Joyce for home, and one for anywhere that

Joyce Carol Oates’ “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” is about a young girl’s struggle to escape from reality while ignoring her parents and seeing herself as a beauty queen. She is forced back into reality when confronted by a man who was not at all what she thought he was. Her name is Connie, and she is just like all of the girls from the time she lived in. She is self-obsessed and in a rush to grow up. She was constantly fighting with her family as well. Women in the story love criticizing and judging each other.Women have no control over their lives, their lives are all dependent on men. In the story women are never seen driving because it was a symbol of control and only men had that.  Her race to maturity is the trait focused on her two different personalities,  ‘One for home, and one for anywhere that was not home’ (431). Everything about her is shown as soon as she steps out the front door. The child, who she really is, is hiding; the woman she wants everyone to know and believe she is becomes believable. She is determined to show this new women to the world. She feels as if she needs to be in the adult world to get what she’s always wanted. This believes that she wants this for herself until she is proven wrong. The day a shiny golden convertible pulls into her driveway was the day she met Arnold Friend and the worst started to come. Connie thinks she found someone who symbolized everything she wanted by Arnold showing up looking and acted like a mature adult, until she discovers the kind of person Arnold really is. He is very straightforward and open with her. Connie not only cared about her own appearance, she also cared about the people she associated herself with. “Connie liked the way he was dressed, which was the way all of them dressed” (458), meaning all the people she was ever attracted to. She was mainly attracted to people who dress well and had an appearance that portrayed them looking successful and mature, an “older” view. She was attracted to people who looked good because she viewed them the way she viewed herself. Connie was attracted to older men because she was rushing to grow up and be mature just like they were. She wanted to experience the adult life and get away from the child life that she was currently experiencing.  After getting to know Arnold, Connie realized who he really was and she was not interested in him at all. At this point Connie begins to realize that something is off with Arnold “has come from nowhere… and belonged nowhere” (9). She begins to feel that Arnold is torment her. There was no background information given about Arnold, so this may be a constant cycle of what he does. Arnold Friend is simply an earthly psychopath skilled in manipulation, because of how he approaches her and treats her it seems that his intentions aren’t as pure as he is making them seem. Maybe this entire thing is a dream, maybe Arnold isn’t real and this entire situation never occured. It seemed unsettling.  Yet something around the idea that Arnold Friend is the devil, or some other supernatural being, since there is absolutely nothing is given about Arnold’s past. Arnold talks to Connie in a sense as if he is almost assaulting her but by word of mouth, which is why many see him to be the devil in her world. For example, he showed up to her house and said he was not going leaving until she gets into his car. ‘She cried out, she cried for her mother, she felt her breath start jerking back and forth in her lungs as if it were something Arnold Friend was stabbing her with again and again with no tenderness’ (465). This quote is clear in showing that Connie is nothing less than terrified. She doesn’t know what to do or what will happen. Arnold promised he wouldn’t enter the home. Connie felt safest in the place she was, although she was contemplating whether or not to call the police. Connie was too terrified to have an argument with Arnold so she did not touch the phone and followed his directions in pure terror. However, after Arnold scares her even more she makes a move for the phone. When she gets to the phone without being harmed she is too terrified to do anything with it. Oates doesn’t just state that Connie was being raped by Arnold, we know it happened based on the context used. Connie knew exactly what she was about to face, pure danger. Her life has forever changed. By Connie opening the door to go to Arnold shows that she realized bad things were already occurring and that not much could be worse. Her future looks transparently cold. Life is a path of accomplishments and achievements as well as some confrontations. It has its own ups and downs, but everyone lives it and has to live life as there is no other option, mainly because there isn’t. What we learn as we age is making right choices and using the support that we have around us, our family and friends makes us who we are. Family support truly shapes how we grow from immature children to responsible adults. Connie unfortunately learned life’s obstacles by putting herself in situations she wasn’t ready for. She didn’t have the time or experience she should have had to know whether what she was doing was right or wrong. He fooled her because she was young and vulnerable and she was stripped of her teenage innocence because of her inexperience. The decisions that you make throughout life can make or break you; you just have to make the right ones. It is this false sense of knowledge and dismissal of who she really is that creates the unhappy ending Connie got at the end of the Oates’ story.


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