Each of us experiences transitions in our lives. Some of these changes are small, like moving from one school semester to the next. Other times these changes are major, like the transition between youth and adulthood. In Joyce Carol Oates' "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?", the author dramatizes a real life crime story to examine the decisive moment people face when at the crossroads between the illusions and innocence of youth and the uncertain future.
Joyce Carol Oates' message of life and transitions is best understood when the reader brings his or her interpretation to meet with the author's intention at a middle ground. This type of literary analysis is known as Reader Response. In Reader-Response, the emphasis is placed on "the idea that various readers respond in various ways, and therefore [the] readers as well as authors 'create' meaning" (Barnet, et. al. 1997). In this story of life passages and crucial events, it is imperative that the reader has a solid response to Oates' efforts in order to fully comprehend the message. Literature is a combined meeting between the intentions of the author and the reaction of the reader.
The author begins her message with the title of her work, which conveys the idea of passages of time in life. The phrase "where are you going" suggests a time in the future, and the phrase "where have you been" evokes the past. Oates' message continues through the plot and characters. The basic elements of "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" are rooted in a true story of a 1965 crime. Occurring just a year before Oates' 1966 story was published, the "parallels between [th...
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...et al. New York: Longman 1997.
* Reaske, Christopher R. and John Knott, Jr. "Interview With Joyce Carol Oates." Mirrors: An Introduction to Literature. 2nd ed. Eds. John Knott, Jr. and Christopher Reaske. San Francisco: Canfield Press 1975.
* Tierce, Mike and John Michael Crafton. "Connie's Tambourine Man: A New Reading of Arnold Friend. Literature: Thinking, Reading, and Writing Critically. 2nd ed. Eds. Sylvan Barnet, et al. New York: Longman 1997.
* Wegs, Joyce M. "'Don't You Know Who I Am?' The Grotesque in Oates' 'Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?'" Critical Essays on Joyce Carol Oates. Ed. Linda W. Wagner. Boston: G. K. Hall 1979.
* Winslow, Joan D. "The Stranger Within: Two Stories by Oates and Hawthorne." Ed. Thomas Votteler. Vol. 6 of Short Story Criticism. New York: Gale Research 1990.
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