Reality vs. Dreams

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Where the Dream becomes Reality
Have you ever wondered if your entire life has been a living dream? In the short story, “Where are you going, Where have you been?” Joyce Carol Oates uses the motif of the music and the dream-like imagery in order to convey that Connie is having a nightmare that was created by her conscience and Arnold Friend is a collection of all the bad things she has done.

Connie’s conscience is tainted by the things she does and thinks as a teenager. While fighting with her mother, “Connie wished her mother was dead and she herself was dead and it was all over” (Oates 1). The fact that Connie wishes that her mother and herself were dead shows some evil inside her, because no good child would wish something that extreme to their parents and themselves. By committing these acts Connie’s conscience gets dirty bit by bit. During her girl’s night out Connie “spent three hours with him [Eddie], at the restaurant…then down an alley a mile or so away” (Oates 2). Connie going to the alley with Eddie suggests that they both engaged in some sort of sexual activity. These actions fill her with sin, corrupting her conscience even more without her even knowing so.

The music played throughout the entire story suggests that Connie fell asleep while listening to the radio and she hears the music being played while in her nightmare. When at the drive-in restaurant, “[They] listened to the music that made everything so good: the music was always in the background” (Oates 2). The symbol of the music is introduced here and it serves as a motif to show how the story is a nightmare. The importance of the music is stated in this quote. When Connie sees Arnold on his car, “She had the idea that he had driven up the driveway all right but had come from nowhere before that and belonged nowhere and that everything about him and the music was so familiar to her was only half real” (Oates 8). The motif of music here shows how Connie recognizes the music, and...
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