Comparing Joyce Carol Oates 'Big Mouth And Ugly Girl'

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Joyce Carol Oates’ book Big Mouth & Ugly Girl (2002) switches between two characters, from chapter to chapter. The first, Ursula Riggs, self-proclaimed “Ugly Girl,” resides with her family in upscale Westchester, New York in the early 2000’s. Her life as a “plain jane” quickly changes when she becomes involved with the book’s second and main character, Matthew Donaghy, “Big Mouth.” Matt is known as the class clown and has a reputation for getting himself in trouble due to his, “talk first, think never” approach to life. Soon Matt finds himself in a world of hurt when the Brewer twins, Miriam und Muriel, daughters of an extremist preacher, over hear Matt joking about blowing up their school and killing hundreds with his automatic rifle.…show more content…
Matt represents the problem that, even though we live in a “free” nation and supposedly have the freedom of speech, individuals have to constantly filter themselves and what they say in order not to offend anyone. The mistake that Matt makes is speaking too freely in his school cafeteria, on page thirty three of the novel Matt is being question, “ ‘Two witnesses. They heard you.’ ‘Heard me… what?’ ‘Threaten to ‘blow up the school…Threaten to ‘massacre’ as many people as you could’.” Before Matt was accused of blowing up the school he was the class clown and was very popular, he was even the vice president of his junior class and was a writer and editor for his school newspaper. Matt’s change after he was accused was very distinctive, his friends stopped talking to him, he stopped trying to be funny, and just stop talking all together and he quit the newspaper and his student government. Matt shows the true consequences of saying the wrong thing and is a classic victim of doing or saying something society does not approve of. Often times after he is accused of blowing up the school he is publicly embarrassed, on page 136 of the novel a couple of “jocks” from his high school start harassing him while he is in town running errands, calling him “fag” and eventually start punching him, kicking him and push him down a flight of concrete stairs. Just like Ursula, Matt refers to himself as “Big Mouth” throughout the novel. They have both accepted their identity given to them by society and in a way mock society by embracing it and calling themselves by these

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