Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? Essay

Submitted By MariahSimank1
Words: 610
Pages: 3

In the short story by Joyce Carol Oates, “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” the traumatic tale of a young girl preyed on by older men is told. The story begins with a beautiful teen constantly being torn down by her parents. She seeks attention and acceptance from boys around town causing her let her guard around men; which later becomes problem. Two unfamiliar men arrive at her house when her family leaves. Instead of keeping the door shut or calling the police, she opens the door and begins to converse with the men. She notices that they are idiosyncratic, and giving off warning signs. In the end, the fear takes over and she goes with the strange men; disappearing into the desert with her ‘lover’ forever. The use of setting allows the author to establish the unguarded innocence of the young girls, leading to their vulnerability.
The innocence of the town is shown through the simple life style. From “taking a drive” to “going to a barbecue”, each action shows the purity of the time (Oates 373/374). The simple activity of hanging out with friends and family gives the reader the impression of simplicity. The entertainment was subtle, from spending the day at home in the sun “listening to the XYZ Sunday Jamboree”, to hanging around the sleepy town (Oates 373). The author incorporates a number of examples such as a drive-in restaurant or the shopping plaza that gives the reader an idea of specific activities that took place. These teens weren’t up to much, their surroundings allowed them to be unguarded, which the cultural setting revealed. The author also gives the reader a sense of the time period by using objects and characterization. For example the boom box, the car, or the young men’s wardrobe gives the reader insight. The “tight faded jeans stuffed into black, scuffed boots….and a white pullover shirt” helps to define the era for the reader (Oates 374). The simple use of descriptive words provides information of the setting, the date, time and place this story occurred. The author also uses elements from nature to emphasize emotions felt. Heat is a recurring element that is exaggerated over and over. From the men’s shirts being a “little soiled” to “sweat [breaking] all over her face” the author uses this element to