Review of the Protagonists in Joyce Carol Oates’s The Falls from the Perspective of Ethical Literary Criticism

Li ZHU

Abstract


This paper analyzes the protagonists in Oates's novel The Falls from the perspective of Ethical Literary Criticism and expounds that the protagonists have experienced anomie of ethical identity, chaos of ethical choices and dislocation of ethical space on the three levels of ethical relationship between people and self, people and people, and people and society. Thus, the paper highlights the teaching purpose of the novel: it is the mistakes of ethical confusion that hinder the heroine's pursuit of happiness, making her life fall from the spiritual heights into the secular abyss like The Falls. The Falls is another masterpiece published by the prolific American writer Oates in 2004 and is considered to be her best work. The novel takes the protagonist Ariah's honeymoon, marriage, and family as the timeline, and describes the tragic fate of Ariah and her two husbands of Gilbert and Dirk. Many critics pay more attention to the garbage pollution incident described in the novel of which Dirk died. Chinese articles tend to analyze the environmental incident from the perspective of naturalism and ecological criticism (Zhang Shengmao, 2008; Liu Ke, 2011); while foreign articles focus on the historical background of the incident (Sharon. L. Dean, 2006). In fact, environmental issues imply social ethical problems, and their historical connotations would reflect precisely the personalities of the protagonists and their complex relationships, because "all environmental issues are ultimately the issues of development, and the issues of development are essentially reflexive problems of human beings "(Liu Xiaoting, 2004). In the development of human society, different human attitudes and their handling measures towards the environment reflect human values; and the crisis of the relationship between humans and the environment is essentially the crisis of human nature. By analyzing the three main protagonists in Oates's novel The Falls from the perspective of Ethical Literary Criticism, the paper expounds that the protagonists have experienced anomie of ethical identity, chaos of ethical choices and dislocation of ethical space on the three levels of ethical relationship between people and self, people and people, and people and society. When the ethical relationship cannot help the heroine's growth and sustain her pursuit of happiness, her life falls from the spiritual heights into the secular abyss like The Falls.

Keywords


Joyce Carol Oates, The Falls, Ethical identity, Ethical choice


DOI
10.12783/dtssehs/eelss2020/34625

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