‘Do With Me What You Will’ by Joyce Carol Oates


Do With Me What You Will by Joyce Carol Oates, 1973

The magic trick:

Skewing the police detective’s motivations from truth to narrative

I write this during the first week of Trump’s presidency where we have entered the world of alternative facts. So it’s very interesting to read this story. It’s an interrogation – one police officer talking with one suspect. And as you would assume with most interrogations, it starts out as a quest for truth. What happened? Where were you? What did you see? What did you do?

But as the conversation goes on, it becomes more and more clear that truth is a relative term. This interrogation is really about manipulation. It’s about aligning a cohesive narrative that could have happened, not about determining what did happen. It’s about alternative facts. And that’s quite a trick on Oates’s part.

The selection:

“This is just a photostat copy of your files from Welfare; I can’t write anything in… Where did you work?”

“Some store that’s closed up now.”

“Whose was it?”

“I disremember the exact name.”

“You’re unemployed at the present time, at the age of twenty-three?”

“Well, I can’t help that. I… Mr. Morrissey, you going to make a deal for me?”

“I won’t have to make a deal.”

“Huh? Well, that woman is awful mad at me. She’s out to get me.”

“Don’t worry about her.”

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