Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?

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Loving, Superficial, Intimate Teens

"Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" by Joyce Carol Oates catapults its reader into a seductive, fifteen-year-old mindset, embodied by the main character, the rebellious Connie. Connie, much like Sammy, the main character from "A & P" by John Updike, is on the prowl for companionship and sex. Their unsuccessful search for intimacy, appreciation for family life, and superficial attitudes are what bring them together as similar characters but also what makes them different and unique to the part that they play in their own stories. In both short stories the main characters are of the opposite sex, which changes the viewpoint of both stories. Connie, at fifteen years old, is sexually active and very sexually intense. At her adolescent age she is unable to understand what is real and fake in love and intimacy. She is constantly daydreaming about sexual "trashy" situations and love, "dreaming and dazed with the warmth about her as if this were kind of love, the caresses of love, and her mind slipped over onto thoughts of the boy she had been with the night before and how nice he had been, how sweet it always was…gentle, the way it was in movies and promised in songs," (p. 502). Naïve and merely in love with the idea of being in love, Connie embodies a typical fifteen year old girl. Movies and songs portray perfect love and with further experience in life and love she will realize love and life does not always work out like Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You," or Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks in "Sleepless in Seattle".

One would think Sammy at nineteen has a better grasp on intimacy, however, he is as rash and immature as Connie. Other aspects of his life, such as family, appear to be important, yet the sight of one beautiful girl causes him to act impulsively and lose his valuable job in order to impress her. He thoroughly appreciates her beauty, "…it was more than pretty," (p. 624) he spoke of only her...
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