illustration of a young girl, Connie, reflected in the sunglasses of a man, Arnold Friend

Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?

by Joyce Carol Oates

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What is the message of "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?"?

The message of "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" is that people who play with evil find evil and that actions have consequences. Connie rebels against her parents and acts extremely foolishly, and her behavior comes back to haunt her.

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The message of Joyce Carol Oates's story "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" is that actions have consequences and that playing with evil will only bring evil.

Connie is only fifteen years old, but she is a rebel. She spurns her parents' rules, sneaks around with her friends, and generally sets herself up for disaster. Connie is vain as well, always focused on her appearance. She scoffs at her responsible older sister whom her parents set as a role model for her and who has learned how to combine having fun with being sensible.

Connie is anything but sensible. She and her friends are supposed to be hanging out at the mall, but they often go over to the drive-in, where they meet older boys and try to be sexy and alluring. Connie even goes off by herself with a boy and spends some time with him in an alley. She is a very foolish girl who has developed no sense of self-control and no ability to sense danger. Connie also has not realized that actions have consequences. Her parents' rules seem arbitrary to her, and she fights against them through her behavior and in her thoughts, even wishing at one point that her mother were dead so she could do as she pleased.

But Connie's poor choices and dangerous games come back to haunt her when Arnold shows up at her door. She has seen him at the drive-in before, and now, he wants her to go with him. She is alone at home because she has refused to go with her parents and sister to a barbeque, thinking that it is beneath her dignity.

Now, Connie faces real evil, and she has no idea how to handle it. She is not strong enough to fight or even resist this older man, who actually symbolizes the devil. When Arnold threatens her family, Connie gives in and goes with him. The story ends on that note. The point is that when people foolishly play with evil and fail to develop their moral sense, their actions will come back to haunt them with highly unpleasant consequences.

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