Study Guide

Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? Writing Style

By Joyce Carol Oates

Writing Style

Straightforward, Imagistic

The style of "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been" is somewhat journalistic in the sense that there are few excessive stylistic flourishes or cumbersome sentence structures. But Oates's spare style enables the images in the story to stand out in vivid clarity, in a way that makes you feel they have some mysterious significance.

Ordinary objects such as Arnold's sunglasses take on a whole new emotional force. Ordinary phrases (how many times have your parents asked you "Where are you going?" or "Where have you been?") become weightier, more existential questions about life, ethics, identity, sexuality, and anything else that keeps you up at night.