Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? -Joyce Carol Oates Essay

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Nightmare or Reality?
Joyce Carol Oates creates an inquisitive plot that causes the reader to question events in the story, “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” She develops this story featuring a girl named Connie, who has an encounter with a boy at a restaurant that she doesn’t know. “He wagged a finger and laughed and said, “Gonna get you, baby,” and Connie turned away…” (Oates 210). Startled Connie only saw this boy once that night, but the story goes on, and a few days later he comes to her house where she learns that the boy’s name is “Arnold Friend.” She is unaware how the boy knows anything about her, where she lives, and the fact that he knows all about her family and friends. In the short story, “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” Joyce Carol Oates creates significant details that some readers might miss, revealing that Connie is actually having a nightmare where Arnold Friend is an imaginary character.

The day that Arnold Friend came to Connie’s house she had been left at home alone, while her family went to a barbecue at her aunt’s house. “Connie sat with her eyes closed in the sun, dreaming and dazed…” (Oates 211). This is when Connie begins to fall asleep in the story as she is laying outside in a lawn chair. Joyce Carol Oates never directly states she is now dreaming but provides the reader with clues to suggest it. The story reads “when she opened her eyes she hardly knew where she was, the back yard ran off into weeds and a fence-like line of trees and behind it the sky was perfectly blue and still” (Oates 211). When a person is dreaming they can be in an unacquainted place and sometimes unaware of where they are. Connie is experiencing these happenings as she “wakes up” or begins the journey into her nightmare. “The asbestos “ranch house” that was now three years old startled her- it looked small. She shook her head as if to get awake” (Oates 211). Oates included this in the story as a clue to readers that Connie is still...
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