Oates, Joyce Carol. I Lock My Door Upon Myself. New York: Plume, 1990. Print.
image from: www.usfca.edu
This book is only 98 pages and divided into three parts. Within these few pages are many elements of a good story. The book starts off with the narrator telling the reader that she didn't really know her grandmother. Then the story flashes back to tell the grandmother's story. The grandmother was born in 1890. Edith Margaret Honeystone (known as "Calla") lived an interesting, unconventional life. Calla was married, but it was a marriage of convenience, not love. She finds a (black) man she loves and does not let societal conventions hold her back from the love. She doesn't care what other people think. "I do what I do, what I do is what I wanted to have done" (Oates 37). She follows her forbidden love during a time the color of the man's skin was more upsetting than the affair itself.
What happens to this couple is shocking. Yet, the reader then understands why the narrator didn't know her grandmother. Her grandmother became reclusive, but I think there is a depth of why the grandmother locked "the door upon [her]self" and just existed. It fit her character (at least as the narrator described her).
What happens to this couple is also comical, at least as the rumors tell what happened. Chapter 29 begins the stories/lies of the "sightings" of the couple and what happened to them. The actual story of what happened doesn't surface until Part III of the book.
The title reference is on page 83.
Another story I thought about while reading Part III is "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. There are similarities with the women in the stories. There is also a direct description of Calla's wallpaper. Both stories bring up feminist issues and victims' rights.
I Lock My Door Upon Myself was a quick read and a good introduction to Joyce Carol Oates. I will make time to read more by this author.