I found the following questions, taken from James H. Pickering’s 10th edition of Fiction 100: An Anthology of Short Stories, to be very useful when thinking about the story “Four Summers” by Joyce Carol Oates: “What similarities and differences exist in each of the four episodes? What changes take place? What remains the same? How does the author organize each of the four sections? How old is Sissie in each? Is Oates’ narrative technique in each section appropriate to Sissie’s age and stage in life? How do Sissie’s responses to men and women change? What new awareness and widened understanding does she achieve as the story advances? How is her intuition of death and loss in the first episode reinforced and expanded upon in the final three? What does Sissie come to realize about herself, her marriage, and her life in the final episode? What does she mean when she says, “I am pretty, but my secret is that I am pretty like everyone is?” How does she rationalize her sudden fear? Why does she react so strongly to the men at the bar? What are the implications of the story’s final sentence?”
Joyce Carol Oates's "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?
I found the following questions, taken from James H. Pickering's 10th edition of Fiction 100: An Anthology of Short Stories, to be helpful when thinking about "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?
How is Connie characterized at the beginning of the story? In what ways does this characterization foreshadow the events that follow? Who is Arnold Friend and what does he represent? Joyce Carol Oates has herself commented that "Arnold Friend is a fantastic figure: he is Death, he is the 'elf-knight' of the ballads, he is the Imagination, he is a Dream, he is a Lover, a Demon, and all that." How are these remarks helpful in clarifying our understanding of the story? What evidence can be cited in their support? How does Connie initially respond to Arnold Friend and his overtures? Why does she finally agree to go with him? What are the implications of the story's ending? In what ways does popular music serve as the story's controlling metaphor?