Why did the author make the ending so ambiguous in "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?"?

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Kristen Lentz eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Joyce Carol Oates' popular short story "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" ends with Connie shuffling out of her parents' house, leaving the screen door to snap shut behind her as she proceeds to join Arnold, seeing "vast sunlit reaches of the land behind him and on all sides of him."  The reader never learns what happens to Connie or her family.

The open ending leaves the story susceptible to many possible meanings and interpretations.  By leaving the ending ambiguous, Oates enables the readers to come to their own conclusions, and for a suspenseful story like "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" some of those imagined conclusions could be infinitely more terrifying than if Oates had told the reader the outcome.

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