Where Are You Going Where Have You Been By Joyce Carol Oates

Joyce Oates’ short story is not just a tale of warning for teenagers, but for parents as well. How is it so? Can a lesson be learned from the story?

In Where Are You Going Where Have You Been, Connie, a young teenager, is very concerned about her looks and having a good time. This is typical teenager behavior, as teenagers are often more set on making themselves look good and doing the opposite of what their parents want them to do. Connie’s more does nothing but criticize her, her father is rarely home and takes little interest in what is happening around him. Connie is allowed to do one thing without parental supervision and that is hangout with her girlfriends, simply because her older sister, June, goes out with her friends all the time and nothing bad happens. But Connie and her friends use their outings to go to places where older teenagers and young adults frequent, and it is not long before a older teenage boy asks Connie out to dinner. Connie does not know him but she goes out with this Eddie, briefly seeing an older man who says he will get her. A few days later, on a Sunday where none of the family goes to church, the man shows up with a friend, and, using his knowledge of the rest of the family’s whereabouts and laying down some threats, convinces Connie to leave the safety of her home. Connie is beyond frightened at how much the man knows about her and as she gets in the car to go for a ride she knows that she will never see her family again.

The irresponsibility of Connie parents in this story is, sadly a true representation of how some families are nowadays. The mother spends her time criticizing Connie for constantly looking into a mirror but she offers no constructive outlets in which her daughter’s attention could be moved. When the father is at home he east his supper and then goes to bed, he is only concerned about resting after being at work all day and does not take his role as the head of the house seriously. Children, especially teenagers, require their both their parents to take an interest in them and guide them through the tumultuous years of being a teenager for it is then that the child struggles most in trying to leave childhood behind and become an adult.

Therefore, Oates’ story is a fine example of how neglect from the parents can lead to the ruin of the children. If the mother or father had worked on building a trust with Connie then the daughter might not have felt the need to sneak off to forbidden places, or would probably have felt the need to tell her parents what she had been up to. The story is also a warning to young teenagers about being careful when they go out and avoiding the company of those who do not have their best interests at heart.