Do Not Talk To Strangers

1043 Words5 Pages
Joyce Carol Oates’s short story “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been” narrates the story of a teenage girl, Connie, who is depicted as being young and fun-seeking. This story cautions us of the inherent danger to children that strangers pose, a lesson that many parents strive to inculcate their children with through cautionary fairytales emphasizing the mantra - Don’t Talk to Strangers! Connie, Oates’s protagonist is naive and portrayed as a girl who is exploring her independence. Connie encounters an evil villain, Arnold Friend, reminiscent of villains in such stories as “The Pied Piper of Hamelin”, “Hansel and Gretel”, “Little Riding Hood” and “The Three Little Pigs”. While the overriding theme in this story is “coming of age”, the underlying message and setting parallel the framework of the aforementioned fairytales. This essay identifies and discusses the similarities between Oates’ short story with the themes, characters, and events of the identified fairy tales.

In the fairy-tale, “The Pied Piper of Hamelin”, we can draw comparisons with Oates’ story when a stranger lures the town’s children from the safe confines of their homes with his flute and kills them by locking them in a cave. This stranger is likened to Arnold Friend who speaks to Connie “in a simple lilting voice, exactly as if he were reciting the words to a song” (510). In both Oates’s story and the fairytale children are lured to their doom by beautiful music which is masking evil behind its hypnotic allure. The approach of telling a precautionary tale is often used to teach personal safety skills and encourage children to obey the rules parents set. A strong unifying message highlighting youth falling prey to a compellingly evil force is evident in bot...

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...elements beyond he dreamlike surreal fairy settings and tone. Characters, themes and events in each fairytale parallel those found in Oates’s short story. Young innocent protagonists and seductive evil forces. The lure of evil disguised as salvation and independence leading to a forced awakening. The themes of evil vs. purity, rites of passage, the constant possibility of danger and the deep bonds of family. In the final analysis, when Connie chooses to leave with the evil villain Arthur Friend we can’t help to feel if she had simply practiced the mantra, Don’t Talk to Strangers she would not be facing violence and death.

Work Cited

Oates, Joyce Carol. “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? “Literature: Reading, Reacting, Writing. Compact 8th ed. Ed. Laurie Kirszner and Stephen Mandell. Boston: Thompson Wadsworth, 2013. 505-516
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