Critical Introduction

Youth: A Right or Privilege in response to “*BD* 11 1 86” by Joyce Carol Oates

“BD 11 1 86” is a story about a young boy named Danny who has unclear origins. Near the end of high school, he is enrolled into a special program. However, it’s revealed to be part of a body donation with him as the donor. The story is about the ethics of human cloning and having a purpose in life given Danny was engineered and raised to be a organ donor. Given the complex subject matter, there is quite a few different ways of analyzing and interpreting this text.

Reader Response by Lindsey Ryan Matthews

The essay “Reality, Identity, and Ethics: Philosophical Complexities in “*BD* 11 1 86,” Lindsey Ryan Mathews, examines and analyzes Joyce Carol Oates short story “*BD* 11 1 86.” Reviewing this work through the critical analysis lens of reader response, Mathews scrutinizes Oates story from a philosophical approach, reflecting how philosophy majors could read and interpret this short story. Viewing the story through multiple philosophical theories Mathews expounds on the reality, identity, and ethical implications abundant in Oates’s writing. Mathews complies philosophical questions students could discuss in relation to their study. “*BD* 11 1 86” is a story philosophy majors could connect to various philosophical theories, gaining new perspective into the ethical dilemmas that revolve around modern science.

New Historical/Class Criticism by Damarus Chereji

In “Joyce Carol Oates and Society,” Damarus Chereji explores the science fiction short story “*BD* 11 1 86” written by Joyce Carol Oates, through the critical lens of New Historical/Class Criticism. Through this lens, Damarus connects the events and cultural ideas that took place in the year 1986 as it connects purposefully with Oates’ story that is written based upon that time in history, showing the influence of the foster care systems and human body rights on literature, which causes its readers to ask themselves introspective questions regarding humanity through the lens of class.

Deconstruction by Sarah Rhoads

“BD 11 86: Duality and Contradictions” looks at the short story “BD 11 86” through a deconstruction lens. Sarah Rhoads presents how Joyce Carol Oates uses irony to write a story with no concrete meaning, arguing that the multitude of meanings leads to more compelling and constructive discussions for both the story and the questions it poses.

Psychological Criticism by Savanna Gerlach

The lens used in “The Five Stages of Grief Through the Eyes of a Body Donor” by Savanna Gerlach is psychological lens. Primarily it uses the five stages of grief to analyze the mindset of Danny in the story. The five stages of grief are the emotions a person feels when going through times that give personal grief such as illness and death. The five stages are denial, anger, bargaining, fear and acceptance in that order. As he is set to be a donor, the essay chronicles how he starts at denial before ending up at acceptance at the end.

New Criticism by Laurie Boesch

In the analysis of “BD 11 1 86”, Laurie Boesch asserts that the adults that surround Danny Neuworth, all shield him from the immoral, brutal truth that he is a body donor. They lie to him and protect him from his confidential file. They tell him a ruse; that he has become a recipient of a “Good Citizenship Scholarship”. Boesch compares this behavior to that of parents of small children who shield them from the death of a pet, like a hamster or a goldfish. To protect them from the lie, they try to replace the pet with an identical one before the child realizes the original pet has died. Boesch further explains her analysis with a quote from Joyce Carol Oates, which confirms that this is the writing style she likes to render. The essay gives examples of the many adults in Danny’s life that either lie to him or avoid telling him the truth about who he is all together. Oates speaks of speaking to adolescents, saying one thing, and then meaning another, or thinking the opposite of what she tells them. This is how the adults in “BD 11 1 86” act, until Danny meets Cale at BIOTECHINC. It’s the first time any adult is ever honest with him about who he truly is. Cale tells him that BD is the acronym for body donor. In the end, Cale seems to sympathize with Danny and tells him he’s joking, which is another lie. Cale tells Danny he will be prepped for TV, when, in fact, he will be prepped to die and have his body donated to another man. In effect, Cale becomes just like the parents who ran to the pet store. “See, darling child, Fluffy is perfectly fine.”

Each of these essays investigate the subject matter of “BD 11 1 86.” It is a complicated story that explores the idea of being raised your whole life to become a body donor for someone else. The story is one that leaves the audience thinking about what they had read and leaves many ethical questions. These essays give different perspectives based on the text. The story leaves so many questions and dilemmas after reading it. These essays show these different viewpoints of how the tough questions the story proposes can be taken and explored.



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Beginnings and Endings: A Critical Edition Copyright © 2021 by Liza Long is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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