Where Are You Going, Whre Have You Been? Essay

True Meaning “Everything about her had two sides to it, one for home and one for anywhere that was not home”(1369), this character, Connie, in “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? ” by Joyce Carol Oates, is depicted as a self-centered, condescending, insecure fifteen year old girl growing into a woman. Connie comes off as a troubled young girl who consistently uses her sexuality for attention but at the same time is afraid of intimacy.

This is said be due to her fractured relationships with her family; her frequent excursions with older boys that appeared to not have any interest after the first encounter with them. The impatience she had for adulthood along with her bad decision making causes Connie to face “an old fiend”. What Connie fails to see is that she is all around evil and doesn’t even know it until the signs are staring her in the face. There were several clues in this story that portrayed evil in its own sense.

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Throughout the story Connie’s every waking moment was surrounded by music, mainly rock and roll. Oates was influenced to write this story by a Bob Dylan song “It’s all over now, baby blue” (1367). Bob Dylan was a rock and roll star who used music to express young love, the stresses of adolescence and automobiles, all of which American teenagers during that time were focusing on. Rock and roll was popular back in the 60’s and the majority of teenagers were listening to the “music that made everything so good” (1369).

My mom had told me that back in those times, parents disliked their children listening to rock and roll because of the hidden “satanic” messages that apparently could be heard if you played the record backwards. But what teenager listens to their parents at such an influencing age? Connie stumbles upon evil when she had gone out with her friend to the drive-in restaurant. Oates wrote how Connie met up with Eddie at the restaurant and spent hours with this young boy doing things she had no business doing.

While she had been hanging out with Eddie, an attractive Bob Dylan look alike said to her “Gonna get you, baby” (1369; I believe she chose to overlook this as nothing being that she knew that she was wrong or she was clueless as most teenagers are at this age. This was a sign to let her know she better slow it down or “it” was all going to catch up to her sooner or later. Oates brings Arnold into play as to symbolize pop culture and evil. As the story progressed more allusions of evil are revealed when Arnold Friend unexpectedly shows up at Connie’s ouse. Everything about Arnold is completely backwards; from his rattletrap, to the way he walked, talked, to his physical appearance. Arnold’s bright gold jalopy,”that caught the sun opaquely” (1371), and the music that was playing epitomized Satan; in The Bible, Lucifer was the angel of light and music before he fell to sin and became Satan. This is what I meant that evil has two sides; although Satan is evil he knows how to appear to be good; however, he cannot portray good for very long because it is an un-natural behavior for him.

The physical appearance of Arnold Friend, his “shaggy, shabby black hair that look crazy as a wig,” (1371) his nose “long and hawk-like,” (1372) and his eyes that “were like chips of broken glass” (1373) all indicate that he was a fiendish demon. “His whole face was a mask she thought wildly, tanned down onto his throat but then running out as if he had plastered make-up on his face but had forgotten about his throat” (1376). This implies that Arnold was not at all human, and he used the mask to cover up his identity from Connie.

Also, his boots “must have been stuffed with something so that he would seem taller” (1377). This part of the story was also inspired by the serial Killer Charles Schmid (1370), who murdered three females back in 1966. Charles Schmid used these same physical characteristics to lure females into his car. He was also short and stuffed his boots with newspaper or tin cans to appear taller, as does Arnold in this story. Arnold stood “in a strange way, leaning back against the car as if he were balancing himself’, this is also suggested that he had hoofs like that of Satan.

In response to Connie’s question, “Whats all that stuff painted on your car? ”(1372) Arnold tells her his name is painted on the car “ARNOLD FRIEND”, this is was quite complex, Arnold Friend, is an awkward name to have first of all; However, there was a significant meaning to it in relation to something evil. As I assessed the reading and stumbled upon a few responses from students who have read this story before, a majority of them came up with “an old fiend” or “an old friend”, this seemed to be a sensible translation in that the devil was the first person to befriend man in the Garden of Eden.

Same thing Arnold is trying to do here “I’m Arnold Friend and that’s my real name and I’m gonna be your friend” (1372). Oates points out the hidden evilness that continues on when Arnold tells Connie that the numbers “33, 19, 17” are a secret code, but a secret code to what exactly? This insinuated a specific passage in The Bible, 33rd book backwards of the Old Testament, Judges 19:17 “And when he had lifted up his eyes, he saw a wayfaring man in the street of the city: and the old man said, Whither goest thou? and whence comest thou? ” The ending of the passage translates to “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? the title of this short story. The number also could possibly interpret the sexual symbol “69” in relation to the sexual deviances of Arnold Friend and Charles Schmid, who use sexual images to lure women into their lies. Along with the many phrases that were written on Arnolds car was “MAN THE FLYING SAUCERS…an expression kids had used the year before” (1373) which is meant to be of something out of the norm “she looked at for a while as if the words meant something to her that she did not know yet” (1373). At this point Connie senses something is odd with these “boys”.

Ellie Oscar is to distract Connie from noticing Arnolds scheming words because Arnold knows that Connie is fascinated with music and makes it clear “Hey, Ellie’s got a radio, see” (1371), he knows music relaxes her. Arnold thinks if Connie is relaxed she will believe every word he says. Ellie also comes off as some rock star look alike with his popped collar shirt, just like how Charles Schmid was trying to make his lips look like that of Elvis Presley. Arnold and Ellie tried to portray as Connie’s fantasies of older “boys”, loud rock and roll music and wild cars.

A few comments from other students is that Ellie could have also portrayed to be “Godlike” due to the fact that at one point he tried to help Connie “You want that telephone pulled out? ”, this could mean that where there evil there is also good. Everything that Arnold Friend does in this story seemed forced, particularly the way he talked, both in tone and style of speaking, “…He said in a rapid meaningless tone of voice, as if he were running through all the expression he’d learned but was no longer sure which one of them was in style, then rushing on to new ones, making them up with his eyes closed” (1378).

Sounding like the DJ on the radio was a way of making Connie listen to him because as I said before, back then parents did not want their children listening to that sort of music. Arnold was the radio, he was the music, he represented all the wrong that Connie was doing in her life; everything she adored, fantasized and day dreamed about daily was all Arnold Friend. Unfortunately she is faced with the ruthless realities of adulthood, which offesr no justice to her fantasies.

Connie’s situation is best described in Bob Dylan’s song “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue,” which is what inspired Oates in this story: “Leave your stepping stones behind, something calls for you Forget the dead you’ve left, they will not follow you The vagabond who’s rapping at your door Is standing in the clothes that you once wore Strike another match, go start a new And it’s all over now, Baby Blue”, In the conclusion of this story is that we know what Connie has gone through up until her challenge with Arnold Friend.

We establish that evil comes in all different shapes and sizes; and even sounds such as music in this case. We see the “stepping stones” she comes across on the road to adulthood. Do we know where she is going? No, we don’t know where she going or where her fate lies but that is the mystery of this remarkable story. Works Cited Oates, Joyce Carol. “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? ” Making Literature Matter: An Anthology for Readers and Writers, Ed. John Schilb and John Clifford. 4th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2009. 1367-1380. Print


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