Oates has called her story a "realistic allegory." What are the allegorical elements in "Where Are You Going? Where Have You Been?"

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The two main characters of "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" are Connie and Arnold Friend. These two can certainly be read as allegorical characters.

Carol Joyce Oates's story is based upon a real-life incident in Tuscon, Arizona, in which Charles Schmid, a sexual predator and killer, abducted adolescent girls. In this story, the character of Connie can represent the youth of the 1960s who became inordinately preoccupied with sexuality; Arnold Friend's character can be interpreted as a manifestation of this preoccupation, which led to sexual depravity.

As an allegorical character, then, Connie represents teen girls of the 1960s who have become so obsessed with their attractiveness and their seductive powers that they lose sight of the dangers that their appearance and actions pose. Clearly, Connie becomes absorbed in the adulation of males and the sexually suggestive lyrics of her music, but considers herself a normal, pretty girl since others act as she does. Thus, she is not attentive to the potential dangers of her behavior and that of the other girls with whom she associates as she fills her head with "trashy daydreams" and music.

The other allegorical character, Arnold Friend, represents the sexual predator, who is often disguised. Furthermore, Friend seems to be a composite of the seductive music and suggestive behavior of her associations.

All the boys fell back and dissolved into a single face that was not even a face, but an idea, a feeling, mixed up with the urgent insistent pounding of the music and the humid night air of July.

It is as though Connie's tawdry thoughts and associations come together and conjure up Arnold Friend, who appears at her home as she is left alone one Sunday because she has remained home rather than going on a family outing, as she prefers her indolence and erotic dreams to her family's company.

Kristen Lentz eNotes educator| Certified Educator

An allegory occurs when the author creates double meaning within her story; there is the literal interpretation of what happens, but also a figurative or symbolic interpretation.  The allegory in Oates' story deals with the loss of innocence and temptation; in many ways, her story is a retelling of the 'Garden of Eden' story:  Connie, the young virginal girl, meets up with the ultimate bad guy, Arnold Friend, who just might be Satan in a slick disguise.  He tempts her away from her home, and whatever may happen, she will never return (just as Eve's eating of the forbidden fruit forced her exit from her home in the Garden of Eden). 

In "Where are You Going, Where Have You Been?", Joyce Carol Oates uses Connie's story to retell the classic coming of age story with a hardened edge; Connie meets Arnold Friend, a forceful, corruptive influence, who in the end takes Connie away to her death and an end of innocence. 

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