How can I discuss comparative ironic depictions in Oates' short story, "Where Are You Going?  Where Have You Been?"

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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There are a couple of different approaches you can take with this.  The first element is that you have to figure out with what you are comfortable in assessing this story.  Simply put, do you feel comfortable with addressing irony in Oates' work?  Are you going to take it from Connie's point of view or Arnold's point of view or from the understanding of Connie's parents. Irony is fairly broad, so you might have to narrow it down.  I think that it might be interesting to explore the title's irony in discussing the role of the parents in the story.  Another irony to be explored would be how Connie is seen as a self indulgent teen at the start of the story, but by the end of it, she becomes a vision of sacrifice for the betterment of her family even if it means her own death.  Arnold's irony with a last name of "Friend," and whose initials is "A Friend," could be explored in terms of the importance of social connections to the American adolescent.  Another irony would be that his presentation is one that indicates friendship and love, but his reality is something quite opposite.  The irony presented in evil could be explored.  Much of this is going to be based on what you feel about the story and with what you feel comfort in assessing.  This same comfort is going to be required when you compare the story with other stories.  You have to possess some level of comparative strength in discussing the themes in Oates' work with another work.  This might be in discussing the depiction of women, what it means to be a victim, or how social patterns of conformity can prove to be destructive.  As with the above ideas, your comfort here is going to be critical in developing a quality writing prompt.

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