Where Are You Going and Where Have You Been?
"My Papa's Waltz" is the remembered perceptions of a child from the perspective of the adult speaker. The poet, Theodore Roethke battled alcoholism at one point in his life, and bi-polar psychiatric problems, termed at that time manic depression, all his life. Although some students debate that this poem may be a memory of child abuse at the hands of an alcoholic father, it is not the child who disproves of the horseplay it is the mother. The father and son leave the room together with the boy clinging on to his father’s shirt.
Once or twice a month Irene Wryson's dreams that a hydrogen bomb destroys the world. Although she does not share this recurring dream with her husband, he has quirks of his own. After his father abandoned his family the only cheerful memories he had of his mother was when she was baking. She taught him how and, after he got married, baking cakes in the middle of the night when he could not sleep became his midnight secret. The truth is out when she wakes up from her recurring dream to find him in the kitchen baking. Nevertheless, they want everything in their suburb to stay the same. They did not trust anything unusual, and the most certainly did not want to be the unusual element on Shady Hill. Therefore, they needed to keep up a "a good appearance." In this story, Cheever uses the family's quirky dysfunction to explore how ordinary it is to be unique.
Before she wrote her story, Where Are You Going And Where Have You Been Joyce Carol Oates read a Time Magazine story called Arizona: Growing Up in Tucson about Charles Howard Schmidt, a Ted Bundy style murderer. In the fictionalized version, Arnold persuades Connie to leave with him in order to protect her family. Arnold’s friend Ellie is more of an ancillary character. In the factual account the murdered girl, a child in a broken home was dating Schmidt’s friend John Saunders. Clearly, the writer used artistic license to increase the dramatic elements to her story.