Where Are You Going Essay

Pages: 4 (1506 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1  ·  File: .docx  ·  Topic: Children

Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been by Joyce Carol Oates

Teenage self-destruction: Personal Identity that Leads to Self-Destruction among Adolescents.

Oates is a celebrated author with several titles to her name and one of the anthologies of short stories that has been widely read is "Where are you Going, Where have you been." This also doubles up as one of the titles of a captivating story within the anthology too. The story stands out from the rest of the stories within the anthology due to the inspiration behind it as well as the language and the themes encapsulated therein. it'd scary yet captivating and the reader, however scared, cannot afford to stop following Connie, the main character therein, to the very end. Indeed the short story leaves the reader with an aftertaste of what could have happened to Connie thereafter.

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Oates indicated that this particular short story was inspired by one of the most followed news of the 1960s on Life magazine of a smooth talking serial killer known as Charles Schmid. Schmid was an older man who preyed on the adolescent girls during that time. However, the most captivating aspect of the serial killing was the abetting of the acts of this criminal by the teenage girls during that period and this is the attention of this story. Oates creatively displays the abnormal acts and cooperation of the average and socially 'normal' teenage girls in helping the person commit and conceal the crimes. Indeed, Oates successfully deflects the readers' attention from the murderer to the victim Connie who gets entangled in the scary murder attempt circle by Arnold Friend.

Basically, the story time setting is in the 1960s after the Second World War. This was a period that saw the rise in liberalism, materialisms and emergence of the pop-culture and a total challenge to the moral as well as social conventions. It was a time when civil rights movements were at their peak, feminism was stronger than ever, sexual freedom was advocated for and the issue of adolescent sexuality was a top discussed issue within the American society (Little M., 2013).


Essay on Where Are You Going, Where Have You Assignment

The time setting is the early 196s and Connie is fifteen years old while the elder sister June is 24 years old. Connie is depicted as the prettier one of the pair and very self-conscious at this time and age. She is always on the mirror and always striving for physical looks perfection, a habit that the mother does o approve of. The mother keeps castigating her for such a behavior but she is not disturbed since she is sure the mother prefers her to the older sister. June is the older sister whose behavior the mother approved of, she was reserved and not conformed to the popular trend of the moment. She is described as "so plain and chunky and steady," facts that made the mother to praise her all the time. The plot starts with a normal Sunday at home since they do not attend Sunday services, there is a barbecue arranged by another family and they were to all attend but the picky Connie skips the barbecue and instead stays at home to wash her hair and listen to rock music as she contemplates over romance with boys. She is alone in the house and the story suddenly shifts when a strange gold-painted car pulls over at her house, in it a man Connie walked past at the drive in the previous evening when she went out for a movie and relaxation with Eddie and another girl friend.

There are quite a number of things that are odd about the man who steps out of the car called Arnold Friend and indeed the man who remains in the car called Ellie. Arnold looked much older yet claimed to be the age of Connie. He has makeup on his face yet forgot to extend that to the rest of the neck hence the difference was quite clear. He also had boots that never quite fitted well as they looked like they were stuffed with some material to make him look taller. Ellie too had makeup despite the obvious old look on his face and chest, indeed described as having the face of a "forty-year-old baby." Coincidentally the two strangers were also listening to the same radio station that Connie was listening to, beaming with rock music. Arnold prevails over Connie to get into the car so that they can go for a Sunday wild road drive. Initially Connie would have loved such an adventure but backs off with the unfolding of the scary moments and details. Arnold momentarily shifts from the soft spoken, smooth person to sexually explicit and violent man as the resistance from Connie goes up. He initially makes it clear that he would not come into the house to get Connie out, but would do so if Connie resisted and called the police. Indeed, he uses the safety of the entire family who are away to be in the hands of Connie as a weapon of getting Connie to peacefully submit to his demands, which she does eventually. The atmosphere is filled with fear and would be violence instead of the romance and good times with boys that Connie was hitherto contemplating while alone. Connie knows Arnold is dangerous and she should not leave the house but she is blackmailed into doing so.

Thematic areas

Connie represented the typical adolescent who transitioned from childhood to adolescent stage of life during the insurmountable confusion and changes introduced by the cultural and social shifts after the WWII as identified hitherto. She wanted to be explorative and discover new heights and frontiers like any other adolescent would do under the changing times. The female adolescent at this time was bombarded by myriad of cultural challenges as a result of the questioning of the status quo that was there before.

Connie seems to be maturing under a different time with different cultures from those that June matured under. This is the sole reason behind the difference in character, personality and mannerism. The environment seems to be shaping behavior here and in the case of Connie in particular. She is trying to fit in among the peers hence the aping of the going to movies and restaurants in town with other girls. At this stage, adolescent girls need guidance and modeling from the parents, a glaringly missing aspect in the life of Connie. We see the other girl friends being accompanied by their parents to window shopping in town and duly guided on as simple issues as time, yet we see none of this with Connie parents. Indeed the family is not even bothered about going to church for the spiritual benefit of the adolescent. This does not make Connie atypical adolescent but a very normal adolescent who missed the modeling of the parents.

Bearing their stage in life, adolescents like Connie would love to have a hero and model, in the absence of the right model, they tend to find substitutes to fill the void. This then pushes Connie to adapting the teenage lifestyle and adores boys with material wealth and anything materialistic to offer her. This becomes her undoing, it is in one of the quest for such material gain and entertainment from Eddie that she is spotted by Arnold Friend who follows her up, getting all the details and striking when she is most vulnerable and all alone in the house. This lifestyle of adolescent girls trying to find identity and attachment as well as modeling from sources around them is common among adolescents like Connie. The inherent danger in it is that it ends up being their ultimate undoing that finishes them morally, spiritually and to the worst physically. The fate… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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