Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?
by Joyce Carol Oates
Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory
The literary critic Christina Marsden Gillis has argued that the home in the story is a metaphor for the vulnerability of a woman's body in a male-dominated society (source: Gillis, Christina Mardsen. "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?": Seduction, Space, and a Fictional Mode). It's certainly an interesting theory to test out for yourself as you look at the way the actions are staged in the novel. In the story, a careful orchestration of scenes through windows, on thresholds, in doorways, against walls, builds up to Connie's final step into the beyond at the end of the story. Is her final step a gesture of defeat, an acknowledgement that Arnold has torn down all the walls of her identity? Or is her final step a rejection of the home and the domestic values associated with it, personified by her mother? Hmm…