Joyce Carol Oates's 'Life After High School'

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Joyce Carol Oates’ “Life After High School” is a story of masked identity, which the one of the main characters, Zachary, experiences. Society’s views on sexuality and what was perceived as “right” or “wrong” influence how each character develops, but as the story progresses, the characters evolve and “shed” their masks. The descriptions Oates uses for each character’s persona are crucial in order to sway the reader’s perceptions on the evolution of the character. In Zachary’s case, he hides his true sexuality. This is shown through the use of diction, imagery and symbolism. The characters, Zachary, Sunny and Tobias, are all described by the narrator as “living behind masks” in order to conceal their true personas. Each character struggles with an ideal society has forced upon them. Zachary Graff’s “mask” is portrayed in his physical appearance, which serves as a cover for his homosexuality. Although Zachary cannot alter his physical structure, he does change aspects of how he dresses and presents himself to the public, such as his choice of clothing and glasses. Oates does not fail to describe in detail the severity of his looks, stating “his head appeared oversized, even for his massive body; his eyes were deep-set, with a look of watchfulness and secrecy”. His character hides behind his outward appearance in order to conceal his sexuality. More than once his glasses are referenced in the story: “and he pushed his chunky black glasses roughly against the bridge of his
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