In the short story “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” by Joyce Carol Oates, the description of the characters June, Connie, and Arnold Friend reveal the true nature of the characters and underlying motives. June is the older sister to Connie who shapes the relationship between Connie and her family, while describing the differences between Connie and June. The description of the protagonist Connie reveals the struggle between childhood and adolescence with the desire to be desired by those of the opposite sex, but also the obsession with childhood fantasies. Arnold Friend also represents a struggle for Connie with the fact that he repulses but also allures her with his fulfillment of her fantasies.
June is the older, responsible sister with a job, who lives at home with her parents. Her description builds on the contrast between Connie and June. June is the complete opposite of Connie because Connie spends her time daydreaming rather than paying respect to her family and being productive. June does not show the conceited characteristics like Connie that their mother criticizes. June is “so plain and chunky and steady that Connie had to hear her praised all the time by her mother and her mother’s sisters” (Oates) shows the purpose of why June is included in the short story. June represents the child that Connie’s mother wishes for and the chasm that was created between Connie and her mother. June is an overweight girl with no ambition or thought for looks. She is dutiful to her parents and does her chores. Therefore, June causes Connie to feel separated from her family where she is looking for comfort and attention from others to fulfill her fantasies shown through her obsession with music. Connie’s disdain for June ...
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...omes unemotional, letting herself believe in the fantasy Arnold paints to make leaving with him easier in order to save her family.
Joyce Carol Oates uses the description of the characters to reveal their purpose in the story and their affect on others. June portrays the family environment Connie lives in and the differences between her and Connie. This leads to Connie’s need for attention from others and acknowledgement of her beauty. She desires attention and to be an adult, but she is stuck in between childhood and adulthood with her daydreams about fanciful romance supplied by music. Arnold Friend causes Connie to confront reality and her struggle between childhood and adulthood. Oates is able to portray Connie’s move from childhood and fantasy to reality and adulthood through her willingly leaving with Arnold Friend – sacrificing herself for her family.
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