Vanity and Mind Control: Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?

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Teenagers in general are often stereotyped into one general category: unruly, uncaring, and self-absorbed. In the short story “Where are You Going, Where Have You Been?” Joyce Carol Oates plays on this stereotype. She uses imagery and point of view to direct the reader’s attention to the teenage girl psyche, selfish, whimsical, and longing for attention and affection, and how this stereotypical psyche can be distorted and controlled.

The protagonist of the story, Connie, is a vain, “typical” teenage girl, looking for attention, especially from the opposite sex. Constantly “…craning her neck to glance in mirrors” (614), she often considered her appearance and how she looked to others to be a matter of extreme, if not most, importance. During the days her time was often preoccupied with thinking and “dreaming about the boys she met” (615). Oates crafts an image of a vain teenage girl whose main priority in life is meeting boys. Foreshadowing is woven throughout the beginning of the story, as Connie and her friends lie to her parents about their whereabouts and a description of where they really are is given: “…a drive-in restaurant where older kids hung out” (615). Readers immediately realize that the girls are taking a much bigger risk than the characters themselves believe to be, spending time with older boys who are quick to take advantage of young, naïve girls. During one such night, a darker image is introduced. While walking off with her date for the night, she spots another “boy” with dark hair looking at her, who then mouths “‘gonna get you baby’” (615). Although the thrill Connie feels is of excitement and possibly attraction, the reader immediately experiences the chill of foreboding.

For a while the story does not elaborate on the boy in the car that night, but it looms ever-present in the back of the reader’s mind. However, one day when Connie was alone, the boy’s bright gold jalopy drove up the driveway. His manner and everything about...
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