Essay Analysis: Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?
This particular story had been written by Joyce Oates keeping in mind the psychological raging turmoil present everywhere in the world these days. This story was written in the 90s however pertains to societal day and age even now. It was based on a news article about a young good looking man who had sexually enticed and then killed a number of young attractive girls. This story is, therefore, a take on the same issue taking place in the contemporary world today.
It starts off with the description of a young girl named Connie; her likes and dislikes, taste in music and clothes – much like everyday American girls in today’s society. She has arguments with her mother all the time, and frowns down upon her sister who she feels does not know how to dress well or ‘put herself out there’. She loves hanging out with her friends at malls and restaurants and fantasizing about the perfect love life and relationship she could have, like portrayed in the movies.
On one such evening, she actually comes across a jalopy while on a date, with a handsome young man with nice hair looking at her. She feels flattered at first and begins to picture an evening out with him – much like what other girls the same age would do. However, the next day, her family leaves for a barbecue, and she refuses to go with them. Instead, she washes her hair and daydreams a little more about the young man in the jalopy when all of a sudden his car actually pulls up in her driveway. Later, the situation becomes very uncomfortable as she begins to realize the actual motives of that man, Arnold and realizes that he just does not want to take her out on a ride.
Connie is young and vivacious, still trying to find herself an identity in the world. She feels that she has gained all the maturity that she could and has more worldly sense than her sister or mother. She is used to her mother shouting at her and scolding her and thus has become immune to anything she hears from her. This is a play on most young girls these days as this is the kind of attitude they carry. Later, however, when Connie feels attacked by Arnold, she screams back hoping her parents or sister would come find her and free her from the bad man.
Connie was also trying to open up to her sexual inner self and try and find that element that set her apart from other girls. In doing so, she began attracting unwanted attention which then proved to play against her through Arnold. Arnold symbolized sin and temptation; something Connie wanted but was not aware of. This becomes clear when Arnold actually begins to expose his sexual self and impose himself on her, and she realizes that she is not as mature as she thought she was because she is not able to take in everything.
Connie was terrorized and the entire incident had probably been imprinted on her very traumatically. In the beginning when Arnold first arrived, she thought she could handle it all by herself, as she was very mature and above her age. She even went along with him at first and tried to entice him as he did to her. With time though, she realized that he actually meant the kind of things he was telling her. He was also a much older man, pretending to be eighteen and just wanted her for her physical body.
She was then thrust into the grasp of reality and began to comprehend the cruelty that the world actually contained and the kind of people that actually existed. She understood that love was not indeed something rosy as they showed in the movies or as she had pictured in her head, especially with men like Arnold and that they only wanted to entice women and derive pleasure from their bodies.
When finally she broke down because Arnold overpowered her, Connie realized just how wrong she had been by shunning away her family and not taking into account their words of wisdom regarding anything. She understood how fazed and terror stricken she was by the entire episode and that she was still a child after all.
Towards the end, the reader is able to comprehend how Arnold actually is a monster of sin and temptation that changes and transforms Connie from a young innocent girl to an adult in just a matter of time. She is forced to move away from being childlike as she is stripped off her rights and forced down by Arnold. She then realizes how much she actually just wanted to be mature for the sake of it.
The title of the story thus stands true as well. It is a pun on how Connie’s life suddenly changes direction from where she actually wanted to be to where she reached. It justifies the story as it suggests how most young girls like Connie want to rush beyond their age and witness the world as it is in the true sense of maturity, however with such impatience, they often reach places and are thrust into circumstances they are not equipped to handle.
Cuizon, Gwendolyn. Oates Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been. Suite101. 12 March 2009.Web. 28 Feb. 2011.