In Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? by Joyce Carol Oates, the characters’ symbolism and behavior are illustrated as something natural. A clear illustration of the meaning of the story’s finale is a quote from the character Friend. He tells the protagonist that “the place where you came from ain’t there anymore, and where you had in mind to go is canceled out.” (Oates 11). Connie’s isolation from her family, home, and upbringing is compounded by Friend’s denial of her history and future now that she has opted to leave the house. Oates’ description of Connie viewing herself in the third person, as well as Friend’s song about a blue-eyed girl while Connie’s eyes are brown, reaffirm Connie’s estrangement. The vast, overpowering landscape might be a metaphor for maturity and death, both foreign to Connie’s youthful mind but towards which she is being drawn.
The ending of another piece, namely A&P by John Updike, is also open and opens on an interesting phrase. Sammy saunters outdoors in the white shirt his mother ironed for him the night before, looking for the females, but they’re nowhere to be found. Looking back into the A&P via the glass, Sammy notices that Lengel has taken his place at the cash register. The narrator’s stomach drops as he sees Lengel, whose back appears rigid “as if he’d just received an injection of iron” (Updike 3) and knows how difficult his future in the world will be. Sammy has lost his place in the system due to his independence, and he is unclear what to do next. However, as he returns his gaze to Lengel, he feels a sense of dread. He appears to perceive in Lengel the stiffness and wrath with which the world would respond to his attempt to establish his uniqueness and the rigid sensation of being caught that submitting to that society, in which he is working-class, will compel him to comply.
Oates, Joyce Carol. Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? e-book, The Ontario Review, 2006.
Updike, John. A&P. Littleton public schools, 1962.