Where are you going, where have you been? | analysis (2023)

paper type:Free essayTheme:literature
word count:1444 wordsPublished:18. May 2020

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In the short story Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?, Joyce Carol Oates shows the struggle one can experience when trying to define one's identity. Connie is a fifteen-year-old girl who uses the judgment of her family and society to determine her feelings. As Connie matures in the real world, she is completely lost and lets her fate control her actions. As a result, Connie creates numerous personalities because she cannot see who she really is; Connie behaves lazily and childishly at home, but in the presence of her friends she behaves as an adult. Connie's behavior leads Arnold Friend to manipulate her love for him. In response, Connie realizes that she must show her maturity as she takes control of the situation she is stuck in and faces the consequences of her actions. As Connie struggles to win her fight, she eventually gives up knowing there is no other way. In the end, Connie's confrontation with reality leads her to construct the person she wants to be. Throughout the story, Oates emphasizes Connie's perspective on life, but she is unable to control her emotions. Connie's lack of identity forces her to create a persona, ultimately leading to her death.

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As Connie grows up, she uses the views of her family and the outside world to influence her behavior. Throughout Connie's childhood, Connie is constantly dehumanized by her dysfunctional family and the society she lives in, forcing her to seek her true identity. As a result, Connie feels the urge to continue her individual journey away from all judgements, for example how her "dad was at work most of the time and when he came home he wanted dinner and he read the newspaper at dinner and after dinner left." him to bed. He didn't bother to talk to 158). Connie's relationship with her family makes her see the destructive side of her life. Her father is an independent man who has no personal connection with Connie, while her mother is a jealous person who constantly compares Connie to her older sister June; Connie's mother can't accept how her beauty has diminished. In response, Connie's experiences with her family and society cause her emotions to bring out her different personalities. At home, Connie is an innocent girl who sees no sense of herself, but she is an energetic youth who seeks attention when away from her grueling family. Oates illustrates how Connie's character differs:

two sides of it, one for home and one for everything not at home: her walk, which could be childlike and swaying, or sluggish enough to make anyone think she had music in her head; her mouth, pale and grinning most of the time, but bright and pink on these evenings; her laugh, cynical and drawn out at home—"Ha ha, very funny"—but shrill and edgy elsewhere, like the clink of the charms on her bracelet. (158-159)

At this moment, Connie cannot define who she really is due to the lack of support she is receiving. In response, Connie feels that growing up can help her escape the reality she lives in. However, Oates illustrates the space between Connie's adolescence and adulthood; it seems like Connie is having trouble understanding the proper steps to growing up. Connie's two-sided personality is a direct response to her lack of family and community support.

Connie's desperate need for boys' attention helps her escape from the society she lives in and allows Connie to develop her character. When Connie first enters the outside world, she is constantly concerned about her physical features and ability to attract the attention of boys. Furthermore, Connie believes her beauty is the only gift she has: "Connie would raise her eyebrows at those familiar old grievances and look right through her mother into a shadowy vision of herself as she was right in that moment." , she knew she was pretty and that was all” (158). Although Connie's mother criticizes her beauty, Connie remains focused on defining her identity and morals. When Arnold Friend arrives at Connie's house, her immediate reaction is to check herself in a mirror; Connie's confidence is the factor that attracts guys like Arnold Friend. Looking through the screen door at Arnold Friend, Connie "recognizes most things about him, the tight jeans that showed his thighs and buttocks, and the greasy leather boots and tight shirt, and even his raunchy, friendly, sleepy, dreamy smile." smile with which all the boys conveyed ideas that they did not want to put into words” (164). In that moment, Connie sees Arnold Friend as a compelling character that she could potentially get close to; Connie investigates Arnold and seems to take a slight interest in him, assuming that a relationship with a man who loves her will allow Connie to understand her identity. Throughout Connie's life path, Oates illustrates that Connie's narcissism and commitment to boys play a major role in establishing her identity.

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(Video) Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? by Joyce Carol Oates - Short Story Summary, Analysis

Although Connie is confident in her actions, her reckless presence forces Connie to face the consequences that eventually lead to her death. As Connie gets closer to Arnold, she begins to understand the world she lives in and knows that Arnold's goal is to make her love him. When Arnold Friend offers Connie a chance to break free from the past, he says, "Yes, I'm your lover. You don't know what that is, but you will know," he said, "I know that too, I know everything about you. But look: it's really nice and you couldn't ask anyone better or more politely than me. I always keep my word (166). Arnold's only intention right now is to prove Connie's integrity through his fallacious words; he knows how to trick Connie's feelings and force her to give up. Although Connie dreams of having a relationship, she has a strong feeling that being close to Arnold could put her at risk. When Connie realizes that she is in a situation that could ultimately lead to her death, she begins to be dismayed: "She was screaming, she was crying for her mother, she felt her breath jerking back and forth in her lungs as if it were something that Arnold Friend kept stabbing her with without tenderness” (169). The only thing Connie can do to defend herself right now is yell for her mother hoping she will react; Connie is too mentally down to stand up for herself. Although Arnold continues to threaten Connie physically and emotionally, she decides to go out to him: "She watched the door slowly being pushed open as if she were safe somewhere in the other door again, watching that body and that long mop of hair out into the sunlight, where Arnold Friend was waiting" (171). At that moment, Connie has officially given up because she knows she has no other choice. In the end, Connie's confrontation with Arnold Friend causes Connie to regret her past experiences in society and with her family. As a result, Connie must face her consequences through the dark side of reality.

Connie's indiscreet outlook on life makes her see the negative side of reality, which eventually leads to her death. (I couldn't think of a strong theme sentence for the ending). Before Connie's death, she must determine her future without knowing her identity. This lack of knowledge causes Connie to feel the need to create different personalities in order to be accepted by others. However, both her family and society continue to unsettle her character. As a result, Connie is desperate for attention from boys she can rely on, but is confused when she meets Arnold Friend. Arnold Friend is a portrayal of the evil side of society, taking advantage of ignorant girls like Connie who can't understand their purpose in life. His only goal is to control Connie's emotions and create a personality that suits her best. Through Connie's encounter with Arnold, Oates informs his audience of the impact a person can face when trying to find their identity.

  • Oates, Joyce C. "Where are you going? Where have you been?"worldviews, edited by Roger West, et al., 8th ed., Pearson, 2016, pp. 157-71.

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