10 September 2010
The short story by Joyce Oates, “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” leaves many readers uncomfortable with the actions of “Connie” the main character who is in the midst of adolescent rebellion. Connie is a character who argues with her mother and sister, neglects family life in favor of scoping out boys at the local restaurant, does everything she can to appear older and wiser than she is, and has a mind filled with daydreams and popular music that feed her unrealistic ideas of love and romance. When the stranger, Arnold Friend, arrives at Connie’s house, she must confront the harsh realities of adulthood, which bear little resemblance to her fantasies. The approach known as psychological criticism has readers focus their attention on a literary work by analyzing the presentation after they have interpreted the actions and conflicts that determine the outcome of the character within the story. To accomplish that goal, not only must one magnify the text closely in order to obtain an effective psychological profile of the character, but they must also delve into the psyche of a character such as Connie in order to have a better perception of her actions. There are many approaches to psychologically analyzing an individual. The best approach is a multifaceted one that can look at the many different aspects of the person’s background, social life, family life, hobbies, and their view of self. The importance of parental guidance and support is pertinent in growing up through the adolescent years, as they can be the most chaotic, unsure, and insecure stages in the transition from childhood to adulthood and identification of self. Connie definitely lacks parental support, and even though she may not have made it easy for her parents to communicate with her, they could have at least regulated her extracurricular activities and done their basic parental duties to make sure that she was safe from harm. This view of Connie comes from a behavioral perspective. Behaviorism sees behavior as being a result of conditioning and reinforcement that we have learned in the development process (McGill and Livingston Welch 101). The perspective claims that humans are born “tabula rasa” or as a blank slate proving that Connie’s parents had a big impact on her behavior which fueled her self-identification, or lack thereof, in her early childhood experiences. The theory also argues that personalities result from experiences, reinforcements, and conditioning. Ivan Pavlov theorized that all behavior is learned through operant learning; the result of having received reinforcement or reward, and classical conditioning; association of certain stimuli with a particular reaction within our emotional or physiological self. The lack of real presence of parental structure has a lot to do with Connie’s lack of individuality, her actions show a great deal of emptiness and a deficiency of self esteem which contribute to the decision she makes with Arnold Friend.
The rebellion that showed in Connie’s personality had a lot to do with her dysfunctional family life. Not only does Connie live with her mother and father, but also her sister June. Connie’s relationship with her mother was dysfunctional because her mother always considered Connie as prettier and younger, even though she “had been pretty once too, if you could believe those old snapshots in the album, but now her looks were gone and that was why she was always after Connie” (An Introduction to Literature 484). Connie’s mother was one who “hadn’t much reason any longer to look at her own face, always scolded Connie about it, “Stop gawking at yourself, who are you? You think you’re so pretty?” (An Introduction to Literature 484). The relationship between siblings was unstable as Connie was very envious of the relationship her parents had with her older sister June. Connie’s mother was always praising and...