Joyce Carol Oates's 'Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?'

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A Look at “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” Have you ever been in a situation that you were afraid you wouldn’t get out of? In the story “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been,” Joyce Carol Oates tells about a young girl who encounters a strange man and is afraid that she will never see her family again. The story is about a fifteen year old girl named Connie who is being harassed by an older man named Arnold Friend. She is obsessed with her own physical appearance, while her older sister, June, is the opposite. Connie’s mom always criticizes her for being so egotistical and wants Connie to be more like her sister. Their father is always working and hardly makes any time for them. She likes hanging out with boys, but one night…show more content…
The title is a major symbol in the story. When Connie asks Arnold where they are going, it is a reference to the title of the story and also refers to where Connie will go with him (Caldwell). The title represents the two phrases that a parent would say to their child: "where are you going?" as they leave and "where have you been?" when they return (Caldwell). At the end of the story, Arnold says to Connie, "The place where you came from ain't there anymore and where you had in mind to go is cancelled out,” representing the connection between the title and the events in the story (Caldwell). Music is another symbol in the story. Connie is surprised and disappointed when Arnold doesn’t turn out to be like the guy that she has always heard about in her music. Arnold's gold car symbolizes the transformational nature of his character (Caldwell). His car also contains numbers painted on the side of it: 33, 19, and 17 that he calls a "secret code,” maybe the ages of Friend himself and perhaps two of his victims (Caldwell). Some even believe that the sum of the numbers, 69, is a hidden sexual reference…show more content…
As stated earlier, the author herself described the true events that she based the story on in a published article from the New York Times. Arnold Friend should not be referred to as the devil because he has no real knowledge of her family, but instead he just made a lucky guess that they were not home or he could have easily gathered the information through his own observations (Wiedemann 173). There are many elements of symbolism and examples of similes that make the story more interesting and give it a deeper meaning and overall, it is realistic and based on actual events that
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