Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? Book Analysis Essay

  • Category: Books, Literature,
  • Words: 1189 Pages: 5
  • Published: 05 September 2021
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Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? is a short story written by Joyce Carol Oates. What inspired Oates in her work was the three Tucson murders in Arizona committed by Charles Schmid outlined in Life magazine. Connie is just fifteen-year-old, but the relationship between her and her mother is complicated. She believes to be unbelievably beautiful, a thing that makes her be in the mirror regularly. Connie believes that their relation difference is brought up because her mother had already lost her beauty hence the constant friction (Wegs, 67). However, June, who is Connie's big sister, is held up as an example for her to emulate. But that is not the case as Connie finds June to be chunky and guileless. Their mother seems to be in favor of June as she makes sure all the household chores are completed and tends to save her money, unlike Connie, who lives in a theatre of dreams. The life of Connie only gets to be better when she is dropped off together with her friends at the shopping plaza without supervision. On such evening Connie met Eddie, who approached her and asked to eat with him, and that was the beginning of their friendship. One day Connie was left alone at home after his family decided to attend a barbecue at their aunt's house. Later Arnold came to pick up Connie from their home together with the other boys, but she is not aware of who he is or the other boys. She refuses to go with the boys, but Arnold keeps on insisting as he was already aware of the absence of her parents.

Some of the themes in the short story include; search for independence, the embodiment of evil, and appearance and reality—the embodiment of evil theme. Eventually, at the end of all, Connie's abductor turns to be Arnold Friend. In the flow of the story, many clues tell something is awful about Arnold Friend, and he is just beyond human (Weinberger, pg.207). Connie is surprised to realize that Arnold Friend knew her name, yet they had not met before or shared her name with him. In addition, he seems to know where about Connie's family since when she tries to fright them to get out of their home about the return of her father, Arnold Friend responds by telling Connie that he knows where about Connie's family. "No, your daddy is not coming and yes, you had to wash your hair and you washed it for me."  

Furthermore, the search for independence is another theme addressed in the short story. There is a huge conflict between Connie and her family, who are against Connie's effort of trying to get herself to look sexually attractive. Connie is in search of her independence, and that why she is in constant conflict with her mother and sister. Connie is a teenager; thus, her parents and elder sister are responsible for her up to bring and discipline also to enable her social life. Trying to create a sexy appearance and enticing boys in the local diner is just an attempt of exploring a new world as well as her other side. However, her explorations have always been happening safely until the arrival of Arnold Friend. There is an undesired outcome that results from Connie's search for independence. Arnold says things that move Connie as they represent the search she had been seeking as a teenager. For instance, "I'm your lover. You don't know what that is but you will."

 The appearance and reality theme. From the beginning, Connie is aware of her physical beauty and believes it to be the reason behind their acrimonious relationship with her mother. They are claiming that she had no other reason to take care of her beauty. Connie has a sort of superiority feeling over both her sister June and mother due to her prettiness. Connie takes advantage of her beauty to seduce boys such as Eddie, whom she meets at the drive-in. She is much concerned about her appearance details, such as when crossing her legs at the ankles; she carefully does so to make her appear fully alluring. Arnold Friend gets attracted to Connie due to her intentionally sensuous appearance that makes him notice her at the restaurant. After Arnold friend comes to Connie's house, she thought that it was just another boy only to realize later that he was about thirty, a fact that was camouflaged by wearing tight jeans, sunglasses and leather boots. It is at this juncture that Connie sensed to be in deep trouble (Wesley, pg.77). By the time Connie realized that all was not as it appeared in regard to Arnold Friend, her illusions had dissipated entirely.

There is evidence of motifs in Oates story. Dizziness, when Connie comes to the realization that Arnold was in a better situation to overpower her, she is overwhelmed by dizziness. The presence of Arnold makes Connie feel between desire and fear. However, as the conversation continues between Arnold Friend and Connie, fear overtakes her. Connie's heart starts to pound, knowing that Arnold is lying about his age and seeing that Ellie is also a grown man. Another incident that depicts the motif of dizziness is when Arnold grows impatient with Connie's resistance. Connie becomes aware of Arnold lies and his ill intentions, but she has nothing to do about it. Dizziness is her fallback reaction allowing Arnold to gain a stronger hold on her.

Another motif is music. The bridge from the real world to a fantasy world for Connie is music. For Connie to evade her life, she listens to music and daydreams about boys gathering romantic ideas mainly from radio songs. Her happiness with the boys is in the romantic fantasies rather than the boys themselves. When Arnold arrives at her house, she revels the music she was listening to, taking her a moment to comprehend it was the same music emanating from Arnold's car. Before she noticed the similarity, she was already entranced by Arnold. Music calms Connie, and the fact they had been listening to the same music with Arnold lowered her guard a bit. The idea of romance Connie has had been gleaned for her favorite music.

Oates showed her proficiency in the use of literary devices such as symbolism on many occasions throughout the story. One of the symbols used is the gold car. Cars represent independence. When in possession of a car, one can conveniently travel anyplace across the world. Teenagers are much captivated by cars. Having a car means one has control and authority of deciding when and where to go. Therefore, Arnold Friends car is Connie ticket to anyplace of their wish. After Arnold Friends pulls up to Connie's house, she runs to the window to check who it was. She gets intrigued when Arnold offers her a ride. Arnold persuades her to go for the ride, and Connie is almost convinced were it not for the odd markings on the car that made her realize something was wrong with Arnold Friend.

Work Cited

Wegs, Joyce M. “‘Don't You Know Who I Am?": The Grotesque in Oates's ‘Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?".” The Journal of Narrative Technique, vol. 5, no. 1, 1975, pp. 66–72. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/30225993. Accessed 11 July 2021

Weinberger, G. J. “Who Is Arnold Friend? The Other Self in Joyce Carol Oates's ‘Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?".” American Imago, vol. 45, no. 2, 1988, pp. 205–215. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/26303855. Accessed 13 July 2021

Wesley, Marilyn C. “Reverence, Rape, Resistance: Joyce Carol Oates and Feminist Film Theory.” Mosaic: An Interdisciplinary Critical Journal, vol. 32, no. 3, 1999, pp. 75–85. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/44029801. Accessed 13 July 2021

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