“Where are you going, where have you been ” is a short story by Joyce Carol Oates.
It revolves around a somewhat self obsessed, 15 year old girl, Connie, who seems to live in a world of her own.
The story appearing to be a simple one on surface, is in fact full of symbols and motifs.
It addresses subtly the mind frame and attitude of teenagers (even today) where they feel like the world is at their feet. Anyone who states otherwise is just their enemy or probably jealous of them.
More importantly, through motifs like music that always seems to “transport the character into a different world”, the writer addresses the fact how pop culture, be it music, tv or magazines tend to romanticise things. How teenagers believe the ideas portrayed in such platforms to be completely true, no matter how far from reality they are.
The girl in the story figuratively lives a dual life.
One at house where she is normal, one for the outside world, where she is a social, attractive and mature woman.
Though she enjoys this facade of pretending to be mature and worldly, in reality, she is just a scared little girl. Unaware of the world and it’s cruel ways.
She is comfortable and confident enough to pull this facade off as long as she’s sure she’ll be home to the things she knows, her family.
But when the time comes and the facade ends, she stares at the face horror, of a very real and eminent danger.
Which is when she sees herself for who she really is, for the first and last time perhaps.
Another important character is the antagonist, who is essentially an enigma.
Open to interpretation of the reader.
Several theories believe he represents the allure of darkness, of the demon. Some parts of the story hint towards it too. But not quite clearly.
So he could just be another criminal in the making or a psychopath.
Everything about him right from his appearance, demeanor to the way he talks – charming at first, menacing later on -all build up an ominous vibe.
He forces the two aspect of Connie to converge, under unfortunate circumstances.
In the end, the reader is left to deal with the horror of little Connie making a decision, possibly her last one – or at least one that would change her life forever. Scar her forever.
Some interpretations believe that the whole story could’ve been a dream in the mind of the girl, but nevertheless, it would open her eyes to the reality of the world and make her bridge the gap between her two personalities.
Have you read the story? What do you think about it?