Explore BrainMass

Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?

The main character, Connie, in "Where Are Going, Where Have You Been ?" is best described as the rebellious, stereotypical American teen girl. She is obsessed with fashion, hair, and external appearances; she is quite shallow and narcissistic as she worries merely about herself and looks: "She was fifteen and she had a quick, nervous giggling habit of craning her neck to glance into mirrors or checking other people's faces to make sure her own was all right. Her understanding of her fate shows her change from free-spirited teen to victim as she realizes "-so much land that Connie had never seen before and did not recognize except to know that she was going to it."
Her meager attempt at a warning, "If my father comes and sees you-" also shows that she realizes that life is not a game when it comes to dating or gender/sexual relationships; she finally recognizes the true danger of her situation.

1. The story is called a "realistic allegory ' what are the allegorical elements in the story?
2. Describe the characterization of Connie - is she a typical teengage girl of her time and place? What techniques does Pates employ to make her an individual, three dimensional character?
3. Why is Connie's sister June included in the story? How does her characterization serve to highlight Connie's own?
4. Do the description of Arnold Friend- his face, his clothing, his dialogue. Does his character have symbolic meaning? Is his name symbolic?
5. Discuss the symbolic importance of music in the story, why is music so important to Connie and to the story as a whole?
6. What is the significance of the title? Does it point to an allegorical interpretation?
7. Describe the ways in which the story generates suspense. At which points is an increase of suspense particularly noticeable?
8. Why does Connie agree to go with Arnold Friend? Is she motivated by altruism and a love for her family, or by simple fear and hysteria? What is her ultimate fate?

Solution Preview

1. First, you must understand what a realistic allegory is. The realistic allegory is a literary device that was pioneered by Hawthorne, Melville and Poe. What it means is that there are characters who seem as if they are real encountering others who are purely fictional. Part of the realistic allegory is how Friend is depicted - he has some crazy garb, walks unsteadily, seems like a young person and not, all the makings of a serial killer. The Connie's of the world may be more fictional, as she can represent any young girl.

2. Connie is very three-dimensional. In many ways, she is presented as a typical teenage girl. She wants to be mature before her time, and to give the persona of a woman who is experienced with men. She presents herself as an adult through her clothing, hairstyle, and general behavior to get the attention she desires from boys. However, Connie confuses her ability to command attention from boys with her desire to actually have them pursue her in a sexual way. However, it's obvious that she is only playing with sexuality because she becomes fearful with Eddie, and then rightly so, with Friend. The experience with the latter shows an abrupt ending to her childhood innocence by being with a mature adult.

3. June is put in the story as a contrast to Connie. June is twenty-four years old, overweight, and still living at home. Also, she is a placid, dutiful daughter. She obeys her parents and does chores without complaining. ...

Solution Summary

A discussion of prolific American authors cannot be complete witout including Joyce Carol Oates. Oates is one of the most productive writers of our time--a statement never argued. Between 1971-95, Oates published twenty-five novels, eighteen short story compilations, three collections of novellas, five volumes of poetry, six editions of plays, eight books of essays, and countless more umcollected works (Kellman 487). As the format for her writing varies, so does her subject matter. Her creations cover a wide range of genres, but Oates' main fascination is contemporary America with its "colliding social and economic forces, its philosophical contradictions, its wayward, often violent energies" (Johnson 8). Oates' works, and somethimes even Oates herself, have been subject to responses ranging from extreme praise to harsh criticism from the literary community. Oates has won many significant literary awards and has even been nominated twice for the Nobel Prize in literature but has also received her share of bad press. Oates' work has time and time again been criticized for being too violent, too bizarre, degrading to women, and "the exact antithesis to the feminist movement" (gtd. in Wesley par. 32). I believe the opposite is true.
Oates herself has been quoted as saying that her subject matter is "today's culture," and that all she is trying to do is to bring the ills of our cuture "to a place where it can be examined" (Johnson 10). Some of her stories are purely fictional, but many stories seem to be ripped from the headlines. Zombie, a 1995 novel, is loosely based on the Jeffrey Dahmer serial killings (Seltzer 288). The highly acclaimed short story "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" draws its inspiration from the case of an Arizona serial killer, the "Pied Piper of Tucson" (Johnson 99). Oates' subject matter reflects the violence in society. Her writing is violent, but it has to be to reflect American culture today. Some detractors argue that there is enough violence in life; literature does not need to celebrate it. People do not like to be reminded of what disturbs them, but elimination of that violence will not occur if it is just ignored.