Generally, pieces of work that require creative thought, whether they are pieces of art or literature, are reflective of their time; this is one of the things that makes a story written 100 years ago different from a story written today. With this in consideration, there are also topics in literature that are classic, or always relevant; it doesn’t matter when the piece was written, because the themes and ideas will always be relatable. Although it is evident that the story was influenced by it’s time, Joyce Carol Oates’ “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” is still relevant to today’s culture.
A few elements of 1966, the year the story was written in, are present in the story.
First, music is mentioned several times and seems to be very important to Connie. Music was experiencing explosive changes in the 1960’s, and these changes have lasted to affect music today. With this in mind, it makes sense that it had so much involvement in the story. An example of this is when Arnold is in Connie’s driveway, playing the same radio station that Connie was listening to. Also, every time Connie is happy, music is mentioned. When she was at home alone listening to the radio, she was “bathed in a glow of slow-pulsed joy that seemed to rise mysteriously out of the music…” Considering the time that the story was written in, it makes sense that music had so much involvement.
Another part of the story that is a product of its time is the relationship between Connie and her mother.
In the 60’s, along with all of the other changes that were occurring, teenagers were becoming more rebellious and defying their parents more often; this is true of Connie. She goes out with her friends, comes home late, and lies about what they were doing. Along with this, her mother doesn’t approve of many of the other things that she does. For example, Connie is reprimanded for using hairspray. Sure, teenage rebellion against their parents is pretty common in today’s time, but it really increased during this time.
Although the story is clearly written for its time, there are several parts of the story that still have relevance today; one of these parts Connie’s family life. Connie is unhappy at home; her mother hates her, her father is never around, and her 24 year old sister, still living at home, is the bane of her existence. This unhappiness with her home life is relevant to many people today. There are a lot of people who are unhappy with who they are living with or where they are living, and there always have been people that feel this way. Another thing that still applies to today is Arnold, and the fact that people like him exist. He essentially stalked Connie until he knew enough about her to be able to approach her and convince her to go with him, even though she didn’t know him and was scared of him. Creepy, manipulative people like Arnold still exist, which makes this aspect of the story true to the present day.
Overall, “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been,” is relevant to both it’s time and our time. It highlights ideas that were present back in the time that it was written, as well as timeless topics like an unhappy family life or mentally disturbed stalkers. Even though the story consists of both topics from its time and our time, the topics are blended well and create a cohesive theme.