Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been

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In Joyce Carol Oates’ “‘Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?’ and Smooth Talk: Short Story into Film,” Oates writes that Connie “An innocent young girl is seduced by way of her own vanity” and that “she confuses death for erotic romance” (419). Oates clearly defines her point when Connie first discovers Arnold Friend at the drive in diner. She catches Friend staring at her with a big smile and Connie “slit her eyes at him and turned away, but she couldn’t help looking back” (409). The fact that Connie “slits” her eyes and “couldn’t help looking back” (409) shows that she is interested, but does not want to put her true feelings on display. Her more erotic interest comes in the form of his style and physical appearance. Oates illustrates this by using diction and imagery; “she liked the way he dressed” and Connie noticing “the small hard muscles of his arms and shoulders” (419) when Friend First appears at her house. Unlike Connie, the reader sees Arnold Friend in all of his depravity, we see him as the predator. He displays this at the drive in by “ waving his finger and laughing” and saying “Gonna get you baby” (409). Oates again uses carefully thought out word choice to prognosticate that we could see Friend later in the story to possibly confront Connie in a derogatory way. In this way, we can see that Connie is both seduced by way of her own vanity” and that “she confuses death for erotic romance” (419).

Oates demonstrates how Connie’s life can be seen in two different lights or two sides, “everything about her had two sides to it, one for home and one for anywhere that was not home” (408). Her life at home was unusual, Connie’s mother is jealous of her beauty and always scalding her about everything. Though Connie’s mother once encompassed external beauty, her looks had dissipated over time.. Her mother finds anyway possible to negatively comment about her, always using her older sister June as an example of how she should live her life....
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