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Where Are You Going Where Have You Been Analysis

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Table of contents

  1. Introduction to Connie's Character and Family Dynamics
  2. The Sinister Character of Arnold Friend: Manipulation and Threat
  3. Rejection of Societal Norms and the Feminist Movement
  4. Violence, Inequality, and the Struggle for Women's Rights
  5. Foreshadowing and Symbolism: The Role of Arnold Friend
  6. Conclusion: The Impact of the Story and Its Reflection on Gender Inequality
  7. Works Cited

Introduction to Connie's Character and Family Dynamics

In the short story, “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been” by Joyce Carol Oates, Connie, a 15 years old who is protagonist, is constantly worried about her appearance. Her mother and aunts scolds her for simply admiring herself in the mirror and her looks, however Connie disregards her family's critiques. She hates them for always nagging about her, but she hates it more that her mother doesn’t stop. Connie's mother tells her to be safe and accountable like her older sister, June. This does result in a negative impact on Connie’s self-esteem. June is 24 years old and still living at home with her parents serves as an intern secretary at Connie's high school. She is saving money, helping her parents, and constantly gaining respect for her wisdom, while Connie is wasting time with thoughts about her looks and occupied with her looks. Her father works 24/7 and rarely speaks to his kids, meanwhile their mother never stops nagging, and bothering Connie. Connie is so upset that she tends to have morbid thoughts of her mother being dead. Oates decided to write this short because she was inspired by Bob Dylan song, “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue.” Oates uses foreshadowing, symbolism, and allusion illustrates her interest in the various sexual tragedies women faced during the 1960’s.

To begin with, Oates used of foreshadowing demonstrates her intention in writing this short story. It shows her curiosity in the different sexual awakenings faced by women in the 1960s, and the influence she got from Bob Dylan music. Foreshadowing is a literary device in which an author provides an advance hint of what may happen later on in the story. This literary device can occur in the beginning of a tale allowing the reader to formulate their own expectations of future events. For instance, “Most of these scholars are intent on reading past the author's evocatively realistic portrait of a self-absorbed teenager, Connie, who is lured to almost certain sexual violation and death by the at once seductive and menacing Arnold Friend, in order to unpack, among other things, the story's fairy-tale hermeneutics, its allegorical allusions, or its intertextual references” (Dickinson, 2008). The character Arnold Fiend is a profoundly sinister antagonist in the story a man who claims to be a young boy in his efforts to kidnap, rape, and assassinate Connie. She first encounters Friend when she saw him a couple feet away inside a cafe and mouth to her 'Goanna get you, baby,' (Oates). Throughout the story, it becomes clear that he is very manipulative and his behavior is disappointing. He uses Connie's love of music not only to make himself look like a charming ideal follower in order to distract her from the horror of his words. He also used makeup and shoes and stuffs his boots with socks to make him look quite younger and bigger. These are all a part played a role in ruining Connie’s innocent life. Arnold Friend impliedly, raped and killed Connie.

The Sinister Character of Arnold Friend: Manipulation and Threat

There is an interesting interpretation of Connie's personal life over the duration of his unjointed discussion, including parallels to biblical verses. At that very moment Friend seems to know exactly what Connie’s father is doing. Which sounds awfully creepy and just allows the audience to perceive him as an antagonist. This makes it seem Friend has an evil spiritual himself making it an awful supernatural force. His name “Arnold Friend” is a symbol of foreshadowing because of his last name, “Friend.” If someone were to be innocent and actually have pure intentions, why would their last name coincidentally be “Friend” in a short story? This was intentional by Oates, and based on the given evidence it is certain that the name was a hint to the audience that something awful was going to happen. The foreshadowing emphasized the various sexual tragedies faced by women during the 1960’s, and her inspiration from Bob Dylan’s song.

Furthermore, Connie was a direct symbol of rejection of societal female norms, that Oates does illuminate throughout the story. Oate’s main purpose of this short story was to show the equality among females and males, and this connects to the social revolution that began during the 1960’s.

“Oates depicts female abusers alongside male abusers and thus departs from the strictly (and stereotypical) male-on-female pattern of abuse. Freaky Green Eyes centers on Franky Pierson, a teenager who witnesses her father's escalating abuse of her mother. In this novel, Oates shows the relationship between a mother and daughter who are both victims of domestic abuse. Looking at these two novels side by side illustrates how Oates's literary portrayals of intimate abuse reflect broader social perspectives about the myriad problems related to it as they have changed over the almost 20 years between these two novel's respective publication dates. Solstice and Freaky Green Eyes are interesting cases because their dissimilar endings help signal a paradigm shift in how society's views about domestic violence have changed over this time span.” (Humann, 2009.)

This quote shows that Oates depicts Connie as a symbol of rejection of societal female norms because she refused the position of a sister, daughter, and being a sweet person. Basically since no one in her family supports her in any way or form. She always teases her older sister June and is constantly at odds with her parents, mostly her mom. Typically, she is an adolescent: her looks are obsessive, her music is heard, her friends are hinged, her sexuality flirts with boys. She is very pleased about the attractiveness of boys and men. Connie's style, the way she walks and laughs in a particular way make her sexually appealing, even when such mannerisms are only temporary. She does all of this to try to escape her reality and pretend everyone else is important, this was one of the reasons why the treatment that women used to receive back then was different.

