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Heat by Joyce Carol Oates

“Heat” was a disturbing story containing many contrasts and bitter topics of death, rape and social abuse.

The story was written in the first person narrative, who reminisced about the old neighborhood and its residents. The twins, Rhea and Rhonda Kundel, and Roger Whipple a mentally challenged man were the central characters who moved the story with a route of gossip.

The twins were victims of a horrible crime that took their lives and the mentally afflicted Roger was the accused.

Oates’ well-deserved reputation of pulling the reader into despised situations was expanded by her portrayal of how ordinary people partook in the crimes and atrocities around them. No one is truly innocent if you dig deep enough to reveal the whole truth.

The young twins were not depicted as innocent. They were wild and rowdy. They pushed everyone they knew to the edge of their limits.

Roger was viewed with fear because of his challenges and merchant-class family. The pity he received was similar to that of a dog, whose was placed in sub-standard living conditions. In many ways, that was how he was observed. This led to further accusations toward his family.

The narrator not only reminisced by speculated as well. It was a voice that was common to most everyone who tries to piece together a mystery. You “know” things you’ve never witness and it is readily accepted by neighbors and strangers, alike.

There was very little sympathy in the story or better yet, the sympathy seemed superficial. The death of the twins and the accusations against Roger were done. Some of the surviving characters had a natural reaction to the crime but mostly, it was just done.

The story was set in the summer. The heat was the ingredient that helped set the crime in motion. The heat brewing outside and inside the characters created a violable situation.

It was a summer that was never forgotten and had long lasting effects for those who remembered. The Whipple family spiraled out of public sight and Roger was institutionalized until his death.

There was no real justice.

The twins died quickly and the offender died slowly for a crime that he was not really in control of. He reacted poorly to the ridicule of others who pushed him over his limits.

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