Appearance is Not What it Seems

“Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” by Joyce Carol Oats is a short story about a rebellious insecure young girl that is desperate to seem different from the rest in a way that she can be mature and skilled with men. What the character named Connie does not know is that her different persona is going to make her seductive to an older man that will lead her to an unexpected turn. Even though “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been” is about a short story about a teenage girl that behaves recklessly, Oates uses allegory in the story to portray Connie’s vulnerability and curiosity of the appearance to an older man and his sinister manipulation that will drive her to her death. Oats in the short story names her character Connie, she is an allegory in the story given the role of a naive young teenage girl. Connie is stuck in fantasy and illusions as she is trying to be a mature experienced woman with men and life. In the story, Oates states, “Connie couldn’t do a thing, her mind was all filled with trashy daydreams.” (Oates, 95)

The author is being specific in the text that Connie is not aware of reality and thinks she has everything under control. The character is being self-centered and full with romantic illusions and finds herself between childhood and adulthood. She is the symbolism of young girls being trapped with the feelings of wanting to look older or feel confident but it does not change the fact that she is a young teenage girl. Oates also adds, “Everything about her had two sides to it, one for home and one for anywhere that was not home.” (Oates, 95) Connie represents the youth when they feel torn two ways to act a certain way with their loved ones or family and friends. She is a young pure girl that does not realize that there is more to life than just pretty and boys. According to Wilson, “Connie is vulnerable to Arnold Friend’s manipulations because she has no clear identity of her own. As a teenager, she is neither a child nor a woman.” (Wilson, 25) The analyzation to Wilson’s comment is that Connie is unguarded with her surroundings and is curious to know Arnold. Her curiosity leads her to her death like many young girls that get curious about the world they don’t belong in yet. Connie’s different persona does not let her put boundaries with those who can surpass themselves, she is blind to the reality and lives in a fantasy of a nonexistent world. Connie lost touch with reality because she believed that being pretty was all there was to it.

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Oates alludes the story to real life and how the youth is worried about their appearance and how many people they can attract, people in those situations are easy to be manipulated and prey on those who want to harm or get as they please. In addition, Arnold Friend in the story is an allegory of the devil and sinister of the story. Arnold friend portrays himself to be an enchanting man and to care for Connie but his meaning in the story is the demon in Connie’s nightmares and he gets what he wants from her. Oates states, “One of his boots was at a strange angle, as if his foot wasn’t in it. It pointed out to the left, bent at the ankle” … “He had to bend and adjust his boots. Evidently, his feet did not go all the way down; the boots must have been stuffed with something so that he would seem taller.” (Oates, 105) The author is describing the way the devil would look, her description of Arnold’s hooved feet are the devils because the devil does not have feet they are hooves. Arnold is an allusion to Satan, the devil himself and the proof that he is up to no good with Connie like he says. The author sees Arnold as a seducer and a manipulator to anyone or anything in order to get what he wants just like the devil would. It is ironic in the story that Arnold says he wants to show Connie the love she never received because it’s her mother’s role even though that “love” Arnold’s offers is temporary, aggressive and kills Connie. According to Barstow, “Allegorically viewed, Friend, brings the vehicle that will lead Connie to the “vast sunlit reaches” of the future, a metaphor that expresses the vagueness of her dreams while also representing an unknown — attractive, perilous, and as inevitable as death.” (Barstow, 7) Barstow is letting the readers know that Arnold’s intentions are bad and Connie’s death is something that was going to happen whether she gave Arnold what he wanted or not.

The devil walks you to your death no matter what he wants becuase the intentions are sinister and satisfying for it, Connie had no chance of surviving and was going to be a representation of how leaving the youth to their imagination and someone else manipulating it can kill you. Someone in the real world if they are wishing something bad they take advantage of the most vulnerable and easy to manipulate and their best solution for them to be clean is to get rid of the evidence. Therefore, the author in the story uses music as an allegory to blend in desire with the music. The youth use music to express how they are feeling or they fantasize what the lyrics say. Oates states, ‘But all the boys fell back and dissolved into a single face that was not even a face but an idea, a feeling, mixed up with the urgent insistent pounding of the music.’ (Oates, 97) Connie means she wants to have fun, she wants a boyfriend but nothing serious. The author shows how teenagers relate to each other and how meaningful the lyrics can be to a young person that is just learning to develop their thoughts. Arnold utilizes music to appear connected or linked to Connie in order to prey on her. Connie’s ideas about a relationship and love making her feel like she can relate to the songs becuase it a form of feeling realistic or satisfaction of a short term fantasy.

According to Urbanski, “The recurring music then, while ostensibly innocuous realistic detail, is in fact, the vehicle of Connie’s seduction and because of its intangibility, not immediately recognizable as such.” (Urbanski, 5) Connie felt as if she was having a religious moment, she listens to pop songs to feel connected to different dimensions. The music is powerful enough to let the youth sit back and just listen while they enter a different world that they are feeling at the moment and Connie wanted to experiment what it was to feel loved and be with guys to prove to herself and others she was different from the rest and was capable of reaching level maturity at a young age. As a result, The author Joyce Carol Oates alludes this story to younger teenage girls and how becoming vulnerable to certain things. The character Connie is escorted to death and is stolen away from her childhood. the Connie then is an allegorical significance for the innocent youth being induced by the devil, or the youth being taken at the top of her grace creeping in onto their Death.

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Appearance is Not What it Seems. (2021, Nov 23). Retrieved from