In addition to that, in Bob Dylan’s song called “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue,” he sings “The vagabond who’s rapping at your door, Is standing in the clothes that you once wore, Strike another match, go start anew, And it’s all over now, Baby Blue” (Genius, 1965). This draws the connection between the character Arnold Friend by reflecting many aspects of Dylan himself. Dylan and Arnold were visually doubled in their wild hair and their low status, but more specifically in how every guy is treated by girls and women.

Rejection of Societal Norms and the Feminist Movement

Dylan was somehow thought to be an otherworldly character in the 1960s, he may even be considered a kind of Prophet. This leads to a darker version of Arnold Friend within the story. He went to take Connie’s house in order to take her as a hostage since she cannot really challenge him. Connie mentions at one point that Arnold's voice sounds like the Radio DJ's voice, Bobby King. The first name of the DJ is a link with the nickname of Dylan, and DJ presence in the world of music evokes the name of Dylan. This is an example of an allusion, a brief and indirect reference to the historical, cultural, literary or political meaning of a person, place, thing or idea. The person or thing the author refers to is not described in detail; which is exactly what the correlation and relationship with Bob Dylan’s song depicts. Not only is this an allusion but it is a form of symbolism of the feminism movement. A great example that shows this is:

“These theoretical trends have their counterpart in feminist literary works which employ film techniques, and here few contemporary American writers are more central or challenging than Joyce Carol Oates, whose novels and short stories are notable for their often violent depiction of the predicament of women in patriarchal culture. As Eileen Teper Bender observes, Oates's novels include cinematic narrative structure evident in such textual devices as fragmentary narrative, flash-backs, and freeze-frames (63, 75, 76, 88-89) and plots that are based on characters', 'celluloid fantasies' (Wesley, 1999).

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Violence, Inequality, and the Struggle for Women's Rights

Oates's fiction has received two film treatments: a 1996 version of her 1993 novel Foxfire and Joyce Chopra's 1992 Smooth Talk, an adaptation of the 1966 well-known story 'Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?' Oates's even shows interest in how media representation operates is her own New York Times review of Smooth Talk in which she explains that the ending of her story is a 'conclusion impossible to transfigure into film' because the 'writer works in a single dimension, the director works in three” (Wesley, 1999). Oates purpose of this short story is to illustrate the tragedy females faced back then was incredibly violent. She considered it as a “feminist inquiry” only because women’s rights were advancing yet their sexual rights were still being taken advantage of. This is the time period when women were beginning to take a stance on the double standards that are applied to men and women. During this time, a social revolution began in which women fought against men to obtain their independence. But also their sexually, emotionally, mentally.

Adding on, Oates short story “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” is a violent and graphic story. But don’t be surprised it was intended to be written this way. She wants to emphasize the inequality of men and women, and at the same time she is bring forth her feminist beliefs that should be known to society. To show this example,

“Yet Johnson's discussion of Oates's use of the gothic or postmodernism might have been strengthened by more attention to relationships between gender and genre. As Elaine Showalter demonstrates in Sister's Choice, the gothic genre is highly gendered, which should be acknowledged when identifying Oates's place in that particular tradition. Although Johnson recognizes that gender is relevant to Oates's 'postmodern allegory,' he does not fully explain what these terms mean: what, for example, makes Raven's Wing (1986) and Heat (1991) postmodernist allegories, and how are these collections simultaneously feminist and postmodernist? ….. as a trilogy, an oversight that hampers his analysis” Oate’s use of such obscene violence in “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” (Daly, 1997.)

In the part, in which it was implied Connie was being raped, and tortured which is the intended message she was going to show the audience. The overall message with her imagery and great ideas shows the idea of women enduring so much and always being manipulated, and silenced while men take advantage of them. Arnold Friend is a complete stranger who was constantly watching and possibly stalking Connie the entire time, and of course Connie is a young girl who enjoys male attention. She was taken advantage of by Arnold Friend due to her outward behavior and innocence. This all correlates or helps to show what men have been doing to women for years and it will keep going if there is no change. Oates is definitely an advocate for this social issue because it is an issue that we still face in 2019.

Foreshadowing and Symbolism: The Role of Arnold Friend

In the short story “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” by Joyce Carol Oates, reveal and showed that Connie’s true maturity and heroism. To emphasize this point she writes,

“Just for a ride, Connie sweetheart.' 'I never said my name was Connie,' she said. 'But I know what it is. I know your name and all about you, lots of things,' Arnold Friend said. He had not moved yet but stood still leaning back against the side of his jalopy. 'I took a special interest in you, such a pretty girl, and found out all about you, like I know your parents and sister are gone somewhere and I know where and how long they're going to be gone, and I know who you were with last night, and your best girlfriends name is Betty. Right?' He spoke in a simple lilting voice, exactly as if he were reciting the words to a song. His smile assured her that everything was fine… 'But I promise it won't last long and you'll like me the way you get to like people you're close to. You will. It's all over for you here, so come on out. You don't want your people in any trouble, do you?' She turned and bumped against a chair or something, hurting her leg, but she ran into the back room and picked up the telephone. Something roared in her ear, a tiny roaring, and she was so sick with fear that she could do nothing but listen to it—the telephone was clammy and very heavy and her fingers groped down to the dial but were too weak to touch it. She began to scream into the phone, into the roaring. She cried out, she cried for her mother..” (Oates).

