“Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” by Joyce Carol Oates portrays the story of a fifteen-year-old girl named Connie who leads a rather miserable life. Between her nitpicky mother and passive father, Connie has no choice but to seek other sources of attention. She spends a lot of time with friends and immaculately enhances her appearance when she goes on dates. Eventually, Connie is made to choose between two fires when a stalker named Arnold Friend shows up one day while she’s home alone and threatens to kill her family if she doesn’t agree to go for a ride with him.
It is implied that Connie will be raped and killed if she decides to go for a ride with Arnold. She chooses to sacrifice herself. Though it is true that anyone, regardless of upbringing, can become a victim of a heinous crime, it is Connie’s lack of support and nurturing that ultimately leads her to this quandary.
Connie’s mother has made some grave mistakes in bringing up her daughter. By persistently placing June, Connie’s plain, helpless 24-year-old sister on a pedestal and coercing Connie to follow in her sister’s footsteps, she has failed to provide Connie with the praise she needs. It is even noted that, generally, the only instance in which Connie’s mother doesn’t ridicule her is when she spends time with friends in town, much like June does: There was one good thing: June went places with girl friends of hers, girls who were just as plain and steady as she, and so when Connie wanted to do that her mother had no objections.
The father of Connie’s best girlfriend drove the girls the three miles to town and left them at a shopping plaza so they could walk through the stores or go to a movie, and when he came to pick them up again at eleven he never bothered to ask what they had done. (1).
Connie’s mother should not have equivalent expectations for her daughters as Connie’s behavior is typical of a teenager and she is nearly ten years younger than June. By maintaining a critical viewpoint of her younger daughter, Connie’s mother has led Connie to resent her and has failed to teach her how to be confident in herself as well as how to be safe and defend herself. This improper parenting is what persuades Connie to stay at home while the rest of her family goes to a barbecue, and what inadvertently lands her in a very unfortunate predicament.
There’s a danger in favoring one child over another and failing to supply a child with the nurturing and encouragement she needs. It is also imperative to educate adolescents on the risks of staying home alone and going out with friends, especially at night, without supervision.
Connie’s mother’s negligence is what persuades a naïve Connie to often cross a highway with her friends and frequent a fast food restaurant at which older kids linger. The girls’ objective in going to this joint is to meet guys. It is at the restaurant that, one night, while on a date, Connie makes eye contact with Arnold Friend, the predator who would soon come to her house: “It was a boy with shaggy black hair, in a convertible jalopy painted gold. He stared at her and then his lips widened into a grin. Connie slit her eyes at him and turned away, but she couldn’t help glancing back, and there he was, still watching her. He wagged a finger and laughed and said, ‘Gonna get you, baby,’ and Connie turned away again without Eddie noticing anything” (1-2). One Sunday, when Connie’s parents and sister are about to head to an aunt’s barbecue, Connie makes it clear that she doesn’t want to go. Instead of informing her of what could happen if she stays home by herself, Connie is curtly told by her mother to, “Stay home alone then,” (2).
She talks “at” Connie instead of talking “with” her, which is indicative of her disapprobation. Not only is Connie’s mother to blame for leading Connie in the wrong direction: her father doesn’t contribute positively to her upbringing either. Though Connie’s mother and father are married, their situation is much like that of a family whose father isn’t in the picture in that Connie’s father doesn’t actively participate in raising her. It is stated thatt, “Their father was away at work most of the time and when he came home he wanted supper and he read the newspaper at supper and after supper, he went to bed. He didn’t bother talking much to them…” (Page 1 of 9 PDF). Though Connie’s father is often busy with work, his occupation is no excuse for failing to maintain a relationship with his family.
Sadly, Connie’s detachment from her family and inadequate support system is what leads her to seek attention from boys and what causes her to make potentially dangerous decisions. The risk of staying home alone is illustrated when Arnold Friend comes over and coerces her to choose between two evils. If her parents had simply shown appreciation for her and warned her of the consequences of remaining home by oneself, she likely would have joined the barbecue instead and wouldn’t have had to make the sacrifice of giving herself to Arnold to save her family.