Peter Hoppock:What Makes Joyce Carol Oates’ “Where Are You Going? Where Have You Been?” So Good?

  • June 17, 2021
  • 10:00 AM - 11:30 AM
  • Virtual Only


Registration is closed

OCWW board member Peter Hoppock will lead a discussion of the acclaimed 1966 short story, “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” by Joyce Carol Oates. 

Join Peter and fellow OCWW members for an investigation into how Oates has crafted this compelling story. Peter hopes to fuel an interactive discussion that will spark writers to get to their keyboards and write!

Says Peter: “Joyce Carol Oates is one of our most admired and prolific writers, and she is particularly effective at depicting violence and evil in modern society. “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” was conceived after Oates read a Life Magazine article about a series of murders of young girls in Tucson, Arizona.  She kept wondering about the victims—in particular, how a girl could be taken in by a predator who was so visible, so direct and so obvious. The murders percolated in her mind for a while until, after listening to Bob Dylan’s song: “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue,” a story came to her in a torrent—but with 

a cold, objective, and unsentimental tone. She purposely avoided the sensationalism and melodrama of the reporting that had surrounded the killings.” 

We will focus on the discipline Oates exercised, how she built tension, how she moved from exterior to interior, the voice she established to help her get the reader into the mind of a teenage girl.

Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been” is a story that seduces us into believing we might not be going a dark place, while at the same time making the outcome seem inevitable. We know what’s going to happen. We know the ending. What is Joyce Carol Oates doing that compels us to keep reading? 

Accompanying your registration confirmation will be a pdf copy of the story for you to read and prepare for the discussion. Read it once for fun. Read a second time to study the narrative structure, the voice, the diction, and Oates’ writing style. Read it a third time to see if you can figure out the secret to the power of this compelling work of fiction. 

As the date for our session approaches, OCWW will send out reminders with some questions and discussion starters if you haven’t already conjured up some of your own. The Zoom information will arrive the day before the session.

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