The appearance of Arnold Friend at her home causes both sides to combust violently. Connie is somehow not fully erotic until Arnold joins her home. This was the first time Connie acted or behave like the person her parents always wanted her to be. Connie strives to demonstrate her maturity but is not as mature as she wants. She wants to be desirable to elderly men, but once an elderly person like Arnold truly gave her reasons for sex treatment, she became absolutely terrified. It was not even considered asking for consent since it sounded more like rape.

Part of what makes Oates novel so profoundly fascinating that it deflects most of the attention away from the potential killer who is still considered to be utterly frightening. Instead it focuses attention to the survivor Connie, and her privileged life that she imagines. The short story is set during the mid-American 1960s, and the political chaos of the period is just below the surface. It is known that during the 1960s, moral and social conventions were constantly challenged more so than they were a decade ago. It had been a moment of large, tumultuous upheaval. This novel like the 1960s itself, has caused a huge dispute since it was written. At the conclusion of the story, Oates described the actions of Connie as 'an unexpected heroism gesture,' a decision to sacrifice oneself to keep her family unharmed. However, not everyone is convinced of it. Others read the story as an anti-feminist claim by saying that Arnold Friend punishes Connie for possessing boys aka romantic impulses. Some read this story as a female critique of a patriarchal culture. The people of society did read these last scenes as evidence for Connie's psychotic behavior. The danger the story takes by keeping the conclusion plainly accessible. The many conflicting meanings and the unexpected death that unliterary brilliantly blinkered Connie at the end of the story may also provide a display of readers interpretations. This is one reason why the story continues to fascinate, worry, and haunts the audience. She goes from being distasteful to her positive impression that once a man she met turned up at her door that he clearly lies about her age to concern that he is acting like a lunacy to almost hysteria as he tries to break down her door and hurt her parents. While reading this story we experience her pain and emotions as if we are her at the moment. This is the overall point of what Oate’s tries to emphasize her message regarding the female inequality, that are overlooked constantly.

'Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?' begins in a psychically realistic manner as every detail in the awareness of Connie is registered. But as Connie realizes how dangerous she is, the story is about shifts. The vocabulary is shifting from reality to almost unreal or mystical. Connie is described as having a feeling when Arnold calls her “blue eye girl” when she knows she has really brown eyes. This can show an impression of Arnold possibly possessing psychotic behavior, and is obsessed with Connie because she reminds him of someone that he once used to know.

Conclusion: The Impact of the Story and Its Reflection on Gender Inequality

To finalize, in the short story, Joyce Carol Oates, Connie, 'Where Are You Going, Where You Been, Where You Going, Where You Been,' is 15 years old. Her aunt reproved her because she praised herself honestly in the mirror, but Connie did not consider her friends' criticisms. Connie's wife, like her older sister, June considers her closely to be safe and responsible. This has a negative impact on the self-esteem of Connie. June Connie's older sister, 24, is yet to be held at Connie's school with her family. She saves money, supports her family and always wins praise for her experience while Connie loses time and looks after her feelings. Her dad's overworked and seldom talk to her children, but her mother never ends up stubborn and stubborn Connie. Connie is so sad that her parents and her mother's dark feelings are gone. The short story of Oates is committed to Bob Dylan because its album 'It's All Over Now, Baby Blue' has influenced it and highlights and demonstrates his goal of writing this short story, her involvement in the various sexual disasters faced by women since 1960’s. Bob Dylan has been dedicated to Bob Dylan's short story. The usage of foreshadowing, symbolism and allusion by Oates underlines and demonstrates her intention to compose the short story—its significance in the nature of the women's sexual crisis in the 1960s, which led to a cultural revolution, and, of course, Bob Dylan's rock song.

Works Cited

  1. “Bob Dylan – It's All Over Now, Baby Blue.” Genius, 22 Mar. 1965,
  2. Daly, B. (1997). Joyce Carol Oates: A study of the short fiction. Studies in Short Fiction, 34(2), 265-267. Retrieved from
  3. Dickinson, P. (2008). Riding in cars with boys: Reconsidering smooth talk.Literature/Film Quarterly, 36(3), 202-214. Retrieved from
  4. Humann, H. D. (2009). THE (TRANS)FORMATION OF ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIPS: REPRESENTATIONS OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE IN JOYCE CAROL OATES'S SOLSTICE AND FREAKY GREEN EYES. Journal of the Institute of Justice and International Studies, (9), 124-130. Retrieved from
  5. Oates, Joyce Carol. 'Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?'. 1966,
  6. Wesley, M. C. (1999). Reverence, rape, resistance: Joyce carol oates and feminist film theory. Mosaic : A Journal for the Interdisciplinary Study of Literature, 32(3), 75-85. Retrieved from
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