Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?

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The short story “Where are you going, Where have you been?,” by Joyce Carol Oates, is a tale about a teenage girl making the journey from her known world into something she has never experienced before. The main character lives the normal teenage life listening to the latest music and going out with her friends to the mall. “They must have been familiar sights, walking around the shopping plaza in their shorts and flat ballerina slippers that always scuffed the sidewalk” (753). One night with her friends changes her life forever. Someone that notices her at the restaurant would eventually become the person that makes her leave everything she knows and enter a world she has never seen before as “she watched herself push the door slowly open as if she were back safe somewhere in the other doorway” (764).

Connie, the main character, is the typical 15 year-old; she listens to music, lies out in the sun, goes to the mall with her friends, and has disputes with her mother, who continually criticizes her: “Connie would raise her eyebrows at these familiar old complaints and look right through her mother” (752). Connie knew she was pretty, and that’s why she had a “giggling habit of craning her neck to glance into mirrors or checking other people's faces to make sure her own was all right” (752). Her beauty brought power over boys. She chose to talk to only the ones that she thought were cute or popular, and she made a point of ignoring the more common ones. “It was just a boy from high school they didn't like. It made them feel good to be able to ignore him” (753). The narrator observes that the world she lived in was a familiar one. Everything was safe, but one single day made her it all change.

Arnold Friend is a personification of the dangerous aspects of the unknown world. Many things about him are foreign to her, yet he also is able to portray some things that are “safe” to her like “the way he was dressed, which was the way all of them dressed” (757). He...
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