Connie Vs June
“Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been”:
Connie Vs June
‘Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been’ is a short story written by Joyce Carol Oates. Published first in the Fall 1966 edition of Epoch magazine, the story begins with the words- ‘To Bob Dylan’. It is so because Joyce Carol Oates dedicated this short story to Bob Dylan’s whose song ‘It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue’ inspired her to write this (Introduction, p 9). The song is about a girl who is forced to leave her house with strange men, towards unknown, uncertain future (Dylan, “It's All Over Now, Baby Blue”). It is similar to what Connie faces; the story is about a young and imprudent girl named Connie who is primarily concerned with her beauty and pleasures in life. Carefree and obstinate, Connie is quite different from her sister June, who is a very quiet and capable girl, who takes care of her family (Cruise, p 95-109).
The story is mainly about how the beautiful and silly Connie moves around to seek pleasure, meet boys and has fun but ends up getting trapped by two dangerous boys Arnold and Ellie (“From Riding in Cars with Boys: Reconsidering Smooth Talk”, 8th edition). The ending is quite discomforting for the readers as it describes Connie leaving her house helplessly with the two men. Somewhere Connie getting into trouble is a result if her own deeds, because she is not wise, not at all like her sister June. This essay is aimed to compare and contrast the natures,
behaviours and characters of the two sisters, Connie and June in the story ‘Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been.’
In the story: the entirely different Connie and June
The story describes Connie as fifteen years old girl who has a quick and nervous giggling habit. She always wants to ensure if she is looking pretty and hence keeps craning her neck to glance into mirrors or judges it from other people’s reaction to see her (Oates, 1966). Her mother does not find her behavior appropriate and keeps opposing her habit of too much gawking (Cruise, p 95). On the other hand, June has been described as a very simple girl who is neither very pretty nor very stylish. The story says that she is twenty-four years old and still lives at home which indicate that she is expected to move out or find a boy friend by this age.
In terms of work, Connie is busy flaunting her beauty and teenage charm. Her mind is filled with trashy dreams unlike her sister June who works hard as a secretary in the high school. The simplicity of June and her distance from being fashionable have been described in a way as if she is boring and foolish. In a very interesting contrast, the two sisters not only look poles apart but also think differently (Ed. Kathleen Wilson. Vol. 1. Detroit: Gale, 1997). In fact, it is June who is the real beauty at heart. She earns and supports the family. In a sentence from the story, she has been described as follows- “she was so plain and chunky and steady that Connie had to hear her praised all the time by her mother and her mother's sisters. June did this, June did that, she saved money and helped clean the house and cooked(Oates, 1966).” On the very other hand, Connie wishes that mother was dead. She even quotes, “She makes me want to throw up sometimes (Oates, 1966) .”
Connie hates her mother who keeps comparing her with June and hence, does not like
her sister very much either (Gratz, 1987) . Her mother not only praises June for her contribution in the family but also ridicules Connie for being overdramatic about fashion, unlike June. In a particular instance of using hair sprays and not keeping the home tidy, Connie’s mother taunts- “Why don't you keep your room clean like your sister? How've you got your hair fixed-what the hell stinks? Hair spray? You don't see your sister using that junk. (Oates, 1966).” Such comparisons seem to irritate Connie beyond limit and also make her grow cold to her own sibling June who is such a simple and good-hearted girl. Though it has been indicated that their mother likes Connie more than June because of beauty but still, she keeps comparing them to teach Connie a sort of lesson.
The story has mainly dealt with the life of Connie, her hobbies to hang around with boys, showing off her beauty. But where she gets to meet the boys is related with June in fact. The twenty-four years old June is allowed to go out with her girlfriends to visit various places. Here’s where the fifteen years old Connie tags along. Her mother does not want Connie, the spoilt one to go out alone. But assured that Connie would be with the wise and concerned June, she let her go out. Also, it has been emphasised that the girls who accompanied June are just as plain and steady as her, the mother does not object. Such was the difference in the image of the two sisters. One was considered wise, other spineless.
In another interesting part of the story, the difference in the attitude of Connie and June towards their family get together is seen. One Sunday, the family plans to visit an aunt for a barbeque. While June is all excited and happy about it, Connie is completely uninterested in it because she finds it boring. In reality, she is waiting eagerly for his boy to come and that’s why wants to stay at home and get ready (Gratz, 1987). Also, Connie subtly ridicules June, in her
mind for wearing the blue dress and high heels for the get-together. She feels that poor old June is all dressed up as if she has no idea about what a barbecue is- with all the running yelling kids and the flies (Oates, 1966).
In spite of their differences, there is something which still kept the two characters in one bond. Everyone in the family has certain behavior (Urbanski, 1979). The father stays aloof; the mother is no more beautiful and very irritated due to Connie. June stays at home, is very obedient and dedicated towards the well-being of family. And far away from these three, there is Connie, spoilt and sexually immoral. She has nothing much to do with family. But she still cares; somewhere deep within her spoilt heart there is a concern. When she tells her friends that she wishes her mother is dead, it is not the complete wish itself. She wishes that her mother was dead and she herself was dead and it was all over. This tells that she did not wish the family to be dead in order to move on alone and happy in life. Needless to say, June is extremely concerned for her family, way more than Connie can ever imagine being concerned. June loves being with her family, without complaints. She helps the mother in households, earns money and spends time with them, which Connie would never do. But still, the spoilt fifteen years old has some love left in her misled teenage heart. When the villainous Arnold Friend and Ellie behave mysteriously bad with Connie and she realizes to be in great trouble, a thought flashes across her mind- ‘I'm not going to see my mother again. I'm not going to sleep in my bed again.’ Why would a teenager who wants her mother dead think this way? She definitely loves her family but is brainwashed in the young, teenager attitude. Joseph Palmisano (2004) explained very poignantly how Connie undergoes an amalgamation of emotions in the last phase of the story (Vol. 70). Initially, she is all girly and flirtatious and later extremely tense and petrified. She is unable to
decide what to do in her fear due to the extremely dangerous behavior of the boy who threatens to harm her family. Ultimately, to save herself and her family from the scourge of Arnold Friend, she chooses to leave her house, helplessly. This does show the measly bit of concern in her for the family. Though it is nothing when compared to June’s concern for the family, but one cannot conclude that Connie was hopelessly spoilt.
In conclusion, the two sisters Connie and June represent two completely different classes of youngsters. Connie is a typical teenager who feels physical beauty and sexual attraction to be everything in life. Her condition in the end of story exemplifies that severe problems faced by young adults with sexuality (Winslow, 1980). She defies elders; she finds family get-together and household works boring. She is busy showing off her tresses, face and dresses. On the other hand, June is a typical homely girl, who works and earns. She also supports family in households and loves to partake in family occasions. In spite of huge contrasting features, there is still one thread which binds the sisters together- concern for family which is evident in the story at places. Analyzing the behavior of June, one comes to a conclusion that boring-looking people can be very beautiful at heart. Analyzing Connie, one finds that spoilt teenagers are a pill to deal with but still, there is some hope left that they love the family but they usually realize it when it’s too late. Reading the story ‘Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been’ is both thrilling as well as cautionary.
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