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Where Are Going, Where Have You Been?


Where are going, where have you been? is a short story that was written by Joyce Carol Oates. She is an American author born in the year 1938 in Lockport, New York, U.S. Carol has published a number of novels and many books of poetries, short stories, and nonfiction. The main character in the Carol’s story is Connie, even though there are others, such as Connie’s mother, Connie’s sister called June, Arnold Friend, who is a friend of Ellie, and Ellie, who is a friend of Connie.

Connie is a self-absorbed, beautiful fifteen-years-old girl. Connie and her mother are at odds. Connie has a twenty-four-year-old sister, June, who still stays with her parents, but works as a secretary at a school where Connie learns. June is dutiful and a homely sister. Connie likes to spend most of her time daydreaming. She has rejected the role of a nice girl, sister, and daughter so as to cultivate her persona that is sexually. This persona is only seen when she is away from the parents. The concerns of this young girl are mainly adolescent. This is because she is in constant obsession with her looks, keeps hanging out with friends, constantly listens to music, explores her sexuality, and flirts with the boys. The fact that men and boys find her attractive gives her very great pleasure. She has two different types of behavior, that is, the behavior at home is completely different from that which is practiced outside. It can be said that her personality is split because when she is at home, the sexuality personality goes into hiding. However, the coming of Arnold Friend forces the two sides of Connie to emerge violently. The intrusion of Arnold into the house shows that Connie is not fully sexual. Her sexuality is out of her true self.

This story is an imagination of how the sweeping, dramatic changes that is taking place in America in the year 1960 is going to have an effect on many girls, such as Connie. It tries to show the psychological terror that will be lying ahead for the individuals. The author uses allegory as a literary device. This is the case because the story illustrates complex concepts and ideas. The readers have to find meaning in it. The aim of this paper is to analyze the theme of the story and interpret various quotations used by the author. The paper will finally give the main idea behind the whole story.

Literary analysis

Two themes can be derived out of this short story. The first theme is fantasy versus reality. Connie is trying very hard to represent a mature woman. She makes the readers thing of her as being very experienced with men, but the coming of Arnold into the picture clearly shows that her effort was just a performance. She has made an adult persona that is very attractive through her clothing, behavior, hair style, and the way she attracts the boy’s attention. She feels good when the men follow in a sexual way. The romance and love that is evident from the images of pop culture and the type of music she listens to are very from reality relating to adult sexuality. But it is clearly shown that she does not experiment with sexuality. This can be seen where she and Ellie go into the alley.

During this time, it turns out that she is fearful of turning out to be an adult. She is taken into adulthood through force by Arnold Friend. This violent act clearly shows a shift that is within. The shift in, this case, is to abandon the childlike fantasy and move to mature woman realities. The line between reality and fantasy is made be blurred by Arnold, who is not shown to fall into any category or the other. The physical appearance of Arnold makes him look like not human, but close to human. The Carol does not tell the readers whether Arnold is a fantasy or reality. Arnold may turn out to be a nightmare or a strange that Connie is experiencing because of being in the sunlight for a longer time. Even if this experience is fantasy or reality, or Arnold is a human or a demon, it is clear that the interaction between Connie and Arnold significantly changes the way Connie view the world.

The search for independence is also clear. The conflict between Connie and the family and the constant effort with regards to sexual attractiveness are all part of search for independence. Being a teenager makes her dependent on adults for her social life, discipline, and care. An example of this can be seen where the friend to her father drives them to go and watch a movie at the theater. Connie is always in constant fights with the sister and the mother, but she is still dependent on them, and make up the only life she knows. Trying to appeal to men sexually shows how she is trying to explore the world around her. The arrival of Arnold swaddles the exploration into safety. She makes sure she goes home for the family’s familiarity. Her search for independence leads her to a brutal outcome. Interacting with Arnold as the mature woman she has been pretending to be yanks her violently out of her childhood adventure. This experience places her into the world of adults where there are no rescues from anyone. The things that were being said by Arnold are symbols of what Connie has been searching for all these time. She has always been a teenager who has been looking for maturity. For example the part where Arnold says he is her lover, you do not now know what it is, but Connie will know about it later on, and the place where you are not there anymore and where you were thinking about is cancelled. Arnold, who is an ambiguous and strange character, signifies all the fears, doubts, and confusions, which accompanies Connie’s quest for freedom. In the case of Connie, her search is concluded in the ominous and dark note.

The story has important quotations, such as the one where the readers are told that Connie has two sides, one side for a home and the other one meant for outside. This went on by stating her walk was bobbing, and childlike making anyone think that she is listening to music, and her laugh way drawling and cynical at home. This quotation is meant to explain the two sides of Connie. When Connie is at home, she looks childish, but when she is away from home, she tries very hard to look seductive, mature, and sexy. For most of the time, her two parts exist harmoniously. She keeps on arguing with the sister and the mother, and this makes the transition from child to adult and adult to child to happen without much effort. Having two sides instead of a stable personality that is fully developed makes everything to be awkward. This also contributes to the fearful stage, she is experiencing as an adolescent. The story clearly shows that Connie is not sure of whom she is. Her image is fabricated between what she is and the person she is trying to be. How Connie laughs when she is at home strongly signifies her immature nature. The gap being seen been the new self and her former self is dangerous and uncertain. This is violently exploited by the appearance of Arnold Friend.

The other quote where the readers are told Connie cried out for the mother until she felt like her breath jacking back and forth, especially in her lung. This made her feel like she was being stabbed by Arnold Friend without any tenderness. This fear prevents her from making a call that she had plans for making. This scene shows that Connie is facing danger, and she has not managed to come away unscathed. From the quote, one might think that Arnold Friend is raping her, but this not the case because it is her fast rate of breathing that is having the effect to her lung.


The paper was aimed at analyzing the theme of the story, interpreting various quotations used by the author, and giving the main idea behind the whole story. All this have been achieved because it can be seen that there are two themes exhibited by the main character, and that is the fight for independence and fantasy versus reality. The interpretation of this story is that the life of Connie is irrevocably changing and the future does not look clear to her. There are bad things in life, and if a bad thing has happened to Connie then there are worse ahead of her. If no bad thing has happened to her then they will happen. One might thing Arnold Friend is a person, but he is not. He is not a person. He is like a demon out to show Connie her weakness, and also give her a sign of the life that is lying ahead of her. How the life is filled with a number evils activities.


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