Comparison of Smooth Talk to “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?”

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Comparison of Smooth Talk to “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?”

Joyce Carol Oakes’s short story, “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” was written in 1966 and twenty years later was made into a movie entitled Smooth Talk, winner of the 1985 U.S. Film Festival for best dramatic picture. The writing by Oates is loosely based on a true story described as “the tale of Charles Schmid, a twenty-three-year-old who cruises teenage hangouts, picking up girls for rides in his gold convertible” (Johnson 160). I say “loosely based” since the author purposely omits facts that she has read in newspaper and magazine articles, facts that would lend humanness to the demonic nature of a man she has cleverly and ironically named Arnold
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That said, the endings then vary greatly. In Smooth Talk we see Connie leaving the house with Friend, then returning sometime later to find her family is back home, the unseen rape having left her shaken but belligerent toward her attacker. The family members receive her in a surprisingly warm fashion, and she finds herself securely held first in the arms of her mother and then in those of her sister as the two girls ends the movie dancing slowly to the music Connie loves. Arnold Friend is hopefully out of her life forever, and Connie is left to pick up the pieces with what we assume is renewed love and respect for her home and family.
Whereas we see a coming together of the family members in the movie’s ending, the sinister ending of “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” implies that Connie will forever be separated both physically and spiritually from her family. How can we help not feeling repulsed at the frightening image of Connie’s murder by the demonic Friend? We are, but while this ending seems grotesque, it remains true to the author’s certain eerie flavor of danger which we have seen slowly building and building. The inevitable terrible climax that Oates has skillfully woven into the plot finally arrives. I would have to say the movie then fails to do justice to the story; however, I suspect only the most devoted horror-movie fans would bother to complain.

Work Cited

Johnson, Greg. “Invisible Writer: A Biography of Joyce Carol


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