Interpretation of Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? by Joyce Carol Oates

Interpretation of Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? by Joyce Carol Oates

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Joyce Carol Oates's “Where are you going, Where have you been?” tells the story of a young girl's journey to find her own identity. Along the way she uses her beauty and sexuality to create, in her mind, a feeling of maturity which ultimately becomes her downfall. She believes that by spending her summer days in the mall, dressing in a way that is different than what she would wear at home, and flirting with older boys, while finding pleasure in ignoring boys she knows, she is being her own person and is creating her own identity—one that is different from that of her mother's or sister's. It is not until the end of the story, when Arnold Friend comes into her house, that she begins to realize what is truly important. The title of the story comes into play at the end when she is leaving with Arnold. She does not recognize the town outside; she does not know where she is going. She realizes that all of the time she spent worrying about appearances was meaningless; she could not say where she had been, because her journey was only just beginning.
In the beginning of the story we meet Connie, a fifteen year old girl living with her parents and older sister. Right away we see that Connie has a habit of checking her looks in mirrors and watching other people to see if they notice her and her good looks. “she had a quick, nervous giggling habit of craning her neck to glance into mirrors or checking other people's faces to make sure her own was all right.” (Oates) From this sentence we can see that Connie spends a lot of time thinking about her own appearance. It soon becomes apparent that she does this with the appearances of others as well, first shown when her mother is described. “Her mother [...] hadn't much reason any ...


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... him to the other boy, taking her time.” (Oates) The way she guards her words to sound as if she is uninterested and looks past him to the other boy in the car, show her trying to control the two boys with her disinterest. She uses her looks to control boys, and we see here that she is unable to control these two because they both are wearing sunglasses. “The driver's glasses were metallic and mirrored everything in miniature.”(Oates) Through the sunglasses everything is distorted and Connie has no control. The driver introduces himself; "I wanta introduce myself, I'm Arnold Friend and that's my real name and I'm gonna be your friend, honey” (Oates) Throughout the conversation Arnold tries to convince Connie to take a ride with him in his car, but she shrugs off all of his advances.


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Oates, Joyce Carol "Where are you going, where have you been?"

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