In Joyce Oates' "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?", mind control is a prevalent theme, insofar as it touches on influence and persuasion. The protagonist, a 15-year-old girl named Connie, is the perfect recipient of mind control - impressionable, eager to please, and desirous of better things than she is given, she is incredibly susceptible to influence. This influences comes at the hand of the mysterious, possibly demonic Arnold Friend, whose ability to persuade and coerce is no match for Connie's vulnerability. Furthermore, Connie has already been set up and influenced by the society around her, which has highly sexualized and pressured her to grow up too fast. Oates' story shows the disastrous results of this level of mind control, and uses it as a placeholder for societal control and influence.
The centerpiece of the story, Connie, is a young, oversexualized teenager who is torn between two worlds - her real self, where she is a studious and unambitious young girl to her parents, and the persona she puts on when she goes out, in which she goes to pick up boys with her friends at night. She herself is a manipulator; she perpetuates this 'good girl' image to her parents as much as she plays up her 'bad girl' personality to her friends: "She had a high, breathless, amused voice that made everything she said sound a little forced, whether it was sincere or not" (Oates). She is a woman of two selves, trying desperately to adapt to whatever situation she is in: "Everything about her had two sides to it, one for home and one for anywhere that was not home" (Oates). In this way, Connie is already quite familiar with the concept of mind control, as she exercises it frequently to get what she wants.
Of course, Connie's more sexualized personality is a product of the culture she is desirous of; she is obsessed with the free-wheeling lifestyle and uninhibited lyrics of pop songs: "The music was always in the background, like music at a church service; it was something to depend upon" (Oates). The music is a recurring theme in the story, as they are constantly listening to the music, letting it influence them and control their behavior in a way; she often listens to the music, "her face gleaming with a joy that had nothing to do with [the boy she was with] or even this place; it might have been the music" (Oates). By telling them that hanging out with older boys in restaurants is sexy, they believe it, and so they live their lives that way.
The real mind control in the story, however, comes with the arrival of the mysterious and charismatic Arnold Friend, who represents the actual end game of what Connie is attempting to do. As an older man who actually shows outright sexual interest in her, Friend makes Connie nervous (as she only plays at this kind of rebellion); therefore, Friend uses his strange, quiet charisma to coerce her. He speaks in a "fast, bright monotone," often softens her up with direct compliments like "You're cute," and introduces himself by saying "I'm Arnold Friend and that's my real name and I'm gonna be your friend, honey" - all of these elements combine to create just enough of a curiously powerful package to make Connie nervous about resisting (Oates).
Everything about Friend seems predatory, especially his "long and hawklike" nose, "sniffing as if she were a treat he was going to gobble up and it was all a joke" (Oates). His speech is also deliberately evasive to constantly put Connie on the defensive, keeping his sentences short, his questions direct and his remarks vaguely insulting ("Connie, you ain't telling the truth. This is your day set aside for a ride with me and you know it") (Oates). These have a distinct effect on Connie, making her extremely dizzy and flushed: "her cheeks warmed at the thought of how she had sucked in her breath just at the moment she passed him—how she must have looked to him" (Oates). As the situation continues, however, Connie becomes more and more fearful, feeling "a wave of dizziness" rise, as she understands how vulnerable she is in this dangerous situation that she cannot handle. Despite the fact that she knows he is lying to her, she cannot do anything about it. This powerlessness is what leads her to eventually become overpowered in her room later that night by Friend.
In conclusion, Connie is controlled by multiple people and multiple factors, most notably Arnold Friend, in her desire to fit in and assert herself as the kind of sexualized adult that her music and friends want her to be. She tries to control her life by presenting two sides of her personality, but she is forced to merge those selves in the face of Arnold's powerful gaze and words. He uses a variety of techniques to control her and make her feel powerless to resist, controlling her mind and behavior through his sheer power and charisma. To that end, the story ends on a violent note, with Friend's domination of Connie complete.
Cioe, Paul. "'Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?' and the Fantasies of the Unconscious" Eureka Studies in Teaching Short Fiction 3, ii (Spring 2003): 92-97
Healey, James "Pop Music and Joyce Carol Oates's 'Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?'" Notes on Modern American Literature 7, i (Spring-Summer 1983): item 5.
Oates, Joyce. "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?"