What does the title "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" mean?
I think that the title is really powerful. In analyzing Oates' short story, Gale Cengage speaks to the intense nature of the title as a statement on how the real challenge in the short story speaks to how there is a gap between Connie and her parents. For a variety of reasons, there exists a chasm between both that can be seen as the numbing reality of modern parent/ child or reflective of something more intensely dangerous:
Connie's father plays a small role in her life, but by paralleling repeated phrases, Oates suggests that this is precisely the problem. Because he does not ''bother talking much'' to his family, he can hardly ask the crucial parental questions, ''Where are you going?" or "Where have you been?" The moral indifference of the entire adult society is underscored by Oates' parallel description of the father of Connie's friend, who also "never ... [bothers] to ask'' what they did when he picks up the pair at the end of one of their evenings out. Similarly, on Sunday morning, "none of them bothered with church," not even that supposed paragon, June.
The title is powerful in this respect. The two most basic questions that all parents must ask of their teens reside in "Where are you going?" and when the children return, "Where have you been?" This is something that forms the basis of any solidified notion of parenting because it shows care and devotion, almost to the point where receiving angst from a child for such question can be seen as a note of distinction and success. I think that this becomes the basis for the title, something that is important in that these two questions are never asked by Connie's parents. Whether they see it as trying to respect Connie's freedom or not wanting to engage her in confrontation, Oates' title brings to light that there is a parenting challenge present. She is too skilled to lay the blame at their doorstep, the very same one that Arnold Friend threatened their own harm to Connie and compelling her to leave home because of it. Yet, it is a significant point made in the title that these two questions, some of the foundational in all parenting, were never asked from the parents. Sadly, with the ending, these two questions are the two questions that the parents will most commonly ask over and over when they return to find Connie gone, presumably never to return. It is here where I think that the story's title is powerful and meaningful.