Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? | Study Guide

Joyce Carol Oates

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Course Hero. "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? Study Guide." Course Hero. 9 Feb. 2017. Web. 20 Nov. 2018. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Where-Are-You-Going-Where-Have-You-Been/>.

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Course Hero. "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? Study Guide." February 9, 2017. Accessed November 20, 2018. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Where-Are-You-Going-Where-Have-You-Been/.


Course Hero, "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? Study Guide," February 9, 2017, accessed November 20, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Where-Are-You-Going-Where-Have-You-Been/.

Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? | Context


Bob Dylan: "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue"

"Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" is dedicated to Bob Dylan, the American songwriter and performer. Joyce Carol Oates was writing the story in 1965 when Dylan's album Bringing It All Back Home was released. The album's song "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue" struck Oates as moving and relevant:

The lover who just walked out your door
Has taken all his blankets from the floor
The carpet, too, is moving under you.

She related the song's theme of loss and mortality to Connie, the protagonist of the story, who cannot control the circumstances in which she finds herself and so loses everything.

Oates describes Dylan's song and others on the same album as "fairy tales gone wrong," and Connie's fairy tale certainly goes terribly wrong. When Arnold Friend first appears at Connie's house in "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" Connie believes he's her answer to becoming mature. To her he is the handsome prince—an adult in tight jeans, a form-fitting T-shirt, and scuffed boots—driving a gold-colored car in which to rescue her from her parents and her own boredom. However, Arnold Friend is neither a prince nor a friend, but a sexual predator.

Women's Rights

The 1960s was a tumultuous decade in many ways. Groups previously shunned, marginalized, or mistreated—African Americans, gays and lesbians, women, and others—were seeking equal rights and opportunities. In the earliest years of the 1960s, women could not get their own credit cards, serve on juries in some states, or expect equality in the workplace. As legislation began to correct these situations, major changes were taking place regarding women's sexuality as well.

When birth control pills began to be marketed in the 1960s, some states limited sales to married women only. The limitations stemmed from the view that the pill would encourage promiscuity and prostitution. As the 1960s came to a close, however, more than 80 percent of married, childbearing women used contraception.

The easier access to contraception allowed many women to explore their sexuality without fear of pregnancy. Moreover, with the women's movement, the double standard of premarital sex as acceptable for men but wrong for women began to disappear. The notion of a woman wanting sex, enjoying it, and having sexual needs was itself new. In 1962 Helen Gurley Brown, an advertising copywriter at the time and later the profoundly important publisher of Cosmopolitan magazine, wrote the often shocking book Sex and the Single Girl (1962)to explore women's sexuality. A cornerstone of the sexual revolution, the book affirmed that women could be single, live alone, earn their own money, and have sexual relationships before marriage—and it provided advice on how to live as an unmarried woman.

In "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been," Connie is coming of age during this period of sexual revolution. While her mother finds Connie's behavior confusing and threatening, unlike her older sister's, Connie is intrigued by her own sexuality and longs to explore it by flirting with boys.

The Real Killer Who Gave Rise to Arnold Friend

Short and aggressive, Charles Howard Schmid Jr., also known as the "Pied Piper of Tucson," was a braggart, a pathological liar, and a carefree ladies' man who lived a fast life with his car and motorcycle. Sensitive about his height, he stuffed his cowboy boots with flattened beer cans, socks, and rags to gain a few inches. He slicked back his dyed black hair, wore dark tan makeup, and painted a mole on his face.

In May 1964, when Schmid was 22, he told his friend he wanted to kill someone. The someone turned out to be Alleen Rowe, a 15-year-old high school student in Tucson. When Schmid appeared at Rowe's house after her mother had left for her shift as a night nurse, his friends John Saunders and Mary French helped him lure the girl out of her house. After Alleen Rowe left the house, Schmid, along with Saunders and French, drove her to the desert, where Schmid raped her and cracked her skull. Schmid and Saunders buried Rowe after they removed the curlers from her hair; French buried the curlers separately.

Then in August 1965 Schmid murdered sisters Gretchen and Wendy Fritz, 17 and 13 respectively. At one point Schmid had been dating Gretchen, who had gotten hold of Schmid's diary in which he described murdering a 16-year-old boy (a story that was never validated). When Gretchen would not return the diary, Schmid struck, strangling both Gretchen and Wendy at his home one evening when they stopped by to visit after seeing a movie—and then dumping their bodies in the desert. Later his friend, Richie Bruns, helped him bury the sisters' bodies. Eventually Bruns grew fearful Schmid would kill his girlfriend, so he went to the police. Schmid was tried and found guilty of murdering three women. His initial sentence of the death penalty was commuted to 50 years in prison after Arizona abolished the death penalty.

The trial was big news, as mass murders were rare at the time. Schmid's story appeared in an article by Don Moser in Life Magazine. Oates read the article and was struck by it. Readers can find similarities in "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" to the actual news story, in particular between Arnold Friend and Charles Schmid.

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