Recovering latent parts of a story: The Buck

Essay by Gamerman2001College, UndergraduateA+, December 2004

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In the short story entitled "The Buck" written by Joyce Carol Oates, we are introduced to two quite interesting characters, namely Melanie Snyder and Wayne "Woody" Kunz. These two characters both struggle with different aspects of their personal lives; in Wayne Kunz's case, he is in constant battle with his manhood, whereas Melanie Snyder has somewhat renounced her femininity. Her very appearance when we first see her in the story is quite strange, because she is seen dressed in her brothers' clothes which mask her feminine side. Both of these characters in this story are representative of many persons today whose identities remain latent for a part or even all of their lives. Some are able to be reconciled to their true selves, but others are never able to fully reclaim their lives.

Oates suggests that this story "bears witness to the dark complexities of nature...

especially the human nature" (131). At the very beginning, we are told of the death of a buck and the bravery of the old woman, Melanie Snyder, who tried to prevent its death. There is something quite mysterious about this old woman even at the first mention of her name. This mystery is evident in the narrator's brief description about this woman's past. From this description we realize that this woman is in a constant battle with her femininity. The most important piece of information that is given to the reader is that Melanie Snyder is a spinster who has dedicated the rest of her life to the preservation of the forest in which she lives. We realize as the story progresses that Melanie Snyder's femininity is latent because of the hurt she sustained during her relationship with her fiancé.

As the story progresses, we are introduced to another...