Joyce Carol Oates' Where Are You Going? Where Have You Been?

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Connie, the main character in Joyce Carol Oates' "Where Are You Going? Where Have You Been" is a fifteen-year-old girl, just realizing her beauty. It is summer vacation, and she is spending her time either with boys or daydreaming about them. Connie is a typical teenage girl with a desperate need for independence. She does not get along with her mother, and her father is seldom around. He works a great deal of the time, and when he comes home, he likes to eat and go to bed. Connie has a girlfriend who she enjoys going to the mall with. While at the mall, the girls like to meet boys and watch movies. It is a place where the girls can express themselves in a way different from the ways in which they portray themselves at home. The story's climax begins the day after one of Connie's trips to the mall. Her family has gone to a barbecue across town, and she is alone in the house. The events of the story lead up to a terrifying confrontation and abduction of Connie by one of the ‘boys' she had met the night before. She had never spoken with the boy before, but she did enjoy the ways he had looked at her. In reading "Where Are You Going? Where Have You Been?" readers may question Connie's judgment at times and ask whether or not her actions contribute to the troubles Connie is forced to endure at the end of the story.

Connie can be labeled as an average teenage girl: vulnerable, carefree, desirous, and curious. She has just discovered the power of her own beauty, but hasn't yet realized that power, in any form, must be controlled. Connie has long, dark blond hair. She is petite and seems confident in her looks, yet "everything about her had two sides to it, one for home and one for anywhere that was not home" (par. 5). Connie loves to h...

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...nie receives little attention at home and therefore craves attention from boys. Teenagers at Connie's age search for connections and companionship while evolving into young adults, discovering the powers of independence. Connie is searching for the good in Arnold as she is enjoying the attention he gives her. It is possible that in this state of wonder, Connie may not realize she is in danger until control over the situation is lost. Readers are left waiting for Connie to be rescued, fighting for her to be safe. One would like to think that she should have and could have gotten out of the situation had she not have been so naïve. However, the fear and anxiety Joyce Carol Oates portrays through Connie's character leaves Connie unable to protect herself from harm. Although this may seem unreasonable, could you be absolutely sure of what you would do in such a situation?
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