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The story ‘Where are you Going, Where have you been’ that is found in the Album of Retellings is a must-read fascinating chef-d’oeuvre that opens by presenting the picture of Connie the protagonist. Connie is a young girl of about fifteen years who is full of life. She has the drive to explore the adult part of life, which she yearns so much to get into.
However, her age does not allow her. The author has strategically used characters like Connie and Arnold Friend to develop various morals like the theme of pride and irresponsibility in children. For instance, Connie’s character is indicative of irresponsible children.
Irresponsibility in Children
Although Connie is a likeable character in the sense that she has packaged herself in a manner that creates curiosity to the reader, she is an epitome of irresponsible children. She is likeable based on her habit of “checking other people’s faces to make sure that her own was alright” (Oates 186).
However, Connie has two sides of her life that come out when she is either indoors or outdoors. When she is indoors, she talks and behaves in a manner that will get her mother’s approval by dissociating herself with any characters that she knows her mother does not approve. In fact, while June does everything in the house, “Connie cannot do a thing…her mind is filled with trashy drydreams” (Oates 186). Connie is the ‘difference line’ between her and her older sister June.
She represents an outgoing modern girl who embraces fashion and modernity as it comes when compared to her sister who is remarkably conservative and boring in the way she does her things. She hates any of her mother’s advice. In fact, “she wished her mother was dead” (Oates 186). Connie’s character makes the end of the story look tragic because she is portrayed simply as a fun loving girl living her age fully by going out to have fun and doing the things her age allows her to do.
The tragic bit of the story is when she attracts the wrong attention that overwhelms her at the end when Arnold Friend comes in to take her out by force. This exposes the vulnerability of the little girl when she becomes so helpless to get into Arnold’s arms. Oates says, “Connie wouldn’t help, but let her eyes wander” (187).
The words are indicative of her loose character of giving in despite the repercussions. Though she believed she should have freedom and that she should be able to attract boys, this notion was just for her self-esteem as a growing young girl, but not for the realities of life as exposed by Arnold Friend’s intrusion and forceful takeover. When she refuses to go to the barbeque, she is simply putting into command her ability to decide what she wants to do and what she does not want to do against her mother’s wishes.
The Theme of Pride through Arnold Friend
Arnold Friend on the other hand is the strange proud person who appears from nowhere and forcefully enters into Connie’s life without her consent or willingness. Pride dominates everything he does right from how he opens the door for Connie to see his name painted on the car to the way he introduces himself to Connie. For instance, he says, “I want to introduce myself, I’m Arnold Friend and that’s my real name and I’m gonna be your friend, Honey…” (Oates 190).
Arnold Friend is a forceful person full of himself having the belief that he can get what he wants. He is sexually explicit and does not try to hide his intentions. Not everything about Arnold is right, from his hair, eyes, boots, the way he walks, and his car too. He has a “Shaggy black hair” (Oates 187). Arnold Friend is an arrogant person who has neither respect nor fear for anyone. This case is portrayed from the way he talks to Connie, his pal Ellie, and the way he refers to Connie’s dad.
At first, he uses sweet language when he is trying to convince Connie to come out though the language itself is a mix of convincing, sarcastic, and coercive words. He is rude and cursing especially when Ellie tries to interrupt him and or when Connie turns down any of his suggestions. He instills fear in Connie by telling her that no one can do anything, not even her dad. This pride disarms Connie in a big way as she realizes that no one can protect her from Arnold.
Arnold Friend can be described as a rugged person from head to toe and or from the color of his car. The car is described as a jalopy with bright golden colors that pierce Connie’s eyes. As much as the car looks odd to other people, he is proud of it. Its looks are impressive to him as it is evident when he informs Connie that the car has just received a new coat of paint. Arnold Friend is strange and proud in all ways.
The first instance is the color of his car and the writings inscribed on it. He has some outdated phrases written on it. His hair looks like a wig. He has a pale skin that is described as almost translucent. The strange thing about him is that his looks cannot tell whether he is old or young. In fact, he is described as both old and young. Connie cannot tell Arnold’s age. In fact, she has to ask him, “Hey, how old are you” (Oates 192). Connie ends up into Arnold’s arms and therefore into the world of the unknown, which is extremely new to her.
She takes this step with so much reluctance. As she realizes that, her fantasies become a hugely different thing when put into reality. My conclusion is that, though she believed she had control over her destiny, she did not have it now that Arnold had come in to take over. My feelings about Connie are that of pity as the way life’s realities open up to her. She yearns for freedom that she is able to control and not freedom that she cannot control, which is the reality of life.
The author is seen to have not read her source materials properly in the way she portrays Arnold. Bob Dylan inspires this story. The picture of him coming out in this story is that of Arnold. The story is inspired by Bob Dylan’s song “it’s all over now, baby blue.” Arnold is the darker side of Bob Dylan. Though Arnold is being portrayed as an unlikeable person, it is contrary to what Bob Dylan used to be. Though rough and rugged, he was a darling of many. It is just that he liked singing haunting songs that bring about a dark side of him.
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This clue should not be used to mean that Bob Dylan himself was a dark person. The author writes the story in a way that allows it to be retold repeatedly. Her story is timeless in the way it portrays social issues in society. The problems that Connie is going through are timeless. They happen to all teenage girls and boys in their relationship with their parents. The writer’s script is devoid of features of time like technology.
This gap enables readers to read the story without the ability to tell when it was written. The only feature that has been brought out is the telephone, which is in use up to date. The writer has left the story suspended by leaving the reader guessing as to what happened afterwards. This style is a remarkably good way of creating a window for retelling as another writer can pick from where she has left. She has not given out so much information in descriptive form thus allowing many adjustments to be made.
The bit of the story that gives it so much space to be a good retelling is that the whole story is short enough to make it an introduction to a bigger story, which can be done by introducing new characters. The story can be changed by giving it several angle’s with the first being the experience between Connie and Arnold. The second part can be used to tell the reader how the relationship between the two ended. The other possible part can introduce another man into Connie’s life.
Afterwards, the story will no longer qualify as a retelling when the character Connie is retired by either being married, going away, or by her death because the story would lose its theme when it is taken beyond Connie’s teenage hood. Otherwise, any literature fanatic will declare the whole package an informative piece of masterwork.
Oates, Joyce. Album of Retellings: Where are you Going, Where have you been?. London: Routledge, 1970. Print.