“Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been” is a short story that has often been anthologized. Written by Joyce Oates and published for the first time in 1966, the story became a classic writing of its time.
It has been on several occasions been added in the literary anthologies of “never-ending” fiction and most importantly, it was included in a popular film known as Smooth Talk that was produced in 1986.
According to the author, the story is an inspiration through a another story in a life magazine concerning a serial killer called Charles Schmid – an older man preying on teenage girls. Amazingly, Oates was not struck by the actions of the serial killer. Instead, she was disturbed by the support the killer got from teenagers of well-off families.
The twisted psychology evident in the serial killers was never intriguing to the author but rather the unusual actions propagated by teenagers who helped the killer to conduct his operations and even help in hiding the killings.
“Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been” is written in the middle-American setting of the 1960s characterized by the ideological unrest of a period when simmers immediately beneath the surface. The story tells of a time when social and moral conventions got a lot of opposition from all directions and the quest for American materialism and optimism following the WWII.
The story highlights issues connected to civil rights, sexual freedom, feminism and adolescent sexuality representing a time of controversy in the history of the United States. The story also generated a lot of controversy following its publication. The actions by Connie towards the end are defined as an anticipated sign of heroism – she sacrifices herself in order to prevent harm coming upon the family. Many readers are not persuaded by that.
From one end, the story has been taken as an anti-feminist symbol. Connie’s sexual feeling towards her male counterparts gets her punishment from Arnold Friend. Other audiences take it as a feminist critique of a society dominated by men. The story ends in a tragedy as Connie submits to Arnold Friend showing the oppression of women in a patriarchal society.
The story has produced a lot of mixed feelings and interpretation because of its open-endedness towards the end. Despite all this, it still remains to be captivating even up to date and it is upon anyone to read it and make a decision of what this disturbing story is all about.
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