In “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been” by Joyce Carol Oates, Connie concludes that the well-being of her family is more important than her safety.
Connie’s story begins with detailed imagery about herself, how she perceives her situation with her family, and how she decides to cope with her mother’s disapproval. Later in the story, diction plays an important role in how Connie’s opinion of her family changes. A mood is set throughout the story, and the reader’s heart rate increases rapidly as Connie’s anxiety rises.
By the conclusion of the story, the author has successfully made her point about the importance of family and personal safety.
The story begins with Connie’s vanity as she describes herself and her family. Connie said that she would “[check] other people’s faces to make sure her own was all right,” which was something that her mother disapproved of. She did not feel like her mother’s complaints were worth worrying about, even though a teenager is expected to respect their elders.
Her mother was always comparing her to her older sister, June, as if he expected Connie to be just like her sister, but she secretly suspected that she was her’s f daughter instead of June. Connie hated the way her mother nitpicked about everything that Connie did, or did not do, depending on the topic of discussion. She made a point of telling all her friends about how her mother made her “want to throw up sometimes” in her high pithigh-pitchedng voice, with no regard for who might be listening in on the sidelines.
The good thing about her mother’s attitude towards Connie was that if June could do it, so could Connie, so she was often allowed out unsupervised to go to the mall or the movies with her friends. She took full advantage of this privilege at every chance she could. One friend in part, in particular, ents wh o did not ask any questions about where they were or what they did, which Connie loved, so the girls would often run across the highway to a diner where they could sneak around with boys. Connie would dress one way when she left the house, but ould alter her clothes when she was away from the penetrating glares from her mother. During Connie’s summer vacation, she would spend her time with different boys several times a week, or home dreaming about those boys until her mother’s harsh voice would “[drag] her back to the daylight by finding things for her to do.” She was so self-absorbed that she even refused to go to a family barbeque with the rest of the family so she could stay home and dream of the boy she had spent time with the previous night.
The tone of the story changes when Connie shakes herself back to reality and feels the need to “drown out the quiet.” Typically, a person does not need to drown something out unless it is something unpleasant, which is the first clue that she is not completely comfortable with her situation. When Connie hears a car in the driveway, her very first thought is not fear, but her appearance. Without regard for her safety, she goes outside to see the unknowndrivere and realizes that he looks familiar, but she is unable to place why. The way he speaks, using words like “ain’t,” “toldja” and “don’tcha,” tells the readers that this man is not well educated, and wants to appear as though he knows Connie well. In reality, he feels like he knows her, but she does not know him at all, aside from his familiar appearance. This strange man is listening to the same musical program that Connie has playing in the house, which she assumes is a coincidence, so she is lulled into a false sense of security, even by such a small detail. Even with this false sense of security, Connie has enough sense of self-preservation to stay in the doorway of her house rather than going down to the driveway to meet the man and his friend. He refers to Connie by name, and repeats the same questions over and over, getting a little bit closer every time she avoids answering his questions directly. His knowledge of her personal life and her family’s whereabouts unnerves her, and he finds it funny as he rattles off more than a few facts about her that he should not know just by a casual acquaintance. Connie expresses her dismay as she asks this “stranger” questions about how he could know these things, and even by asking how old he is and catching him in the lie. This man gets increasingly upset as Connie refuses to go anywhere with him, and begins to make threats against her family. These threats would mean nothing to her if she did not care about her family, but it is clear that she does care about them as the threats slowly sinkintoo her mind. She tells him he is crazy, and he responds, saying “Yes, I’m your lover. You don’t know what that is, but you will.” Connie makes it clear that she is unwilling to go anywhere with him, whithis ch increases the severity of the threats against her family.
When his friend says “You want me to pull out the phone?” Connie is sure that something is very wrong. Again and again, she tells these men that she will call the police and that they’ll be arrested, but this only seems to amuse them. Their words show confidence and experience. They have done this before, and Connie realizes to her horror that they mean what they are saying just as she picks up the phone, so she screams. It occurs to her that nothing she says will make a difference, and her scream tells the men that she knows what is at stake. After she finally stops screaming, she feels “hollow with what had been fear, but [is] now just an emptiness” because she knows what is coming. The man compares her “daddy’s house” to a cardboard box (find the quote) to reinforce his power over Connie. Through his continued threats against her family, “Arnold Friend” gains complete control over Connie and she leaves with him, just to save her family from what would otherwise be certain death. The words that are used show careful consideration and heighten the anxiety of both Connie and the audience as they read.
Joyce Carol Oates begins her story in a careless mood, ut brings the story to a close in an anxious and fearful mood. Throughout the story, the mood changes are subtle, but are effective; the mood of her readers follows Connie’s mood. The mood begins to change when
Connie goes inside from resting in the yard after her shower. She just has a strange feeling that she is unable to place. The way she feels begins to be understood as the men pull up to the house and begin talking to Connie. Connie grows more and more concerned for her safety as Arnold comes closer and closer to the door, and just as the climax occurs, the reader’s heartbeat is going wild with anticipation. There is a brief moment of clarity for Connie when “she was hollow with what had been fear but was now just an emptiness.” She complies with what Arnold wants, and as the reader anticipates the horrible end Connie will face, heartbeats slow, and sadness is left in place of anxiety. “She thought, I’m not going to see my mother again. She thought I’m not going to sleep in my bed again.” There is a startling realization that the world is a frightening place, and this story is a violent reminder of the horrors that are waiting for people, especially naïve women, outside the safety bubble that we create growing up.
“Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been” is a roller coaster of emotions, a careful analysis of how a stalker could present themselves, and a sharp reminder not to focus so much on one’s physical appearance. The story is a representation of the innocence of childhood and what could be waiting just around the corner if you aren’t looking ahead, as well as an example of the importance of family and protecting those you love. Joyce Carol Oates used imagery, diction, and mood to describe Connie’s situation to her readers.