What inspirations, besides the Bob Dylan song and the greek myth of Persephone, did Oates use in writing the "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?"

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Oates was heavily inspired by the Tuscon- area murders of Charles Schmid in the mid 1950s.  His murderous spree was detailed in Life magazine, and this served as the basis for Oates' story.  The recreation of Arnold Friend as the literary Schmid is fairly uncanny.  Both lure girls and their victims at the local popular teen hangout.  Both sought to conceal their own age through makeup and the desire to appear younger and "more hip" than they already are.  Both are pathological in their desire to control girls and both have little problem in resorting to murder.  The personification of evil is something that attracted Oates to her construction of Friend.  At the same time, Oates had to have been intrigued with a conception of beauty that women were expected to adhere to as they participated in society.  Yet, it becomes a paradox because this notion of beauty is what endangers them.  Arnold Friend/ Charles Schmid targeted girls who carried themselves in a manner in accordance to socially constructed ideas of beauty.  Neither targeted the "plain Janes" of society.  Rather, their victims were Connies, girls who conformed to socially dictated notions of femininity and end up paying the worst of prices as a result.  In this, another inspiration is evident.

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