This short story feels like a dream. It is very exciting and there are a lot of sensory and descriptive words. That is why the reader can’t help the feeling of being drawn into the world of Connie. She makes everybody see the world through her eyes. The author of this short story is Joyce Carol Oates and the title is “Where are you going, where have you been?”. The main characters are Connie, a teenage girl and Arnold Friend, the older man who is depicted as a mysterious bully. The other characters are June, Connie’s sister, their parent and Connie’s girl friends, as well as Arnold’s friend, Ellie. The story takes place one summer and Connie is a young girl who has a hedonistic approach to life. Her mother disproves of that, her sister is plain and her father is a mere provider of the family. Connie’s mother like to gossip and to say mean words to Connie. However, Connie believes that she is her favorite daughter because her sister is boring and not so good-looking. Connie is interested in boys, but she is also cautious. She is still a child although she is growing up into a delicate young woman. One night she meets Arnold in a parking lot and notices him. He choses her as his victim. She doesn’t realize it at the time. Connie is a girl who is aware of her beauty and she is taking advantage of it. She enjoys being notices, especially by boys. Her behavior is also attractive. Her dark blond hair is remarkable.
Connie has a bad relationship with her mother. Her mother tells reprimands her when she looks at herself in the mirror. At that time they are both at home and her mother feels irritated.
“Stop gawking at yourself. Who are you? You think you’re so pretty? she would say” (Oates, 1). This proves my thesis because a mother should be proud to have a beautiful self-aware daughter, who is not a bad person either. Connie’s mother seems to hate her by saying these words. It might even be considered as jealousy which is not a normal behavior for a mother. “Connie is a very vain and self-centered girl searching for social acceptance” (Benignetti). That is the reason her mother seems to dislike her. She sees it as if Connie is looking for trouble. This story was written in 1966. and inspired by various murders and in that social environment, Connie’s mother thinks, she is just looking for trouble by trying to get attention. Connie is not so vain because she is still a child, being only fifteen years old.
Connie is a girl who attracts attention with her appearance. Especially attention of boys. Oates describes her in the shopping plaza. “Connie had dark blond hair that drew anyone’s eye to it, and she wore part of it pulled up on her head and puffed out and the rest of it she let fall down her back” (Oates). This proves that Connie was aware of her attractive looks although she was very young. She noticed the attention she was getting from the boys and the people passing by. She was even flirtatious. Without even noticing it, she seduces people. The bad thing is that she seduced a man much older than herself. “She uses her attractiveness to get the attention of all the boys which makes her feel mature and wanted, but in Arnold’s eyes, she makes for an easy target of manipulation. This meeting makes her realize that she is not as mature as she believes herself to be” (Benignetti). She is aware of her seduction but she is not aware of the potential danger that it brings. She attracts Arnold, who becomes obsessed by her. Even before meeting him, she agreed to go eat with an unfamiliar boy. She went into his car and that was a reckless thing to do. Connie is too young to be aware of all the danger in the world. Since the story was written in the ‘60s, which was the time of sexual freedom, Oates was obviously trying to point out to the negative side of that. Teenage girls imitate the grown-ups and that can jeopardize them.
Connie may be in a dream-like state all the time. She listens to the music when her parents are at the barbecue and she seems to be self-absorbed and self-sufficient. Oates depicts her being alone in her family house and enjoying spending time alone. She is happy that her family is gone and she takes her time to relax and just exist. “It was too hot. She went inside the house and turned on the radio to drown out the quiet. She sat on the edge of her bed, barefoot, and listened for an hour and a half to a program called XYZ Sunday Jamboree, record after record, fast, shrieking songs she sang along with, interspersed by exclamations from Bobby King” (Oates 2). Connie seems to have fallen asleep while listening to the radio and fantasizing about the boys she had met the other night. She liked being noticed and she happily remembered it. She might have fallen asleep while trying to relax on her bed. That is why her bed and her bedroom are mentioned. She didn’t stay in her lawn chair, but she went to her bed in order to fantasize. It is depicted very sensually. “Connie’s dream begins when she refuses to attend her family party and stays home sun bathing and day dreaming about love and the boys she has met. The narrator first tells us that “Connie sat with her eyes closed in the sun” (22), meaning that Connie must have fallen asleep. In addition to that, the narrator writes, “and when she opened her eyes she hardly knew where she wasShe shook her head as if to get awake” (22). This line is the start of Connie’s horrible nightmare“ (Benignetti). Connie was already drenched by the sun. Sun and warmth are the symbol of femininity and attractiveness as well as sexuality. That is why Connie dreams about the boy she had met earlier coming to her house to bully her. The strangest thing about the boy, Arnold, is that he knows all the detail about her. That is a true sign that the whole plot of the story must be inside Connie’s head. It is all her vivid imagination. In her dream she is still sexy, which is common for girl who are fifteen years old. She might be becoming aware that she has to be more careful not to attract psychopaths. That is part of her growing up. Her unconscious tells her that she has to be herself and not to pay attention to what the others think. Her own personality will make her an individual worth much more than just a pretty face and attractive body.
“Leave your stepping stones behind, something calls for youForget the dead you've left, they will not follow youThe vagabond who's rapping at your doorIs standing in the clothes that you once woreStrike another match, go start anewAnd it's all over now, Baby Blue” (Bob Dylan)
This is the perfect way to summarize this story because Oates dedicated the story to this song of Bob Dylan. She was inspired by it. Baby blue I obviously Connie. Even her name sound like a name for a baby. It doesn’t sound like an adult name. Oates suggest that Connie is immature by naming her that way. Bob Dylan is singing about the girl who has to leave her past behind and continue her life. She has to begin anew. It means that Connie has to find her place in the world. All of this suggests that the tender age of fifteen is the time when teenage girls start feeling like grown-ups and they like it. However, there are so many social conventions in the world and they have to learn them even if they will ignore them later. It is a matter of safety. There are real danger lurking around every corner, so Connie’s dream about Arnold serves like a warning. She is fifteen, living with her parents, but in a few years’ time, she will be on her own and there will be nobody to protect her. She will have to make her own choices. That is why her mother is right to reprimand her for being vain because she can’t rely on her looks forever. If she grows up as being so shallow, she will never become the person she was intended to be. Her skills and her personality will never come to the surface. That is why her mother is right the way she treats her and the vagabond from Dylan’s song is standing in the clothes she once wore. It is the metaphor for her previous life. After the dream, she will become a new person.
Oates, Joyce C. Where are you going, where have you been?. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1994. Print.
Benignetti, Kelly. Critical analysis of “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?”. Western Illinois University, 2013. Web. 21. Apr. 2015.
Dylan, Bob. “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue.” 21. Apr. 2015. <http://www.lyricsfreak.com>