“Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?”

Published 05 May 2017

Joyce Carol Oates’ “Where Are You Going, Where Have you Been?” is a rather dark coming of age short story. The reader is introduced to the life of a typically rebellious fifteen year old girl named Connie who encounters a very traumatizing experience at the end of the story; the hanging ending forebodes only bad things to come next for the main character. For most of the story, Connie is motivated by teenage rebellion, spurred on by the over-protectiveness of her mother and the constant comparison with her reliable but “frumpy” sister. Her father is also described as not only being oblivious of the happenings in their family but not really caring to participate in the females’ lives. Connie has two very different personalities; the sardonic yet technically “good girl” image she projected at home and the extroverted and sexual personality she extruded when out with her friends. She wants to be treated like an adult, to be left to her own devices and trusted, and yet she lives a double life. Connie is what can be termed as a dynamic character because, from the definition, her character changes drastically during the duration of the story. Her change is abrupt though, and it happens during the last scene.

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Her final, harrowing encounter with Arnold Friend forces the two parts of her personality to come crashing together, leaving her dazed and confused. She had wanted to be as mature as possible, but now that she encounters a truly adult situation, she has no idea how to handle it. For most of the story, Connie did not think much of her father, and yet she uses him to try and scare off Arnold; she also only had negative thoughts and comments about her mother, but when she felt the most helpless, her mother is who she cries out for. At one point, she thinks that her pounding heart and her body were not hers, this is when she realizes how helpless she truly is. Connie becomes, in all respects, completely childlike, a stark contrast to the confident young woman she pretended to be for most of the story. Any reader could conclude that if Connie had escaped alive from whatever destination Arnold Friend had planned for her, she would never be the same again.

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