What are some of the literary devices used in "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" by Joyce Carol Oates?
In addition to the first Educator's observations, this chilling short story uses a motif and an archetype.
A motif is a mental hitching post of sorts: it is an object or phrase that appears repeatedly within a story. One such motif in "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" is music. In stark contrast to her sensible sister and humdrum parents, Connie revels in fantasies ("trashy daydreams") fueled by songs. She feels invigorated by music in cars with boys, with her friends, and while daydreaming at home. This young inclination towards exuberance and vitality draws her towards more uncertain, dangerous territory. When the two men drive up to Connie's house and reveal a small radio playing the same program she had been listening to, we know that something about this experience intrigues Connie, and she will linger in it to see what sensations it may bring. Music inspires spontaneity and invokes the boldness of youth in this story—which are tragically the characteristics which cause Connie to tumble into this dark situation.
The two men in the car, Ellie and Arnold Friend, are certainly odd characters. The author hints at certain archetypes to help the reader understand their nature and purpose in the story. An archetype is a highly recognizable and referenced type of character. This story uses the archetype of the Devil. Arnold Friend is off-putting from the start, but the reader truly understands him to be evil as the story goes on. This happens not only through the plot, but little hints the author drops as to the kind of person (or even the kind of creature) Arnold Friend may be. First of all, the Devil is well-known in literature for presenting himself to humans in disguise, which would account for Arnold Friend's "shabby black hair that looked crazy as a wig." Arnold being a supernatural, omnipotent creature like the Devil would also explain how he "knows everything" about Connie and where her family is on the day he comes to her house. As the situation escalates, so too do the author's hints about Arnold Friend being an archetypal devil:
She looked out to see Arnold Friend pause and then take a step toward the porch, lurching. He almost fell. But, like a clever drunken man, he managed to catch his balance. He wobbled in his high boots and grabbed hold of one of the porch posts.
Critics have theorized that in this story, as in other pieces of literature, the Devil possesses hooves instead of feet and consequently has trouble walking in human shoes. Oates chooses to cast Arnold Friend as a kind of devil, if not the Devil, to heighten the sinister nature of this interaction as well as to comment on the kind of men in real life who would hurt a young girl like Connie.
The story "Where are You Going, Where Have You Been?" is a horrifying tale that tell fictionalizes the true tale of the Pied Piper of Tuscon. The story uses many literary devices throughout which has made it a classic short story used in many college Literature and Composition classes.
The story employs the use of foreshadowing as it shows the protagonist, Connie, attempting to be grown up. She sneaks away "ducking fast across the busy road, to a drive-in restaurant where older kids hung out." This foreshadows the ending where she is forced, due to the attention of a man who saw her at the drive-in, to make a very grown up decision and save her family. Due to this plot, it is classified as a bildungsroman story.
Another literary device that is used in duration is symbolism. The majority of the story, after Arnold Friend shows up, takes place with Connie standing in the doorway. This symbolises her being stuck between a child and an adult. In the end she chooses to walk through the doorway and into adulthood, saving her family from the violence of Arnold but at the expense of herself.