Critical Analysis of Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? Essay

Critical Analysis of Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? Essay

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What The World Has Done...

In "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" the author, Joyce Carol Oates,

essentially asserts that the nuances of one's personality are not generated from within, but rather

shaped by external circumstances. This is an argument whose justification is abundantly clear in

the inner conflict of Connie, the protagonist of the book. The source of that struggle is her

unstable relationship with her family, which ultimately results in her identity conflict. As one

who always been deprived of father-figure, she feels the need to acquire attention from boys in

order to fill that void.

The realism and characterization with which Oates makes this point in the story have

garnered much praise. Connie is presented as the quintessential teenage girl. Like any other

female adolescent, she is preoccupied with make up, boys and music. Great characterization is

seen in Arnold Friend - described by Oates as one who appears at first glace as "a boy with

shaggy, black hair, in a convertible jalopy painted gold"(427) - who employs manipulative

conversational tactics to gain psychological control of Connie. Later, he even changes his

apparel in order to draw Connie to himself, an act which makes him reminiscent of an enticing

devil.

Connie is a girl whose perception of the world has been shaped by her family and

"culture," causing her life to be literally split into two. At home, she acts as if she were an

Zabakolas 2

innocent child that is unconcerned with the dynamics of the opposite sex. But once she ventures

into the "real world" she screams for male attention. In her domestic life, she has virtually

nobody and nothing upon which to depend (a fact that she e...


... middle of paper ...


..., shows what happens to the psyche of the individual who is shown no love in

the larger environment or in the "safety" of her own home. Connie was influenced by many

damaging sources that prohibit her from achieving a proper self-identity. As a result of being

neglected by her father, denigrated by her mother, compared to her sister and her desire to be

loved by her family and others, she developed an identity problem that ultimately led her to the

devil. It is not until the very end, through her acquaintance with Arnold Friend, that she is able

to achieve some sort of happiness. Even then, her happiness is a tragedy as the devil wheels her

in.

Works Cited

Oates, Joyce Carol. "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" Literature and the Writing Process. Eds. E. MacMahan et al. 7th Edition. Upper Saddle River(NJ):Pearson Prentice Hall, 2005.

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