Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?

Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? Literary Elements


Realism, with elements of allegory and surrealism

Setting and Context

Suburban American in the 1950s or 1960s, at the cusp of the Sexual Revolution

Narrator and Point of View

The story is told by a third-person narrator who aligns closely with Connie's viewpoint. It is her joys, fears, thoughts, and suspicions that the reader follows. Yet the narrator departs from Connie's limited teenage perspective to better analyze her world and situation. The narrator is not, however, omniscient; Arnold Friend's thoughts and identity are outside the scope of the story's point of view, making the character more mysterious.

Tone and Mood

"Where Are You Going; Where Have You Been" considers Connie's teenage world and tragic situation very seriously. As Arnold Friend's intentions become clearer, the story's mood, initially somewhat journalistic, becomes decidedly unsettling and surreal.

Protagonist and Antagonist

Protagonist: Connie, Antagonist: Arnold Friend

Major Conflict

Arnold Friend attempts to lure a resistant Connie into his car for a ride and likely something much more sinister, like rape or murder.


Connie panics and collapses when she attempts to phone for help. Her breathing is described with language suggestive of sexual assault. Whether the attack is emotional, existential, physical, or supernatural, Connie is left utterly broken.


When Connie sees Arnold Friend in a restaurant parking lot he yells over, "Gonna get you, baby" (2). In the end he fulfills his initially playful threat when he comes for Connie at her home. In another instance of foreshadowing, Connie awakens from a nap and is temporarily disoriented, momentarily failing to recognize her backyard. This mirrors the story's final scene when she walks out her front door into unrecognizable "vast reaches of sunlit land" (14).




The story's overall structure is an allusion to the tradition of Western European allegory known as Death and the Maiden. Here Arnold Friend is death personified and Connie is his young, female victim. Some critics have theorized that Arnold Friend, with his wild black hair and connection to music, is an allusion to Bob Dylan.


Joyce Carol Oates uses powerful, almost surreal imagery to convey Connie's growing panic. In one memorable scene she compares the girl's jerking breath to sexual assault, confusing fantasy and reality. In another she describes an out-of-body experience to communicate Connie's fractured and powerless state.





Metonymy and Synecdoche