’ Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been Essay, Research Paper
Oates Where are you going, where have you been?
Oates Where are you going, where have you been? is very descriptive and reads like a movie in one s mind. Every event, every sound, every scene is crystal clear. Like every good book (or short story in this case) the characters become our friends and we come to understand them as we understand the people we know best in our lives. We feel the feelings that they feel and live their experiences along with them. Oates draws us into the story with her descriptive details and immediately invokes our emotions and keeps us interested through the end. But this story is much deeper upon reflection than it seems at first.
In order to understand this story, it is important to understand the author. Oates is well known for her strong beliefs in the power of the novel. Because of this it is easy to understand why she includes themes that go deep into the mind of the reader and disturbs his comfort zone. She takes common American obsessions, such as love, money, and evil, and uses them as the basis of her stories. These obsessions that she uses are often the largest fears in normal people because they are such a tremendous part in everyone s life. This is one reason that makes Oates use of various themes so desirable to so many people (Chaffier).
Many of her characters have consistent qualities that readers can easily see in themselves. They typically speak of support and love, and sometimes unity, but they rarely possess these qualities themselves. Instead, they illustrate the problems that go along with a society that is filled with violence and the loss of innocence (Chaffier).
Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? is based on a killer in the southwest named Charles Smitty Schmid who was charged for the rape and murder of three young girls in the fall of 1965 in Tucson, Arizona. Oates wrote the story after hearing Bob Dylan s song Its AllOver Now, Baby Blue. Oates also has dedicated the story to Dylan (Where 276).
With these things in mind, it is much easier to understand the story. It is about a young teenage girl named Connie who instantly reminds us of ourselves at her age. She is the typical fifteen-year-old who is self-absorbed and always daydreaming. Her mother is constantly chiding her because of her vanity. Her relationship with her family is also very normal. She and her mother bicker and argue like normal teens and their parents. She seems a little jealous of her older sister June because she is considered the good child, even though she is plain and homely. Oates is very detailed in her description of Connie s physical traits, with her long dark blonde hair and pretty face; it is easy to understand why she has so much confidence in herself. It also seems that Connie uses her beauty in a negative way. She enjoys the attention that she receives from boys because of her looks and uses it to try to control them.
Most of her personality is rather typical of a fifteen-year-old also. She is boy crazy, which is normal among girls her age. She takes it a step further and seems to be in love with being in love. Early in the story, Oates hints that Connie s boy craziness may be her weakness (or maybe an obsession) and it leaves the reader with a sense of uneasiness. But all the boys fell back and dissolved into a single face that was not even a face, but an idea, a feeling, mixed up with the urgent insistent pounding of music . This line gives the impression that Connie is rather promiscuous for someone her age, thus including the theme of a society without innocence. It also foreshadows future events.
Connie loves to go out with her girlfriends and fortunately for her she is allowed because June enjoys it also. The excitement that she feels when she is out is easy to identify with. Night after night, she goes out and every night she is with a different boy. All of this activity seems harmless until she encounters a boy who later reveals himself as a clever, malicious stalker who decides she is his next victim. She firsts notices him when she is out with a boy and she noticed a boy with black hair and a convertible jalopy painted gold staring at her. She tries to ignore him and walk away but can not help looking back at him. He laughs at her and says Gonna get you, baby. Because of the imagery and detail that Oates uses to describe the boy in the car, such as his wagging finger and what he says to her, this episode creates fear and nervousness in the reader.
He shows himself again one Sunday when Connie is home alone. He introduces himself as Arnold Friend and tries to convince Connie to go on a ride with him. Oates uses a great deal of imagery in this part. She describes his appearance, his clothes, his muscular build, his face and even his nose, which is long and hawklike, like sniffing as if she were a treat he was going to gobble up and it was all a joke.
Arnold Friend reveals himself as a stalker when he says, “I know your name and all about you, lot’s of things”. He knows where her parents are, what they are wearing, whom they are with, when they are returning, who her friends are and their names. To the reader, his knowledge of this information is very eerie.
Arnold Friend s reason for his visit is not clear until he becomes overly insistent when Connie refuses to go for a ride with him. He tells her, You re my date. I m your lover, honey. They argue for a while. He insists that he is good for her and that she needs him. “I’m your lover. You don’t know what that is but you will . As he continues to say these things, fear grows in Connie until she becomes paralyzed by it.
When she finally comes to, she becomes lifeless, perhaps because she finally realizes there is no way for her to escape Arnold Friend. She thought, I m not going to see my mother again I m not going to sleep in my bed again. He says to her that the place where you came from ain t there any more, and where you had in mind to go is canceled out. When he says this, Arnold Friend is sealing her fate, telling her that everything she has ever known no longer exists and any plans she ever had are now meaningless.
The only hint of the resolution in the story is the statement made by Arnold when he said I ll come inside you where its all secret and show Connie what real love is like , statements that hint rape. It can be inferred that he does rape and kill her since the story is based on a real killer who raped and murdered his victims.
This story is very typical of Oates because the subject is disturbing and depicts the harsh realities of life. Connie is a normal character that most people can identify with and encompasses Oates theme of American obsession with love. She shows us through Connie that the evil and violence in the world is inescapable.
Chaffier, Nicole. Joyce Carol Oates. Klutztown University Literature Database. 11 May 1997. http://www.kutztown.edu/faculty/reagan/oates.html
Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? Short Stories for Students. Volume 1. p. 257-276. Gale Publishing, Detroit Michigan. 1997.