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Five Critical Interpretations

In: Novels

Submitted By sleepysally
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According to Greg Johnson Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? is a feminist allegory. I do not know if I agree or disagree with this perspective. I do not think Oates intended for the story to be a feminist allegory in any sense, but I do see why Johnson thinks that way. Connie definitely surrenders her autonomous self to Arnold’s desire and domination in the end, but that does not mean that during the whole story Connie was kissing the ground Arnold walked on. I strongly disagree that part of growing up requires sexual bondage at the hands of a male “friend,” that may be the way Connie ends up but that is definitely not the way most teenage girls mature. I do not think the story is entirely about Connie’s initiation into sexual bondage. It is simply a story about a creepy man that tries to lure in a typical young girl and ultimately interact sexually.

According to Larry Rubin Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? is all one big dream about her fear of the adult world. I definitely see why this interpretation is possible. Connie has an overall feeling of not having control over the situation she is in which happens in most bad dreams. Rubin explains the similarities of Arnold to that of which Connie already knows before meeting Arnold, such as his voice is the same as some disc jockey on the radio. This is very common in dreams, things from your real life somehow show up differently in dreams. The fact that Connie could not even dial the phone number when she felt in danger is a sign that it is a possibility that it was all a dream. Connie literally felt paralyzed which happens often in dreams just like you can never scream when you are in danger during a dream.

According to Joyce M. Wegs the character of Arnold in Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? is a clear symbolism of Satan. I agree that Arnold is a Satanic figure, but I disagree that there is any correlation between his last name being Friend and it is close to the word “fiend” and that his initials “AF” can stand for “Arch Fiend.” Oates definitely did not pick the character's name in order to make a far fetched connection to Satan. On the other hand I do agree with the fact that Arnold is seen as something supernatural and extremely mysterious and creepy, in the same way as Satan.

According to Mike Tierce and John Michael Crafton the character of Arnold in Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? is viewed as a savior or messiah figure. They base their case on identifying Arnold with Bob Dylan, the popular singer in the mid sixties which many people followed similar to that of a messiah. Although Tierce and Crafton relate the similarity of Arnold to Bob Dylan I think it is a far stretch and they are picking up details on the way Arnold dressed and the way Bob Dylan dressed. I could probably come up with some famous actor/ singer/ songwriter/ villain/ super model to compare to Arnold. I think their points are somewhat strong enough to say Arnold is similar to Bob Dylan, but saying that Arnold is like a messiah the same way Bob Dylan was is pushing it. I also disagree on the point of Arnold freeing Connie of her from her limitations of a fifteen-year-old girl and assisting in maturation by stripping of her of her childlike vision. If he really wanted to strip of her childlike vision and assist her in maturation he would have approached the situation differently and maybe acted like a sophisticated adult and not lured her like a predator would.

According to A.R. Courtland Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? does not mean anything more than it says. It is just a story about a creepy man that any young girl might have the bad luck to attract. I agree with Courtland in the way that I do not think there are specific hidden messages in the story rather than the fact that it is just a story based off of something that really happened. It is very possible for a young girl to have dumb luck and attract a creepy man but I do not necessarily think Oates specifically wanted there to be more to the story than that.

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