Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been

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Language of Terror

When a person is put in an incredibly horrifying situation where the outcome is unpredictable many physical and emotional changes take place. Joyce Carol Oates's story "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" places Connie, a typical teenager, in this situation. Throughout the story, occasionally using religious undertones, Connie's language of a typical teenager gradually changes, from calm and somewhat curious to nervous and terrified.

Early in the story on a Sunday morning, Connie's family leaves to go to a family barbeque down the street. Connie is left by herself and chooses to wash her hair instead of going to church. When she hears a car driving up to her house, her heart starts pounding, she pulls at her hair and says, "Christ. Christ.," not in reference to the Lord or religion in general but because she is worried about how bad she looks. This gives and indication of how the author interprets religion in the story, not important and not serious.

As the story progresses, Connie's language takes an obvious turn. When Arnold Friend, someone she has seen but never talked to, shows up on her doorstep, she is somewhat defensive, but curious. "I ain't late, am I?" is the first thing he says to her when she opens the screen door. Connie replies by saying, "Who the hell do you think you are?", a typical response of someone in that situation. If a complete stranger showed up at my house and talked to me as though we were best friends I would respond the same way.

Throughout the story Oates continues to use vulgar language to illustrate the story and show how much Arnold Friend knows about Connie. The more Arnold talks, the more he reveals about his knowledge of Connie and the things and people around her. Soon, Arnold starts naming off all of Connie's friends, assuring her, "I know everybody." Arnold also knows things about her that he would know only if he was with her all the...
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