Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? (Style)
Point of View
The first line of “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?“ — “Her name was Connie “ — signals that it is being told by a third-person narrator. This narrative voice stays closely aligned to Connie’s point of view. The reader learns what her thoughts are, but the narrator provides no additional information or judgment of the situation. For instance, Connie’s harsh appraisals of her sister and mother are discussed: “now [her mother’s] looks were gone and that was why she was always after Connie,” but it is clear that this assessment is Connie’s and not the narrator’s. Observing the story’s events through a narrator who presents things as Connie sees them allows the reader to identify with her terror as she is transformed from a flirt into a victim. Arnold Friend is presented only as he appears to Connie; the reader learns nothing of his unspoken thoughts. This narrative “detachment” makes him less human and more ominous than if the narrator provided details that would allow the reader to identify with him. Maintaining the third-person narrative voice instead of telling the story in Connie’s own words, however, allows Oates to use descriptive language that Connie would presumably not. It is through this language that much of the mood, imagery, and symbolism of the story emerges. Setting
References to popular music and slang date the events in “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been” to the same period when Oates wrote the story in the mid-1960s. Oates sketches in few details of the town, which is meant to be a typical suburban landscape that includes familiar sights such as a shopping plaza and drive-in restaurant. This setting is further described in the reference to the newness and style of the three-year-old “asbestos ‘ranch house’” Connie lives in. Such an innocuous setting is incongruous with the violence suggested in the story, and the contrast serves to heighten the reader’s uneasiness. The lack of specific description of the setting serves to universalize the story’s themes, which suggest that Connie’s lack of identity is a legacy of modern suburban culture. Though the actual location of the story is irrelevant, the reference to the radio show Connie listens to, the “XYZ Sunday Jamboree,” may be a reference to radio station WXYZ in Detroit, Michigan, the area in which Oates lived at the time the story was written. Structure
The structure of “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” follows a familiar pattern. The first few pages of exposition acquaint the reader with Connie and her family, providing details about her character and lifestyle. The rising action begins when Arnold Friend pulls into the driveway and instigates a conversation with Connie. Her character, which has been carefully outlined, begins to interact with another force. This force presents a conflict for Connie: should she succumb to Arnold, or try to save herself? At the climax of the story, Connie’s will is overtaken by Arnold and she acquiesces to his evil desires. The most unusual aspect of the story’s structure, perhaps, is its lack of resolution. The action abruptly ends as Connie walks towards Arnold. The fact that the reader does not find out Connie’s fate further heightens the story’s mood of violence, in which horror is suggested, but never shown. The only hint of the action’s resolution is in the foreshadowing statements made by Arnold when he says he wants to “come inside you where it’s all secret” and show Connie “what love is like,” statements that hint at rape. Similarly, Connie laments that’ ’I’m not going to see my mother again” or “sleep in my bed again,” comments that suggest her murder. However, the lack of a stated resolution has been a point of major discussion in critical essays on the story, with some proposing that Connie is killed and others proposing that she is not. Some...
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