“Never Before So Happy, Never Again: A Character Analysis of Mrs. Dietrich in Joyce Carol Oates’ ‘Shopping’
In Joyce Carol Oates’ “Shopping”, the character is introduced to a common theme of the clinging mother and the quarrelsome teenage daughter desperate for escape from the strongholds of adolescence. Unlike the typical dynamic of mother and daughter who live in the same household, we have a mother, Mrs. Dietrich and her daughter, Nola Dietrich who rarely see each other, and still their relationship is strained. Through the setting of a shopping trip to a local mall, and the scenarios which happen there, we can truly see the dynamic of the two characters. Mrs.Dietrich is clearly an emotionally unwell individual who seems to cling to happier times through her daughter and wants nothing more than her approval and affection.
Mrs. Dietrich is a character which many encounter in real-life and in fiction. She is a woman left by her husband rather than being left with the financial responsibility we see that the two Nola and herself are well taken care off by Mr.Dietrich. “And Mr. Dietrich rarely objected: the financial agreement he made with Mrs.Dietrich was surprisingly generous.” (Oates 187.) She seems to have little else in the world than shopping, Oates does not give the readerany indication that Mrs. Dietrich has any other hobbies or interests other than shopping and her daughter.
\ Her daughter Nola serves as the antagonist in the piece, she plays a vital role yet is by no means the central character. Oates focuses on the amount of change we see in Nola and how opposed and shocked by this Mrs. Dietrich is. Nola was once an awkward girl, overweight, unhappy. She was prone to sharing her random knowledge, much to the chagrin of her parents. “When they were alone Mr. Dietrich said angrily to Mrs. Dietrich, ‘Can’t you control her in front of people at least? Mrs.Dietrich was angry too, and frightened. She said, I try.”(Oates 189.) Seemingly after...