Identify the significance of "mirror" to the overall meaning or theme of the story "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been" by Joyce Carol Oates.

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mizzwillie eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Joyce Carol Oates realistic story, "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?", the main character Connie is a typical teenager meant for readers to identify with as like them.  She flirts, seems confident in her ability to handle boys, and enjoys the game of flirtation.  However, when she meets Arnold Friend, Oates is showing that her typical teenage flirtation will not stand up to a manipulative, dangerous older man.  When Connie is alone in the house and Arnold shows up, Connie doesn't realize she is in danger until Arnold is standing in her doorway and Connie realizes she may never return or even live.  The idea of the window and the mirror is two-fold. If you are looking through a window of a story, you are simply watching it unfold.  However, a mirror is a much different thing which is what Oates intends.  When you look into a mirror, you see yourself.  Are you naive like Connie, believing yourself invincible?  Are you aware of the people you flirt with as to what kind of people they truly are?  Oates asks if you know where you are going with the actions you undertake, or if even you have benefited from the knowledge of where you have been?  Oates wants you to look into the story as a mirror because date rape, kidnapping, sexual assault, and the disappearance of young women is a continuing assault on the American public, and young women don't seem to be learning the lesson. 

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