Joyce Carol Oates Show the Conflict of Fantasy and Reality

In cases, what someone sees something as can be totally opposite of what it really is. People create images in their heads of what they think is the right vision of something. Fantasy versus reality perceptions of such is distinguished in the short story, “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” by Joyce Carol Oates. In the story, the apparent theme is fantasy versus reality. Connie, a teenager, tries to create an adult image of herself to “get boys,” and is completely unaware of the reality of the community she lives in.

Without realizing it, she is living in her own fantasy world but is put into a terrifying reality when she comes across Arnold Friend. Joyce Carol Oates uses a large amount of symbolism to display the conflict of fantasy and reality that is in existence in the story.

In the short story, Connie is depicted as a 15 year old girl who is trying to see herself as a woman.

She is self conscious with her looks, but also is aware that she can attract boys if she dresses up a certain way. In the story, she tries to find a new side of herself, and tries to explore new areas. She is oblivious to such, but Connie is stuck in her own fantasy world that she is convinced is reality. In her “world”, her looks help her see herself as a woman, and she has a sense of control because she can attract boys. Connie builds up her fantasy world and her attitude with the music around her, and in her perspective, music describes her life in a sense.

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The warmth and happiness she sees in her music is not even close to the real world and what surrounds her.

In “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been,” Arnold Friend is a symbol of reality and it’s dark side. Oates exudes Arnold Friend is the conflicting side to the fantasy world Connie lives in. Arnold is well aware that he can ruin Connie, and nothing stops him from doing such. He is depicted as a predator and is dead set on attracting Connie. Arnold’s looks and acts makes his creepy persona a lot more apparent. The author states that Arnold Friend’s hair is “shaggy, shabby black hair…”(3) His hair is complete opposite of Connie’s blonde hair which is a symbol of her innocence. The two opposite hair colors is one symbol of fantasy and reality because of the blonde hair symbolizing innocence while Arnold Friend’s dark hair symbolizes reality and the darkness of it. Another symbol is Arnold’s car. The car is a symbol of the fantasy and reality found in Arnold. The paint represents his disguise to attract Connie, while the age of the car represents how he is way older than the teen girl. On the front fender of his car, it says, “Man the Flying Saucers” which was “an expression kids had used the year before but didn’t use this year”(5). This symbolizes how Arnold tried to act younger even though in all actuality he was a lot older. Connie’s fantasy world starts to fade when she realizes that Arnold Friend is much older than her and she has been put in a situation she would never imagine herself in.

When Arnold comes to Connie’s house she is elated, but also is concerned with her appearance.

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Joyce Carol Oates Show the Conflict of Fantasy and Reality. (2022, Feb 11). Retrieved from

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