Where are you going where have you been Analysis

Table of Content

Fantasy versus Reality in Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? by Joyce Carol Oates has a constant theme of reality and fantasy running parallel for 15 year old Connie. This short story begins with a description of Connie’s vain personality. The narrator describes her as pretty and self-centered (Oates 421). To emphasize her selfishness, Connie is contrasted with her sister, June, who is chubby, plain, and well-behaved. Connie’s mother always praises June for her work ethic and help around the house, but says Connie can’t do anything due to “trashy daydreams”. There isn’t much of a father figure in Connie’s life due to her father being away for work most of the time and detached when he is home (Oates 422). This could be one of the many reasons for Connie’s need for male attention. Her relationship with her family seems to contrast how Connie visualizes her own life. At the young age of 15 Connie isn’t sure if she still wants to be a child or grow into a woman.

The narrator states, “Everything about her had two sides to it, one for home and one for anywhere that was not home: her walk that could be childlike and bobbing, or languid enough to make anyone think she was hearing music in her head, her mouth which was pale and smirking most of the time, but bright and pink on these evenings out, and her laugh which was cynical and drawling at home – ‘Ha, ha, very funny’ – but high-pitched and nervous anywhere else, like the jingling of the charms on her bracelet” explains her inner turmoil of an adolescent growing into a woman (Oates 422). While at home, Connie wanted to still be seen as a child, but outside of her family’s eyes, she sought to be sexually desired and popular. In order to keep these two worlds separate, Connie constantly lies to her mother about her whereabouts and who she is spending time with. Connie and her friends are dropped off at the mall and then wander to a nearby hangout spot popular with older high school boys (Oates 421-422).

This essay could be plagiarized. Get your custom essay
“Dirty Pretty Things” Acts of Desperation: The State of Being Desperate
128 writers

ready to help you now

Get original paper

Without paying upfront

Connie believes she wants to be desired by these young men, but the reality is she is too young to understand what sexual desire truly means. She tries to relate to sex through popular music that romanticizes relationships and life. The short reveals how it affects Connie when she is listening to a popular radio station, “…bathed in a glow of slow-pulsed joy that seemed to rise mysteriously out of the music itself and lay languidly about the airless little room” (Oates 424). Additionally, Connie felt her date with Eddie was similar to “the way it was in movies and promised in songs”(Oates 424). She felt she was living the dream and was beginning to relate to this sexualized, romantic media. In Marie Mitchell and Olesen Urbanski’s literary review of the story, they state “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” (1).

However, Arnold Friend was quick to remind her of her young age and innocence at the end of the story. When Connie first hears a car pulling up in her driveway, her attention is immediately directed to her hair and looks. She isn’t concerned as much about who is outside or what they want, but how see will look to them. When she initially sees Arnold she is attracted to his style and car. He is muscular in tight faded jeans and a drives a bright gold jalopy. His image is everything that Connie has fantasized about and can relate to. Arnold is even playing the same radio station she was listening to as they drove up. (Oates 425). This is an attempt for him to relate to her and convince her to trust him. However, her fantasy comes to a grinding halt when she begins to look past Arnold’s outer appearance and realize he is only a front. His drastic attempt to seem fashionable and cool is uncovered when she reads a popular saying from last year on his car and notices the lines around his lips when he grins (Oates 427).

She finally realizes he isn’t a teenager, but much older. Once Connie outs Arnold’s masquerade, he becomes increasingly demanding, while continuing to compliment and call her by pet names. As Connie’s fantasy begins to drift away, Arnold’s true appearance is seen. He is described as possibly wearing a wig, having black tar-like material painted on his eyelashes, and his boot is at a strange angle, as if his foot wasn’t in it (Oates 429). This more accurate description is considered by Michele Theriot to be evil in the form of Arnold. Is Arnold hiding his demonic hooves in those greasy boots, and his horns underneath a wig? Marie Mitchell and Olesen Urbanski continue with this theory by pointing out “that he represents a superhuman force. ―’Don’t you know who I am?’ … he asks in an eerie fashion, as if she had encountered him before, as one does evil” (2). His omniscience regarding Connie seemed mysterious and creepy. He knew exactly what her parents and sister were doing, even though they were out of sight (Oates 428).

This thorough description validates his threats towards her family if she didn’t obey. Where Are You Going, Where Have You been? comprises a young girl’s fantasy and how quickly the fantasy can be brought into reality. Until meeting Arnold, Connie had always put value in people’s outer appearance instead of who they really were underneath. She believed she could get through life with a pretty face and style and had no ambitions. As Arnold is taking Connie to his gold care, she begins to see the world beyond herself. The author portrays this with her last sentence in the story “…so much land that Connie had never seen before and did not recognize except to know that she was going to it” (432). Finally, Connie has realized there is much more to appreciate around her that she has always taken for granted.

Unfortunately, Connie may not have much time to appreciate this new humility she as Arnold says “The place where you came from ain’t there any more, and where you had in mind to go is cancelled out” (Oates 431). He plans to take away all of her current fantasies and all of her future dreams. This story emphasizes the importance of inner beauty and understanding the difference of one’s fantasy and one’s reality. It might be too late for Connie to appreciate her reality and inner beauty, but not for the reader.

Oates, Joyce C. “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” Literature: Approaches to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama. 2nd ed. Boston: McGraw Hill, 2008. 421-32. Print. Theriot, Michele D. “The Eternal Present in Joyce Carol Oates’s “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?”.” Journal of Short Story in English 48 (2007): 59-70. Print. Urbanski, Marie. “Existential Allegory: Joyce Carol Oates ‘Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” Studies in Short Fiction 11 (1978): 200-03. Print.

Cite this page

Where are you going where have you been Analysis. (2016, Jun 13). Retrieved from


Remember! This essay was written by a student

You can get a custom paper by one of our expert writers

Order custom paper Without paying upfront