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Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? by Joyce Carol Oates: A Critical Analysis

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“Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?”: A Critical Analysis
Of her hundreds of short stories, Joyce Carol Oates’s “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” continues to be widely discussed among literary critics. In his article “Oates’s Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?”, David Gratz claims that Oates’s story can be read as a parable for a young girl’s fear of adulthood. He agrees there is much textual evidence that Connie dreams of her disturbing experience with Arnold Friend and that he is a “psychological projection” (Gratz 55) of her subconscious fears. Gratz notes how critics Joan Winslow and Larry Rubin point out that Connie appears to fall asleep before Arnold Friend arrives to her home and that her inability to control the situation toward the end is of a nightmarish quality (55). There is further evidence which supports the idea that Connie is in fact dreaming this scenario. Gratz notes that though the ending represents the “death of a part of her” (55), it is not only the destruction brought on by her sex drive she fears. Rather, it is her fear of the inevitability of growing older and having to endure hard changes that come with it that projects itself onto Connie’s daymare.
Gratz refutes the idea that Connie subconsciously fears she is an evil person and that her active sex drive will compromise her as a person (55). This interpretation suggests that Arnold Friend is the devil’s incarnate and a representation of her fear of sex. He tells her, “yes, you had to wash your hair and you washed it for me” (Oates 208), which is suggestive of her fixation on her looks so as to be attractive to boys and even for the devil himself.
In Oates’s story, there is much textual evidence that supports Gratz...


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...r the threshold from childhood into adulthood. Puberty is not only a time of physical metamorphosis, it is also a time where one sheds his or her childish inhibitions – the “death” of childhood.
In the eyes of David Gratz, “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” is an allegory for a young girl’s natural anxieties, anxieties that all humans have experienced. The subconscious is a powerful projector of one’s innermost fears and desires. This story provides insight into those of a pubescent girl – her appearance, the prospect of reaching adulthood, love, and sex.
Works Cited
Gratz, David. “Oates’s Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” Explicator 45. 3(87): 55. Electronic.
Oates, Joyce Carol. “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” Literature and the
Writing Process. Ed. Elizabeth McMahan et al. Boston: Pearon, 2014. 199-210. Print.



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