Essay about Oates' "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been"

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“Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been,” written by Joyce Carol Oates is an unsettling and incredibly formidable story of a young woman’s loss of innocence during a time of social change and turbulent times. The story’s protagonist is Connie, a self-absorbed, yet beautiful fifteen year old girl, who not only is at odds with her family but also the conservative values handed down by her family. She, unknowing to her parents, spends her evenings exploring her independence and individuality as well as by flirting and picking up boys at a local diner. One evening she catches the attention of a strange, creepy boy who drives a gold, dilapidated convertible. While alone at home one Sunday afternoon, this same creepy boy driving the gold …show more content…
Moral and social beliefs were being challenged and the youth of America, while coming of age, were rebelling against their parent’s ideals and creating their own culture. The birth of a social movement was upon the world and issues such as sexual freedom, feminism and other civil rights were hot topics during the years prior to Oates writing this story. It is these social changes and society’s interest in them that creates the foundation for the setting that breathes life into this story. Without this foundation, the coming-of-age story of Connie, not to mention American society, and her journey from the innocence of the 1950s into the bitter reality of the turbulent times of the 1960s would have been lost.
This story speaks of a young teenage woman who, amid the civil rights’ movement and sexual revolution of the 1960s, is rebelling against the conservative morals and values of the 1950s and exploring her individuality and sexuality with a sense of egotism and inexperience that eventually gets her into harm’s way. Looking back, the Civil Rights movement may have been the most emotionally charged movement of the 1960s (Anderson). No other movement in United States history defines a change in culture better than the movement of the 1960s. Issues such as women’s rights, war, civil rights and the sexual revolution greatly influenced the American youth. Conservative family morals and values that predominated the 1950s were beginning to be questioned. Oates