How is the generation gap-the failure of one generation to understand another's culture,customs, and heroes--central to "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been"?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Based upon the Tuscon, Arizona, murders committed by Charles Schmidt in the mid-1950s, "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" suggests in its title the questions that Connie's parents do not ask her. Her father is usually gone to work, then he comes home concerned about supper; after supper he reads the newspaper then goes to bed. Like him, the father of one of Connie's friends takes the girls to the shopping plaza where they cross the highway to a drive-in that has older boys gathered.  There they eat hamburgers and drink Cokes and "go down an alley a mile away. When the father picks them up at eleven at night, he never bothers to ask the girls what they have been doing.

At home, there is little but arguing between Connie and her mother, a situation not unlike the 1950s movie Rebel Without a Cause which starred James Dean as Jim Stark, a teen without direction. Like Jim's parents, Connie's mother attempts conversation with her, but they merely are "struggling over something of little value to either of them." Never does Connie form any kind of familial bond with her mother or father. 

For, not "bothering with church," Connie's family experiences few activities together.  And, when Connie refuses to attend a barbecue at her aunt's with the rest of her family, they drive on, "her father quiet and bald," and her mother

with a look that was still angry and not at all softened through the windshield, 

Connie becomes vulnerable to the evil of Arnold Friend because she has received no moral guidance from her parents with which to withstand him, and she feels

...for the first time in her life that it was nothing that was hers, that belonged to her, but just a pounding, living think inside this body that wasn't really hers, either.

Friend plays upon this knowledge, too, as he tells Connie that "not a one of them would have done this for you," meaning her family would not have sacrificed themselves as she does. But, without the bond of parent/child, Connie has no guidance to her actions.

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