Final Essay

Submitted By Andrew-Swafford
Words: 755
Pages: 4

Since the publication of “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” many critics have attempted to analyze Joyce Carol Oates’ story. One of the most debatable things about the story is whether it is a work of realism or surrealism. Some critics agree that the story is an actual event while others argue that it is a dream. I think the short story “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” is a work of realism. The “consistent naturalism” throughout the story proves it. Coulthard expresses, “[a]bsolutely nothing occurs that can’t be explained” (Coulthard). The characters are simply a boy crazed, teenage girl who attracts the attention of a murderer. Oates’ inspiration even came from the actual murder of Alleen Rowe. Rowe was murdered by Charles Schmid two years before “Where Are You Going” was published and the similarities are tremendous. Arnold Friend is nearly an exact replica of Schmid. Schmid “was short and stuffed his boots to make himself taller” and like Friend, he had “dyed black hair [and wore] makeup” to be more attractive to women (Facts behind the Fiction). The first encounter Connie has with Arnold, he appears to have “shaggy black hair” (Oates 206). Connie was even fifteen years old during the story, the same age Alleen was at the time of her murder. Although Oates did copy many of the details from the real murder to write her story, it does not completely prove that it is a work of realism. That is proven through how the characters behave throughout the story.
To illustrate, Connie was based on your average teenage girl. The story starts with her mom getting onto her for not cleaning her room, “Why don’t you keep your room clean like your sister?” Connie was always annoyed with her sister because she could never escape the shadow which her sister laid. Her mother was always comparing her to her sister, June. The only reason June was of any use to Connie was because her mother “had no objections” about either of them going out (Oates 205). These examples of Connie are perfect examples of realism, within the story.
Many surrealistic critics believe that Arnold Friend represents the devil with supernatural powers because of his inability to walk correctly and how he knew everything about Connie, but all of that can better be explained by realism. Marie Urbanski believes that “[h]is feet resemble the devil's cloven hooves” because of how clumsy Arnold is when he gets out of his car (Urbanski 2). Urbanski along with other surrealist critics focus mainly on the sentence, “One of his boots was at a strange angle, as if his foot wasn’t in it”, but in the next paragraph Oates even says “the boots must have been stuffed with something so that he would seem taller” (Oates 211). Arnold’s boots are not hiding his “cloven hooves”, but they are hiding “the comically vain height-enhancing rags and cans of Charles Schmid”