Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?

by

Joyce Carol Oates

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Music Symbol Icon

From the outset of the story, music symbolizes Connie’s inner life, specifically the pleasure she takes in romantic relationships and romantic ideals themselves. Whenever she goes to the plaza with her friends, music is always playing in the background. Furthermore, she becomes more aware of music when she is experiencing intense moments of pleasure, references music while reflecting on her previous romantic encounters, and becomes absorbed in a music-induced trance. In this way, music is closely tied to her feelings of pleasure and her desire for fulfillment, connection, and escape. Arnold Friend takes advantage of this by using music as a way to trick Connie into believing there is a connection between them. The transistor radio in his car is playing the same music as the radio in her house, and when he draws his X sign in the air, Connie observes it seems that the two sources of music are coming together.  Following this, Friend slowly coaxes her out of the safety of her house. In this way, the symbol of music represents not only Connie’s inner life and pleasure, but also Friend’s violent sexual desire and evil intentions. Additionally, Friend’s attempt to seduce Connie through music suggests that pop culture’s portrayal of romance is deceptive, and has left Connie ill equipped to identify Friend’s disturbing behaviour. Ultimately, then, music also comes to hold very sinister connotations.

Music Quotes in Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?

The Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? quotes below all refer to the symbol of Music. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Appearances and Deception Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Harper Collins edition of Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? published in 2006.
Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? Quotes

Everything about her had two sides to it, one for home and one for anywhere that was not home: her walk, which could be childlike and bobbing, or languid enough to make anyone think she was hearing music in her head; her mouth, which was pale and smirking most of the time, but bright and pink on these evenings out; her laugh, which was cynical and drawling at home—“Ha, ha, very funny”—but highpitched and nervous anywhere else, like the jingling of the charms on her bracelet.

Related Characters: Connie
Related Symbols: Music
Page Number: 119-120
Explanation and Analysis:

Connie sat with her eyes closed in the sun, dreaming and dazed with the warmth about her as if this were a kind of love, the caresses of love, and her mind slipped over onto thoughts of the boy she had been with the night before and how nice he had been, how sweet it always was […] sweet, gentle, the way it was in movies and promised in songs […]

Related Characters: Connie, Arnold Friend, Eddie
Related Symbols: Music
Page Number: 122
Explanation and Analysis:
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Music Symbol Timeline in Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?

The timeline below shows where the symbol Music appears in Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?
Appearances and Deception Theme Icon
Music and Romantic Fantasy Theme Icon
Loss of Innocence  Theme Icon
...one night, while they’re sitting at the counter and feeling excited while listening to the music, a boy named Eddie comes over to chat with them. When he asks Connie if... (full context)
Agency, Control, and Manipulation Theme Icon
The Presence of Evil  Theme Icon
Music and Romantic Fantasy Theme Icon
...her way to Eddie’s car, Connie feels overwhelmingly happy, a feeling she connects to the music playing more than her excitement at being with Eddie, and sucks “in her breath with... (full context)
Music and Romantic Fantasy Theme Icon
...her eyes she feels disoriented and decides to go into her bedroom to listen to music on the radio. (full context)
Appearances and Deception Theme Icon
The Presence of Evil  Theme Icon
Music and Romantic Fantasy Theme Icon
While listening to the music, Connie pays “close attention to herself” and once more feels an intense joy that seems... (full context)
Appearances and Deception Theme Icon
The Presence of Evil  Theme Icon
Music and Romantic Fantasy Theme Icon
...he changes the subject to the transistor radio the passenger is holding. Connie realizes the music coming from the radio is the same as the music she’s playing inside the house. (full context)