishes Marianne. Furthermore, they stand for the wider society as well, which routinely finds more at fault with the victim of rape than the rapist (as Oates shows in the episode with Della Rae Duncan, in Chapter 6).

In the scene, Judd wonders why the doe is on her own, when deer usually keep together. Marianne, although a popular cheerleader, is a pensive, religious young woman, and this separates her from her peers, and becomes, ironically, the crucial element of Zachary’s initial seduction, which is one of the reasons why Marianne finds blame for what has transpired within herself.