Where Are You Going Where Have You Been
Published 04 May 2017
The character, thoughts and attitude of an individual are shaped by his/her self-image. Self-image can make or mar the confidence of the person. It is this self-image that is depicted in the short story “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” by Joyce Carol Oates. The protagonist of the story, Connie is a teenage girl who is aware of her pretty looks and the effect, her prettiness has on other people. It is this awareness about her looks that causes trouble to Connie. Connie is pleased with the fact that boys are attracted towards her beauty and she rejoices the time she spends with boys. The confidence of Connie that she can handle the attention of the boys is jolted when she finds herself in a situation, where she is unable to control a boy who admired her beauty. The boy is Arnold Friend who appears in the story as an admirer of Connie but as the story progresses he comes across as person who harbors wicked intentions. In fact Arnold Friend is the devil in disguise, who compels Connie to yield to his impious desires.
Connie is a beautiful girl who attracts the attention of boys with her behavior. Arnold Friend is one of the persons, who is attracted towards Connie and in spite of her reluctance, forces her to come with him. Initially, Arnold is presented as a polite boy who is captivated by the beauty of Connie and wants to spend some time with her. But his true characteristics are revealed when he converses with Connie and invites her to for a ride. The first thing that points towards the fact that he is devil in disguise is his claim that he has collected all information about Connie. “I took a special interest in you, such a pretty girl, and found out all about you—like I know your parents and sister are gone somewheres and I know where and how long they’re going to be gone, and I know who you were with last night, and your best girl friend’s name is Betty. Right?” (Oates). Arnold Friend knew that Connie was alone and he wanted to take advantage of this situation. He also knew that Connie’s parents will not return soon. He selects such a time to visit Connie when she is most vulnerable. He wanted to create circumstances, owing to which Connie is forced to come along with him. He was a devil, who selected his victim and ensured that his victim had no other alternative than to act according to his desire.
To convince Connie to come with him for a ride, he lies about his age. “That’s a crazy thing to ask. Can’tcha see I’m your own age?” “Like hell you are.” “Or maybe a couple years older. I’m eighteen.” (Oates). He continues to lie about himself when he says to Connie that he loves her and will always be polite with her. “Yes, I’m your lover. You don’t know what that is but you will,” he said. “I know that too. I know all about you. But look: it’s real nice and you couldn’t ask for nobody better than me, or more polite. I always keep my word.” (Oates). He wanted Connie to believe him and accept him as her lover. For this, he tries to portray himself as a person who is most suitable to be Connie’s lover. Although he never cared about Connie’s feelings, he pretends to really love and care for her. To hide his real nature, Arnold Friend utilizes the pretense of a lover, so that he succeeds in his aim of making Connie to behave according to his will.
When Arnold Friend realizes that Connie is not convinced by his polite requests, he threatens her with dire consequences. “If the place got lit up with a fire, honey, you’d come runnin’ out into my arms, right into my arms an’ safe at home—like you knew I was your lover and’d stopped fooling around. I don’t mind a nice shy girl but I don’t like no fooling around” (Oates). He conveys his message to Connie that he is prepared to do anything to get hold of her. The devil in Arnold Friend is revealed completely when he tries to enforce his wish on Connie by intimidating her that he will harm her family members. He promises her that if she comes out of the house and goes on a ride with him then he will spare her parents and sister, “I’m the boy for you, and like I said, you come out here nice like a lady and give me your hand, and nobody else gets hurt, I mean, your nice old bald-headed daddy and your mummy and your sister in her high heels. Because listen: why bring them in this?” (Oates). He terrorizes Connie to such an extent that she succumbs to his demand and comes out of her house. Arnold Friend tries to present himself as the lover of Connie but in reality he was a devil who wanted to fulfill his evil desires.
Connie finds herself in a situation where she is forced to accept to act according to Arnold Friend’s will and this situation is created by Arnold Friend, for he was the devil in disguise. To fulfill his wish, he comes to Connie’s house when she is alone. Initially, he tries to induce her to come out of her house by presenting himself as her lover who cared about her. But when Connie refuses to come out of the house, he threatens her by telling that he will harm her family if she fails to come with him for a ride. Being a devil, Arnold Friend coerces Connie to accept his demand by creating fear in her mind. She comes out of her house, for she wanted to save her family members from the wicked and evil Arnold Friend. The manner in which Arnold Friend imposes his will on Connie proves the fact that he was a devil.
- Oates, Joyce C. Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? Celestial Timepiece. 24 April 2009.