Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?

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The short story by Joyce Carol Oates "Where are you going, Where have you been?" is one that has had many interpretations over there years, by many literary critics and readers alike, generating a vast list of themes and meanings to the story. Some have declared the story to be a "feminist allegory," while others argue that one of the main characters, Arnold, is a "savior" or "messiah figure," as popular figures during the 1960's were to young girls like Connie, the main character. Though many interpretations have been made, and all of them equally important and worth being discussed, there is one that brings the theme of this story to a new level. It gives the story a meaning while stating that in the story itself, Connie is in a world of meaninglessness: from the absence of God, the lack of love in her home life, to her obsession with prettiness. This interpretation is the one that states that Connie lived in Sartre's very own existential world, where the environment around had no real meaning. Connie is in a spiritual wasteland, forcing her to create a dream world to find some meaning. In this dream world of hers, Connie's attempts at add meaning to her life are seen in her creation of a public persona, and seeking the company of young men. Sadly, the creation of this world is what causes Connie's regrettable actions in the heartrending ending of this story. "One Sunday Connie got up at eleven—none of them bothered with church" Nearly all people believe in a god: the god could either be their own self, or Allah or Buddha, or Jesus Christ or anything that could prove to add some sort of meaning to what seems like a meaningless existence…There is always someone people "bother" with. In "Where are you going, where have you been?" this god, to Connie, is the "revolving figure of a grinning boy who held a hamburger aloft" (153) in the sacred building that loomed out of the night to give them [the youth] what haven and what blessing they yearned for" (154). This...
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