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"Life after High School"

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Rebekah Naylor

on 16 September 2014

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Transcript of "Life after High School"

"Life After High School" by Joyce Carol Oates revolves around three characters: Zachary Graff, Barbara "Sunny" Burnham, and Tobias Shanks. Sunny is an all-American cheerleader who is deeply religious and loved by all. Zachary is a loner of sorts, highly intelligent but frightening. Tobias isn't characterized until later in the story, but we see him as somewhat wry and uptight whilst in high school. After the Christmas break of his senior year, Zachary develops a rapid obsession with Sunny and begins to follow her and talk to her. This makes Sunny nervous, however she continues to be her bright self in spite of Zachary's advances. One night, Zachary proposes to Sunny. Sunny begins to cry and refuses his offer, though Zachary tries to insist that she wear the ring, even as just a gift. Sunny refuses and runs inside. A few weeks later, Zachary comes to Sunny's window in the middle of the night and tries to get her to come with him in his car, and she refuses. The next day, Zachary is found dead in a garage, having committed suicide by means of carbon monoxide poisoning by letting his car engine run. Sunny is devastated and feels immeasurable guilt. She begins to question her religion and everything she previously knew about life, and ditches her nickname of "Sunny" in favor of the more serious "Barbara."
Years later, Barbara runs into Tobias. They speak of Zachary and his death for the first time, and Tobias tells Barbara that there was something he never told her about that night. Zachary had come to Tobias' window after he visited Sunny, and Tobias also refused Zachary's offer to go in his car. In addition, Tobias shows Barbara a letter from Zachary in which Zachary confesses his love for Tobias, which alters everything Barbara previously thought about Zachary's death. The story ends with Barbara and Tobias talking at dinner.
Author Bio
Joyce Carol Oates was born June 16, 1938 in Lockport, NY. She grew up on a farm in upstate New York and received a scholarship to attend Syracuse University. When she was nineteen, she won the “college short story” contest sponsored by Mademoiselle Magazine. Oates graduated as valedictorian with a bachelor’s degree in English and went on to receive her master’s from Wisconsin University. Oates moved to Detroit after college and married Raymond Smith. In 1966, her novel, Them, won the National Book Award. In 1968, Oates took a teaching job at the University of Windsor and moved to Ontario. She wrote numerous novels, publishing at a rate of two to three books per year. In 1978, Oates and her husband started a literary magazine called The Ontario Review. Eighteen years later, Oates received the PEN/Malamud Award for “a lifetime of literary achievement”. In 2008, Raymond Smith passed away and in the following year, Oates remarried to Professor Charles Gross. To this day, Joyce Carol Oates has written fifty-six novels, thirty collections of short stories and eight volumes of plays and poems. Oates currently continues to write novels and also teaches at Princeton University.
Elements of fiction
Primary elements in this story
Style of writing
Twist ending!!
Impact of the title
Central purpose
More or less impressive on a second reading?
History of Short Story
by: Joyce Carol Oates
"Life after High School"
Works Cited
"Joyce Carol Oates Biography." Academy of Achievement.

Academy of Achievement,
22 Oct. 2012. Web. 12 Sept. 2014.
Literary Criticism
Oates' characters are universal and timeless, as is the theme
Issues of morality and sexuality are seamlessly incorporated into the story
The often veiled topic of homosexuality is discussed with great finesse by Oates
An accurate depiction of the aftermaths of suicide is interwoven into "Life After High School"
Zach's death is Barbara's birth- "Sunny" dies with Zach and Barbara is left to prepare for what lies after adolescence.

"Life After High School Analysis." University of Louisiana.
University of Louisiana at Lafayette, n.d. Web. 15 Sept. 2014.
"Arp, Thomas R. and Greg Johnson. Perrine's Literature: Structure,
Sound and Sense. 10th Edition. Boston: Wadsworth Publishing,
2008. Print."
"Zachary had often discussed [his religious doubts] with Tobias Shanks, who'd been his friend, you might say his only friend, since seventh grade. (But only sporadically since seventh grade , since the boys, each highly intelligent, inclined to impatience and sarcasm, got on each other's nerves.) Once, Zachary confided in Tobias that he prayed every morning of his life--immediately upon waking he scrambled out of bed, knelt, hid his face in his hands, and prayed. For his sinful soul, for his sinful thoughts, deeds, desire. He lacerated for his soul the way he'd been taught by his mother to tug a fine-toothed steel comb through his coarse, oily hair, never less than once a day" (Arp 488).
"Literary Devices and Literary Terms." Literary Devices. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Sept. 2014.
A History
The story begins in 1959, a period characterisitic of its conformity. This pressure is what eventually leads to the youth rebellion of the late 1960s exemplified by Woodstock.
1951- Truman signs peace treaty with Japan, officially ending WWII
1953- Julius and Ethel Rosenberg Executed for Espionage
1957- Soviet satellite Sputnik launches space age
1958- NASA founded
1959- Kitchen Debate between Nixon and Krushchev
Castro becomes dictator of Cuba
Full transcript