Deductive Analysis Paper: “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been”

“Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been”

Joyce Carol Oates utilizes her fictional story, “Where Are You Going, Where Have Your Been,” to present the reader with a thrilling narrative that revolves around the controversial life of Connie. The main character in question is a 15-year old girl. She can be described as a vain, as well as elf-centered teenager, who is focused on achieving social acceptance. Given her impatience, Oates depicts her encounters in a dream-like setting in which she is using her attractive looks to appeal to almost all boys in her neighborhood. Moreover, she is seen missing their family meeting. In Carol’s view, getting the boys’ attention and failing to attend the meeting are achievements that make her feel mature (Oates 2). However, the author focuses on how Arnold Friend lures and manipulates young Carol into his car. Although Oats narrates a fascinating story of an innocent girl, she portrays themes of vulnerability and manipulation and coming of age through the story’s title.

The first question that every ardent reader would ask is the meaning of the title. In this case, “Where are You Going, Where Have You Been” raises this same conundrum. While the title is simple, rhythmic, and meaningful, it presents the readers with some degree of mystery necessary for thinking about its actual meaning. Critically speaking, the title is written in a general sense that it plays a fundamental role in embracing the wide-ranging themes and character behaviors in the novel. For example, the title sounds like common questions parents would ask their child when they are about to leave the house late in the night (Theriot 1). Undoubtedly, this makes the title appropriate for a story that revolves around the life of an unsettled and exploratory teenager.

The second interpretation would be that the title represents a metaphysical question. In other words, it may be asking how the protagonist or villain and any other characters in the narrative have reached where they are now in life, including what they plan to do about their current situation. This approach to interpreting the title also applies to Connie, who later realizes that she is immature and can be manipulated, which means she has to reverse course (Theriot 2; Oates 27). As Oates tells Connie’s experience with Friend, the title can be taken to mean how she confronts him because he is focused on taking the young girl far away. In his effort to manipulate Connie, he says, “The place where you came from ain’t there anymore” (Oates 152). Ultimately, the title symbolizes Connie’s dilemma as it suggests choosing between staying where she is familiar with and following the stranger to an unknown future.

Works Cited

Oates, Joyce Carol. “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” The Mercury Reader. Ed. Jacqueline Wilson-Jordan. Boston: Pearson Custom Publishing, 2012. 18-34, 152. Print.

Theriot, Michele. “The Eternal Present in Joyce Carol Oates’s “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” Journal of the Short Story in English, vol. 48, 2009, pp. 1-9.

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