As a child we often fantasize about finally obtaining freedom in adulthood, but often find the realities of adulthood shatter these childhood dreams. The journey between childhood and adulthood is frustrating and confusing, and in most adolescents, is filled with apprehension and anxiety. For the protagonist Connie, this distress is expressed in her dreamlike encounter with Arnold Friend. In the short story “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?,” Joyce Carol Oates used the interaction between her two main character, to reveal the internal fear and conflict of a fifteen year old girl maturing into a young woman.
Oates chooses narrate her story in the third person giving us a glimpse in to Connie’s thoughts, her lonely isolation form her family, and her daydreams of boys and love songs. Connie’s negative, always nagging mother makes her fear growing up and being miserable too. Greg Johnson interprets the story as “a cautionary tale, suggesting that young women are ‘going’ exactly where their mothers and grandmothers have already ‘been‘” (166). One of Connie’s foreshadowing daydreams brings to light ominous events to come: “Connie wished her mother was dead and she herself was dead and it was all over” (153). This is the first time Connie’s thoughts drift to the dark side. The foil, June, is described as “twenty-four and still lived at home…helped clean and cook” (153). Even though June is “so plain and chunky” (153), she has her mother’s and her aunt’s constant approval. June is a sharp contrast to Connie and helps emphasize Connie’s immaturity, vanity, and selfishness. The emptiness of her home life leads Connie to day dream. “Connie couldn’t do anything, her mind was all filled with trashy daydreams” (153). Connie fears growing up and maturing into a woman and uses illusions to deal with her reality.
Although Oates allows us to know all of Connie’s thoughts, only Arnold Friend’s actions are revealed. Perhaps because...
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