Psychological Horror : Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? Essay

Psychological Horror : Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? Essay

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Psychological horror is characterized as horror literature which “relies on the character fears, guilt, failings, evil, and mental instability to build tension or further the plot (Howells 410).” Many stories can be defined as psychological horror, including the short story, “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” by Joyce Carol Oates. “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” revolves around the story of Connie, a fifteen year old, who through her own mistakes, allows herself to be stolen from her home by a stranger, Arnold Friend, who gained an obsession with Connie. This short story is an example of psychological horror portrayed through the themes such as independence, fantasy versus reality, and loss of innocence.
Connie is constantly aiming to prove her maturity and independence to the world around her, leading to the turn of events that culminates into her kidnapping. In the beginning of the short story, the narrator describes Connie’s repulsion of her dependence on adults. Connie has to rely on adults for everything, driving her need for independence. It is explained that whenever Connie’s mother would ask Connie to be responsible, “Connie would raise her eyebrows at these familiar old complaints and look right through her mother (Oates 414).” Whether it would be from her own parents, or from a stranger, Connie always tried to ignore what adults said to her. Connie would often lie to her parents where she was going, and it would be this risky behavior which would make her an easy target for Arnold. Soon after Arnold sees Connie at the diner, he becomes obsessed, eventually appearing at her house when Connie is alone. Consequently, Arnold Friend tries to initiate a relationship with the mature adult Connie. In the st...


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...to see my mother again. She thought, I 'm not going to sleep in my bed again (Oates 425).” Connie realizes she is not the adult she thought she was. In the end, all she wants is her family to protect her, but she knows she will probably never see them again. Her innocence to the world is taken from her, and what the world has left to offer her is more haunting than any ghost or demon can be.
Connie and the reader’s fear intertwine in Oates’ classic story. Between the ambiguous ending of the story and Arnold’s carefree demeanor, it is unclear how Connie’s life will continue. However, it can be ascertained that the themes of independence, fantasy versus reality, and loss of innocence classify this story as a psychological horror. Connie is forced to face the realization that her failings led to her kidnapping, and that her foolish struggle to rebel stole her freedom.

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