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The story under consideration “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” by Joyce Carol Oates shows an average teenager in the 60s. He/she wishes for independence, which comes real via undesired and unexpected consequences. Connie is a fifteen-year-old girl who is searching for freedom from her parents via a thirty-year-old Arnold Friend who offers her what she wants even though she refuses to get it from the first time.
Connie’s desire to be free is reflected in her behavior, attitude to parents, and her relation to personal sexuality, but when she is offered this independence, she understands that all she was searching for is a fantasy, and the real world is more cruel and unfair. This essay aims at providing a character analysis of Connie in “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?”
Historical Period and Geographical Setting
The story was written in the 60s when the youth felt the smell of independence and tried to reach it. Connie’s behavior, as well as the behavior of other teenagers of that time, may be called revolutionary. The conflicts at home and the desire to be those who they are not are explained by the cultural and geographical settings. 60’s in the USA are known as the sexual revolution.
The youth felt freedom concerning their sexuality and did not want to hide it. Vice versa, they tried to show everybody that they were free and ready for sexual relations, Connie “knew she was pretty, and that was everything” (Oates n.p.). But, in reality, most teens were not ready for this. Connie was not as well.
Connie’s Age and Home Life
How old is Connie in “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” Connie is a teenager, and being fifteen years old, she feels that she is old enough to become independent, but she still has to be under parental control. This situation with the two sides of her identity makes her crazy.
She continually repeats that the hates her mother and her sister, who is elder and also try to teach her. Once Connie “wished her mother was dead, and she herself was dead, and it was all over” (Oates n.p.), that appears to be the crucial point in their relations.
Connie’s desire to meet with boys to have their appraisal of her appearance is one more expression of her desire for independence. Connie and her friend really appreciate the father of Connie’s best girlfriend, who usually gives a lift for girls and “never bothered to ask what they had done” (Oates n.p.). Communicating with boys, Connie is always sure that after driving somewhere, she will be delivered home, safe, and uninjured.
She knows that she attracts boys, and her childish innocence and inability to think like adults do, with the whole responsibility, make her free from fear. But this feeling does not last long. Arnold Friend, the antagonist, attracted by her innocence and beauty, ruins Connie’s world when he comes to her house, being afraid to make an extra move “She was hollow with what had been fear but what was now just an emptiness” (Oates n.p.).
As the summary evidences, the whole situation with Arnold makes Connie doubt her vision of independence. Arnold shows her that freedom is not as sweet as she thought and that she has to answer for the consequences. “I’m your lover. You don’t know what that is but you will” (Oates n.p.) Arnold says as if warning Connie.
Why Does Connie Go with Arnold Friend?
Connie has always been sure that, staying at home, she is safe. Searching for independence, she still believes that she can be home, and no one will be able to get there, and she is sure she is under protection in her house.
Arnold Friend character analysis sets him as a person who ruins Connie’s ideas about independence and shows her that it is not the world where she can do whatever she wants. Arnold explains to Connie that independence is equal to becoming an adult, and this world may be cruel and unfair.
The author does not say directly whether Arnold raped Connie, but the words “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 n.p.) may be understood right in this way. This is the end of Connie’s fantasy, and she has to decide whether she wants to accept her independence or not.
At the same time, Arnold, evidently symbolizing the devil in disguise, states that Connie has no other variants but to accept the independence he offers her and go with him and Ellie, his sidekick. He says that the place Connie came from does not exist anymore, and where she planned to go is canceled out (Oates n.p.). These words show that Connie’s ideas about independence are wrong. What she is offered is what she did not want to, but it does not mean she would never reach the desired goal to be free.
In conclusion, it should be mentioned that we never know whether Connie accepts Arnold’s invitation for sure, but the final words of the story give us food for thinking. It seems that everything is real, but the author states that Connie “watched herself” (Oates n.p.) as if everything happened in her imagination.
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As the character analysis of Connie in “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” proves, even if Connie does not leave her house and does not go out with Arnold, she understands that independence is not what she has believed to be. This realization of some facts makes her a dynamic character. Connie’s wish comes true, but she has dreamt about a different reality, not so cruel and unfair.
Oates, Joyce Carol. Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? Web.