Man Crazy

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For the behavioural syndrome, see Man-crazy.
First edition cover (Dutton)

Man Crazy is a novel by Joyce Carol Oates. It was first published as a full novel in 1997 (parts of the novel appeared earlier in various journals).

Plot summary[edit]

Man Crazy follows the early life of Ingrid Boone, from early childhood to adulthood. But instead of following the usual journey of a coming of age story, where the character and personality of the central character are developed and formed, her character and personality become weaker, almost to the point of annihilation.

At the beginning of the novel her father Luke, a hot tempered Vietnam veteran, is already absent and seemingly hiding out after some unspecified trouble with the law. Her beautiful mother, Chloe Boone, drifts from place to place with Ingrid, having many affairs with many men. Ingrid seems neglected by her mother who seems unable to provide the love and attention that her daughter so desperately needs.

As Ingrid hits adolescence she begins to compulsively scratch her face and body inflicting sores upon herself. This is obviously a sign of her inner anxiety and pain. During her high school years she is known as "Doll Girl" as she sleeps around and openly gives herself to much of the school's male population. She is incredibly lonely and doesn't have any real friends. She does excel at English though and her poetic ability is recognised by her English teacher who gives her an award and she is asked to read one of her poems for the school's closing/graduation ceremony. The prospect of being ridiculed by her peers and her belief that the poem is no good, brought on by her low self-esteem, causes her to appear in front of the school, her face bloody from scratching, and reading not her own, but another poet's work.

After this she leaves home and eventually gets involved with Enoch Skaggs, a brutal, charismatic leader of the motorcycle gang/cult, Satan's Children. At this point her name has changed to 'Dog Girl', for the blind devotion and awe she feels and displays for her cruel master. She undergoes one brutal act after another: gang rape, physical mutilation, being locked in a cellar for days, and watching a sacrificial killing. Only through luck is she rescued; when her death seems almost certain, the police burst onto the scene and justice is served.

After much needed counselling she puts her life back together and forms a partnership with her psychiatrist.