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Why Joyce Oates’ Dedicated Her Story to Bob Dylan?

The story, Where are you going, where have you been, was written by Joyce Carol Oates in the mid-60s and was dedicated to the famous musician Bob Dylan. She once explained that the idea of writing this story came to her mind when she read a story about a man who used his wealth to lure girls into loving him (SparkNotes Editors).

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He was from a rich family. Getting good things for the girls was, therefore, not a problem to him and in such a way, many girls fell into his trap. People came to realize later that he was a serial killer who had killed three girls in recent days. Oates decided to use this story in coming up with her own story that would help enlighten society on such issues.

This story talks about a fifteen years old girl, Connie, who is very obsessed with herself (Oates). She spends most of her time making her hair in front of a mirror. This behavior earns her hatred from her mother. She expects Connie to behave like her elder sister, June, who works and even helps in settling the bills for the family. Moreover, Connie equally develops hatred for her mother and even wishes both of them to die.

Connie enjoys going out with her friends to meet boys. On one occasion, a strange man spots her while she was with her friend Eddie. The man smiles at her and promises to find her soon. This man fulfills this promise when he appears at her home when her parents and sister are out. He identifies himself as Arnold Friend and forces her to go for a ride with him.

When she turns down his offer, he threatens her. He reminds Connie of their neighbor who had died before. More than that, to make her fear him even more, he tells her what her family was doing at that particular time, namely, eating corn and hotdogs. The story ends while she imagines what will possibly happen to her in the vast land she sees behind Arnold.

Oates dedicated this story to the folk musician Bob Dylan. She clearly states this at the top of the first page, just before the story begins (Oates). She admitted during several interviews that Dylan’s song It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue was the inspiration for her story. Many scholars have tried to give possible reasons for her dedication to this story to Dylan. This work looks at Dylan’s song and compares it to Oates’ story. It then gives possible reasons for Oates’ dedication of her story to Dylan.

The main possible reason for Oates inscribing this story to Dylan is her fascination with his song. It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue (SparkNotes Editors). It is evident that she likes the lyrics of this song so much. Her love for these lyrics is visible in her adoption of the elements of this song in her story.

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It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue talks of a vagabond rapping at a person’s door. Oates’ application of this line is shown in the scene where Arnold Friend is threatening Connie outside the family house. Arnold is, therefore, compared to a vagabond that raps. This vagabond, according to Dylan, wears the same clothes the subject in the song used to wear. It may be referring to how Arnold talks about Connie’s relationship with her family.

Arnold tells her that her family is busy feasting while she is suffering at home. The song goes on to advise the subject matter to “strike another match” and go and start anew. This line refers to Arnold’s persuasion of Connie to abandon her home and go with him since her parents do not even care about her. The refrain of the song is “And it’s all over now.”

Oates refers to this line in her story when she makes Connie imagine leaving home. When she leaves, all the problems she has been going through in their home will be all over. At some point in the story, Connie wishes she or her mother to die to bring the hatred between them to an end, but now, a solution has come to her.

Dylan had often been considered as a man who did not belong to this world (SparkNotes Editors). Oates alludes to this element by making Arnold Friend behave as if he is Connie’s messiah. He comes to save her from the troubles she encounters at the hands of her mother and her “perfect” sister. Her mother is always reprimanding her, and she wishes she could free herself from her. On the other hand, her sister June never errs. Her mother always refers to June when talking about a role model for Connie.

A keen analysis of both Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been and It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue shows many similarities in terms of the subject matter. This resemblance is clearest in the last stanza of Dylan’s song and the last parts of Oates’ story. Dylan talks about somebody who is leaving his or her stepping stones for something else ahead. He follows this statement with another one assuring that the people left behind will not follow whoever is leaving. He ends by advising the addressee to “light another match.”

The same thing happens in Oates’ story. Towards the end, Connie is almost leaving home to move to an unknown place. She is worried and wants to call her parents, but Arnold cannot allow her to do that. He advises her not to worry about them since they do not care about her. He reveals to her that they are eating corn and hotdogs and will forget to buy her the same. Both works use a tone that depicts somebody in a situation where he or she is supposed to make a hard choice but has no alternative.

It can, therefore, be argued that Oates dedicates Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been to Dylan because of the subject matter he had tackled in his song, It’s over Now, Baby Blue”.

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Oates liked talking about the topic, but Dylan had already talked about it in a song. She, therefore, decided to write about it in Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been and then ascribe it to Dylan to show how much she liked the theme and had the intention to also talk about it. It can, as well, be just an acknowledgment of his work as a musician, especially for his song. It’s all over now, Baby Blue.

Works Cited

Dylan, Bob. It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue. 2014. Web.

Oates, Joyce, C. Where Are You Going, Where Have you Been? New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press. 1994. Print.

SparkNotes Editors. “SparkNotes on Where Have You Are You Going, Where Have You Been,” SparkNotes LLC. 2014. Web 10 Apr. 2014.

Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? Shmoop. Web.

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StudyCorgi. (2020, May 1). Why Joyce Oates’ Dedicated Her Story to Bob Dylan? Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/why-joyce-oates-dedicated-her-story-to-bob-dylan/

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StudyCorgi. (2020, May 1). Why Joyce Oates’ Dedicated Her Story to Bob Dylan? https://studycorgi.com/why-joyce-oates-dedicated-her-story-to-bob-dylan/

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"Why Joyce Oates’ Dedicated Her Story to Bob Dylan?" StudyCorgi, 1 May 2020, studycorgi.com/why-joyce-oates-dedicated-her-story-to-bob-dylan/.

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