The story’s title, “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been,” is steeped in ambiguity. One popular interpretation holds that it refers to the questions a parent would ask a child. This reading imbues the title with irony, since Connie’s parents never ask her where she has been or what her plans are. Connie’s mother’s involvement in her daughter’s life begins and ends with her constant criticism; Connie’s father is mentally and emotionally absent, if physically present. The title uses irony to highlight her parents’ failure to watch over and protect their child.
Sexuality and Control
At 15, Connie is on the verge of adulthood. She attempts to gain control over the new, sexual aspects of her identity by flirting and experimenting with neighborhood boys. This aspect of her life offers her an opportunity for independence and control; through her experiences Connie begins forging a new, more mature persona. Yet this very same aspect makes her vulnerable to Arnold Friend, who ironically robs her of any personal control. Her blooming sexuality is both a source of social and cultural power and a weakness, which allows Arnold Friend to manipulate her. Exploiting the young girl’s willingness to engage in what appears to be harmless flirting, he lures her into a much more dangerous situation.
Arnold Friend is ironically neither known to Connie nor an amiable man; he could not be further away from being her friend. Despite the great efforts he makes to be familiar, Arnold Friend is a stranger, a man without a history. Moreover, while he may wield some surface charm, Arnold Friend is ultimately a malevolent figure who wishes to harm Connie. His friendliness is an act designed to draw his victims to him. In this context his name is not only ironic but sinister: one more attempt to lull Connie into a false sense of security.
Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? Questions and Answers
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Study Guide for Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?
Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? study guide contains a biography of Joyce Carol Oates, literature essays, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis of the short story Where are You Going, Where Have You Been.
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Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? essays are academic essays for citation. These papers were written primarily by students and provide critical analysis of the short story Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? by Joyce Carol Oates.