Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts




There are many reasons why contemporary American writer Joyce Carol Oates' 1990 novella I Lock My Door Upon Myself is not taught in secondary and post-secondary classrooms. Oates' writing is frank, her voice feminist while echoing more traditional works that have broken into literary canons; however, the main reason why I Lock My Door Upon Myself is not taught is that it is a relatively new text, and, thus, ways in which to teach it have not yet been explored. There are many reasons why Oates' novella should be taught in the classroom. Her language is poetic, and her story, a revision of sorts of Edith Wharton's Ethan Frome, is complex, offering windows into history and contemporary questions of gender roles, racism, and social class distinctions. When studied within the context of the texts it echoes, I Lock My Door Upon Myself can offer ways through which students might examine how texts comment upon each other.;One aspect of Oates' work that needs to be fully examined within a classroom is her focus on the definition of a woman and a mother. The narration of the story takes place years after its main action, which occurs in 1912. Examining the shifting narrative in the novella, a position which is sometimes held by the protagonist's granddaughter, is as interesting as examining the moral codes present in the text as they differ depending upon the time, gender, race, and social class of the characters. While unlocking I Lock My Door Upon Myself in a classroom will be difficult, focusing upon new ways through which to teach new literature can certainly aid a classroom examination of Oates' wonderfully complex text. Exploring the historical context of the novella as well as the social questions prompted by I Lock My Door Upon Myself can lead students toward a sophisticated reading of the text.



Digital Repository @ Iowa State University,

Copyright Owner

Rebecca Anne Weber



OCLC Number


File Format


File Size

75 pages