Study Guide

Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? Setting

By Joyce Carol Oates


The Suburbs, Early 1960's America

The story takes us on a tour of early 1960's suburbia from the perspective of a teenager: drive-in restaurants, movie theaters, shopping malls, "ranch"-style homes.

While this setting looks a lot like a typical American suburb today, a few pop cultural references date the story: Arnold Friend's get-up with slick hair and tight pants is a nod to the reigning teen idols of the day, like Elvis Presley and James Dean, and Arnold's partner Ellie listens to a radio show on a hand-held transistor radio, first marketed in 1954. This setting can seem almost surreally innocent to us today. We've grown so accustomed to violence and sexually explicit material in the news and popular culture that Connie's notions about love, and her reaction to Arnold Friend, may seem naive.