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Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?

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“Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” is a short story that poses many questions centered around the protagonist, Connie and the antagonist Arnold Friend and his “comrade” Ellie. The fate of Connie at the end of the story is still up for debate after all these years after the story was published in 1966. The main question posed is who actually is Arnold Friend? Is he the devil or something else? The answer may never be fully known but in my opinion I think that Arnold Friend is a figment of Connie’s imagination that is supposed to symbolize Connie’s entrance into womanhood. Since Connie is a rebellious fifteen year old girl that fights with her parents and constantly wants to do her own things, she is acting like a normal teenage girl that is of course not yet fully mature. She enjoyed going out with her girlfriends and complaining about the “hard life” she had and the constant nagging her mother gave. One night when Connie picks up a guy named Eddie, she “drew her shoulders up and sucked in her breath with the pure pleasure of being alive, and just at that moment she happened to glance at a face just a few feet from hers. It was a boy with shaggy black hair, in a convertible jalopy painted gold (Oates, 320). Connie constantly tries to ignore this man, who the reader eventually learns is Arnold Friend, yet she cannot look away while he says, “Gonna get you baby” while wagging his finger. This quote could symbolize Connie’s eventual fate since womanhood comes to every girl and Eddie did not even notice Arnold saying anything since men do not understand the way girls enter womanhood. Connie continues to be compared to her wholesome sister June by her mother with a disapproving tone, but Connie returns the favor by taking her mother for a fool. In fact, “Connie thought her mother was so simple that is was maybe cruel to fool her so much”(Oates, 321). This constant bickering between mother and daughter further shows Connie’s immaturity and sets up for the climax of the story when Arnold Friend comes for a visit to Connie’s house while the rest of the family is away. As soon as Arnold enter Connie’s driveway he instantly assumes that Connie knows who he is, like they have been acquainted for a long time. Arnold’s car itself can symbolize another way that Connie enters womanhood. The numbers on the car mean a lot to Arnold and “he read off the numbers 33, 19, 17 and raised his eyebrows at her, Connie, to see what she thought of that, but she didn’t think much of it” (Oates, 323). The numbers add up to the number 69 which is also a symbol for sex, which is an obvious part of becoming a woman and Connie doesn’t have a full grasp on what sex is since she doesn’t think much of the numbers on Arnold’s car. Also, when Arnold says: “Yes, I’m your lover. You don’t know what that is but you will” (Oates, 327) and “I’ll come inside you where it is all secret and you’ll give in to me and you’ll love me” are examples of Arnold showing that he knows about a girl’s menstrual cycle and other biological features of a woman, which are crucial parts of womanhood and that he will get Connie to know exactly what it is. Another way that Arnold could represent entrance for Connie’s womanhood is when he starts saying “Connie, you ain’t telling the truth. This is your day set aside for a ride with me and you know it” after Connie pretends to have things to do (ignoring Arnold’s pleas for a date). Arnold interestingly stopped laughing as soon as he says the previously mentioned quote which shows that his laughter was fake and that he means all business. After Connie questions Arnold’s age, he pretends to be eighteen even though he clearly appears as an older man. Eighteen is an age where most people have already reached puberty and additionally more sense of responsibility upon entering adulthood. After Connie faintly tells Arnold to leave, he starts getting defensive and starts trying to force Connie to come. “Connie stared at him, another wave of dizziness and fear rising in her so that for a moment he wasn’t even in focus but was just a blur, standing there against his gold car, and she had the idea that he belonged nowhere and that everything about him and even the music that was so familiar to her was now only half real (Oates, 327). This sense of confusion and fear Connie gets after Arnold starts to become more forceful is a result of Connie not knowing how to react to bad situations since she is still just a young girl. Things seem unfamiliar to Connie because she is just now starting to adapt to a horrible situation such as Arnold, who could be perceived as a rapist that tests a person’s courage, whether that person is male or female. Connie cowers back into her kitchen as Arnold comes closer to the house but when Connie looks around the kitchen itself, it all looks unfamiliar since she was immature before and never volunteered to help her family with the household chores and get things done. Towards the end of the short story, Connie starts screaming into her telephone to no avail as the fear of Arnold being in her presence may have become too much for Connie to handle. Connie becomes all wet from being scared and coming to realization that she is actually succumbing to Arnold’s pleas. He then says, “The place where you came from ain’t there anymore, and where you had in mind (daydreams of boys) to go is canceled out” (Oates 331). “I’ll show you what love is like, what it does. The hell with this house!.” The house represents Connie’s childhood/her being a young girl still being naïve. The last piece of convincing that Arnold uses to get Connie to come to her is saying that her family would not have “done this for you”, the “this” being entering womanhood and becoming her own person and independent. Connie goes to Arnold and he “was taken up just the same by the vast sunlight that reached the land behind him on all sides-so much land that Connie had never seen before and did not recognize except to know that she was going to it(womanhood, being independent) (Oates, 332).

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