The garden of delights
The garden of delights tells the proletarian America of the fifties and sixties, America white trash, greedy for social climbs and revenge, cyanotic for the fists set in by the bastards in the taverns and by life.
Rye fields in the blazing sun of Arkansas. The hands tear the fruit from the earth, the earth itches and the hands are eaten. The laborers trudge along with the horses at noon and the American dream is a blunder in the heat, a pile of mud on the back, a song of nostalgia and hope broken by the ears of wheat.Clara is the daughter of two peasants and spends her adolescence running among the bitter and grassy odors of the plantations, and stealing insignificant items from stores for fun and boredom.
A future of emancipation, wealth and idyllic loves grows; she fantasizes about escaping from the promiscuous violence of her provincial world by throwing herself with abandon into every adventure: first with Lowry, a fascinating and rebellious stateless person who tears her from her family and abandons her immediately after making her pregnant; then with Revere, a wealthy married man whom Clara seduces in exchange for a promise of economic stability; finally with his son Swan – the umpteenth hope of redemption, the extreme illusion of an impossible recovery-, destined however to become a violent and self-destructive man and to wreck even his mother’s last dreams.
First chapter of the American Epic by Joyce Carol Oates, The garden of delights tells the proletarian America of the fifties and sixties, America white trash, greedy for social climbs and revenge, cyanotic for the fists set in by the bastards in the taverns and by life. Rather sordid, smoky and dreamer. Through the eyes of a fragile and beautiful girl, torn apart by inherited social desires and demons – who remembers Samuel Richardson’s Pamela in her tormented grace -, Oates weaves a story of abuse and violence, an incomparably realistic portrait of that fiery American river which overwhelms and drowns its children, attracting them to the margins of existence, without the possibility of return, in the mirage of an earthly paradise, a garden of delights that reveals itself, in the end, a desolate land.
Among the most relevant figures of contemporary American fiction – it has been indicated, among other things, as one of the favorites for the Nobel Prize in Literature -, is also one of the most prolific.
Born in New York in 1938, she has lived in Princeton for years, where she taught creative writing from 1977 to 2014. She is part of the prestigious American Academy of Arts and Letters.
In his narrative work he explores the residual potential of social realism and the „neo-gothic“ genre.Oates has outlined the themes of a vast and eclectic production, which experiments genres and styles and mercilessly highlights, among other things, the hypocrisy and violence of bourgeois life, the oppression of families, the small-mindedness of small communities , oppression and commodification of women.