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Adolescence is the period when children have already grown up. They do not play with dolls and cars anymore. However, they are unable to behave like adults as they do not have that responsibility and the understanding of life as adults have. Adolescents may feel that some sort of behaviour or some objects may help them become older.
This is the misunderstanding which makes many teenagers behave in the way they are not to behave, to act in the way they are not to act and to act as in the result the desired purpose to become an adult is not achieved anymore. It should come with then understanding of life what adulthood it. Adolescents are unable to make correct decisions about their actions, they cannot protect themselves and being under presupposes protection is also not the case.
Basing the discussion on two stories only, it is possible to consider the life of many teenagers. Where are you going, where have you been? by Joyce Carol Oates and The man who was almost a man by Richard Wright are the stories which show that sexuality for girls and masculinity for boys are the main problems in the adolescents ager and the main characters are sure that the way they behave can help then reach the age of adulthood faster.
Sexuality and Masculinity as the signs of Adulthood
Many adolescents are sure that being sexual for girls and being masculine for boys are the only signs of adulthood. The desire to be like adults creates many wrong opinions and as a result adolescents are unable to reach the desired purposes and they have to accept what they have become.
The wrong consideration and understanding of adulthood leads adolescents to wrong actions. The desire to ne sexual and masculine is understood, but it should rise just because it exists, not because it is the sign of adulthood. Those who have grown up understand that they have become adults and with this status sexuality and masculinity has appeared. Still, many adolescents believe in the versa effect thinking that having become sexual and masculine, they will immediately grow up.
It is even impossible to imagine how many different ways adolescents see in achieving their goals. Thus, Connie in Where are you going, where have you been? by Joyce Carol Oates believes that the opportunity to attract the attention of the olden man is the direct sign of her sexuality and as a result the adulthood.
However, she cannot even imagine which consequences may happen as the result of the elder man attraction. Dave Saunders is sure that gun possession attracts him masculinity and does all possible to show as many people as he can that he is an adult as he has a gun.
Connie’s Sexuality as the Sign of Adulthood
According to the story, Connie cared only about her appearance as she believed that this was the way to the adult men and as a result to adulthood. Connie’s behavior was absolutely different from the behavior of other girls of her age.
Everything about her had two sides to it, one for home and one for anywhere that was not home: her walk, which could be childlike and bobbing, or languid enough to make anyone think she was hearing music in her head; her mouth, which was pale and smirking most of the time, but bright and pink on these evenings out; her laugh, which was cynical and drawling at home… but high-pitched and nervous anywhere else… (Oates 27).
This is the description of two natures of Connie, her home-childish and her street-adult. Connie is sure that she is sexual and when Arnold Friend notices her and follows her she understands that she is really sexual. But as it always happens, she did not expect what adulthood it and having appeared on the threshold of her adulthood she understands that this is not what she was dreaming about.
She called her mother as if a child when being afraid, “She cried out, she cried for her mother, she felt her breath start jerking back and forth in her lungs as if it were something Arnold Friend was stabbing her with again and again with no tenderness” (Oates 45).
Dave’s Power as the Sign of Masculinity
Reading The man who was almost a man by Richard Wright, it is possible to come across the following phrase, “Could kill a man with a gun like this. Kill anybody, black or white. And if he were holding his gun in his hand, nobody could run over him; they would have to respect him” (Wright 192).
Thus, Dane is sure that the possession of the gun gives him additional power. This is the reason why people are to respect him and why they are to treat him as an adult man. However, as it is always happens, if a young man possesses the gun, it hurts someone. Covering up Jenny’s death, Dave is sure that his is the end of his troubles, he is sure that this is the threshold people are to come through to become adult.
However, Dave understand that everything is not that easy and he runs away, “ahead the long rails were glinting in the moonlight, stretching away, away to somewhere, somewhere where he could be a man” (Wright 198). This says that trying to achieve sometime, Dave still understands that he was mistaken and masculinity by means of gun possession is not exactly the adulthood he wanted to achieve.
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The Role of Gender
Admittedly, gender plays one of the main roles in both stories. Thus, Connie is an attractive girl who has a particular understanding of what adulthood is (Oates 27). She thinks that hanging out with boys is what adult girls should do. Connie works out a particular pattern to behave with boys.
She thinks that if she can cross the line, this means she is an adult woman. Of course, the girl has created such an image on the basis of the things she saw.
It is possible to state that society is responsible for the girl’s behavioural patterns. Connie simply tries to adopt certain ways that other girls have adopted. Of course, Connie has a one-sided outlook and she denies any help of adult people, e.g. her mother. Connie makes conclusions of her own. She sees her femininity as a way to seem adult.
As for Dave, he sees the other way to prove he is adult (Wright 198). Dave wants to prove he is a man and one of the attributes of an American man is a gun. This object has been one of the symbols of a strong man who is responsible for other people. Again, Dave creates an image of a responsible man on the basis of trends which are popular at that time.
Dave does not think of some qualities he has to develop. He only sees the object, the symbol of masculinity. Perhaps, if Dave had a father, he would not make such simple conclusions as to masculinity. Unfortunately, Dave has no one to help him understand the real meaning of being a responsible man. Eventually, the boy simply obtains an attribute of a real man, and Dave’s behaviour proves that he is only an irresponsible boy who makes mistakes.
Therefore, it may be concluded that the main character in the stories Where are you going, where have you been? by Joyce Carol Oates and The man who was almost a man by Richard Wright do not know absolutely what adulthood is and how it should be achieved. Some time should pass and these people will understand how mistaken they was about their feelings and perceptions.
Sexuality for girls is not just their appearance and the ability to attract an older man like masculinity is not just the possession of the gun. It is pity that the main characters understand too late what adulthood means. They are unable to forget some situations in their lives as well as they will never become that curious and careless as before.
The case is that the main characters in both stories under consideration, Connie and Dave Saunders, want to become adults, but when they are given such an opportunity, they understand that the way they became older is wrong, but it is too late and there is no way back. They are adults now, but they do not know what to do with their adulthood, they want back, to careless adolescents which may never be returned.
Oates, Joyce Carol. Where are you going, where have you been? New York: Rutgers University Press, 1994. Print.
Wright, Richard. “The man who was almost a man.” Fiction: A Pocket Anthology. Ed. R. S. Gwynn/ Oxford: Pearson/Longman, 2006. 187-198. Print.