Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?
by Joyce Carol Oates
Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory
"The music was always in the background," the narrator tells us, "like music in a church service, it was something to depend upon" (6). Music is everywhere in this story, blaring out of radios in restaurants, cars, and homes. It's so omnipresent, in fact, that it seems to have worked its way into the very way characters think, act, and feel. For Connie, music is associated with sex; her feelings for boys are mixed up with "the insistent pounding of the music" (10) and its "slow-pulsed joy" (14). Arnold exploits the rhythm of popular music, with its repetition of catchy lyrics and simple melodies, when he cajoles Connie in a "simple lilting voice, exactly as if he were reciting the words to a song" (59). Because it's everywhere, music can introduce a number of different themes, including the effects of popular culture, the nature of sexual desire, and the dynamics of psychological manipulation.