“Where are you Going, Where Have You Been?”

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Joyce Carol Oates and "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?"

Joyce Carol Oates wrote the thrilling short story "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" in 1966. The author explains the plight of the obstinate and disobedient adolescent girl who has been acting irresponsibly on the question of sharing time with suspicious persons, for which she ultimately paid. Nonetheless, there is some gothicness, which subtly fills the mood when reading the novel, in addition to instructive meaning.

Connie's Obsession and Provocative Attitude towards Men

Connie, the main character, lives with her parents but is obsessed with risk. When her entire family had fled the home, the girl ran into one of her adult male friends near the house. Connie’s provocative attitude towards men attracts danger she does not expect, and this danger eventually symbolizes the irony of her lifestyle, in terms of her general attitude towards men and her relationship with her family. This paper will conduct an in-depth analysis of the psychological issue of Connie’s behavior and of the reasons for it.

The Psychological Issue of Teenagers' Desire to Seem Older

The main psychological issue of this story is teenagers’ wish to seem older that they are, to obtain attention from the opposite sex. As a popular girl among boys, Connie made a lot of efforts to look fabulous, in order to seem an experienced mature woman that is grown enough to go on dates and have close relationships. This is an issue that was faced in every family with children that were adolescents someday. To girls, their clothes, hairstyle, and behavior, which captures attention are of great importance.

Connie's Childish Nature and Conflicting Desires

However, Nevertheless, Connie was a child anyway. The end of the story proved the point. She was a little girl that used to listen to love songs and put the pictures of her favorite pop music stars on the walls in her room. There is some instruction for a teen girl that cannot determine when one has deep feelings for men and when he wants to have some fun along with intimacy. Any actions that led to sexual abuse rapidly took Connie into adulthood and, undoubtedly, "fearless" teen girl would get an idea of her actions being wrong and, thus, change her attitude to parents, their restrictions and alter her behavior in general. She must have changed her attitude towards men as well and be more attentive concerning getting attention from men that are much older, since her body is grown, but her psyche is still childish. It might have happened due to The Law of Attraction (De Bruin, 1).

The Threat from Arnold and his Disturbing Behavior

Additionally, there was a negative friend that implied a great threat towards Connie. He was crazy about the woman and it broke any boundaries of morality. Bright appearance and an appropriate behavior, of course, provoked a corresponding reaction in the man. Nonetheless, Arnold’s behavior was considered rude and cruel. The man came to the place where she lived and made efforts to get her with him. It obviously aimed at sexual abuse since it was kind of easy for him. He had control over her, and he was physically stronger. Making one do what he or she does not want to do implies coercion. There were no touches, but the girl was obeying him.

The Fear and Vulnerability of Connie

Additionally, Arnold knew everything about her: about herself, her family, about where her family members were at that moment, and even about Connie’s neighbors. In fact, when someone is aware of everything about you and you never met him or her before. Connie had a typical for a teenager’s goal to get the freedom from her mother’s control, but even in that situation, she was really afraid of Arnold. The feeling of being frightened followed Connie, and it caused the terrifying mix of feelings.

The Psychologic Phenomenon of Teenage Maximalism

Teenagers’ psyche is too weak to endure such pressure from other people. Calling Connie “a lover” implied that the man wanted to have sexual relations with her. Initially, it was presented that the girl craving for an absolute independence from her parents, as well as she was exhausted of her sister being presented as a perfect example to follow. She wanted to try many things for the first time (Siegel and Shaughnessy, 1). Taking her behavior into consideration and changing it occurred right at the moment when realizing her being in danger that there was no way to make that man leave. So, Arnold seemed a maniac, since he was an adult disturbing a teen girl. The comparison to a maniac was not out of place, even though he looked too good to be a mentally sick person.

The Impact of Youthful Maximalism

Teenage maximalism is a pretty common state for teenagers. As it was mentioned before, teens strive for going through separation from parents, and if they are females, they experience the feeling of being liked by personalities of the opposite sex. Connie was the same. Due to the young age and because of the presence of youth maximalism, the girl strived for doing all forbidden things. The mother wanted everything best for her, as well as graduate the school and to become focused on her education and entering the university. In general, Connie was a tough child, worried only about the way she looked and whether she was attractive.

The Consequences of Disobedience and Ignoring Parents

Youthful maximalism is an age phenomenon that determines the formation of personality in the adolescent and youthful period of a person’s life. It is characterized by a non-standard perception of the surrounding reality and a critical attitude towards oneself. At the age of 13 to 15 years, a teenager begins to realize herself as a separate person. There is a reorganization of the teen’s consciousness because the demands on her behavior increase. Such changes can trigger a protest from a small person who is characterized by problems in school and conflicts with peers. After 15 years, girls begin to experience the first attraction during puberty. Careful mothers want to save their daughters from disappointment or unrequited love. Naturally, a teenager would resist (Duvall, 1).

The Story as a Warning and the Importance of Communication with Teenagers

"Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" narrates about what can occur if a teenager does not listen to her parents and misbehaves. That was the issue of a girl's innocence and her new experience, the beginning of a new chapter life after the end of childhood, and the end of parental protection. In my opinion, should read this story so they can become aware of the possible consequences of trying such a life. The story itself develops smoothly, and it is clearly understandable when the culmination would occur. Connie is a victim and Arnold is an attacker, so that is a perfect situation that can lead to trouble.

How to Deal with Tough Teenagers

- To establish mutual understanding with them. It is necessary to take the initiative, but not to put pressure on a teenager. Sincere and open communication can improve mutual understanding, and accordingly, a teen would stop treating parents as "enemies" that want to harm them. As for girls, mothers should speak frankly with their daughters about all the topics that interest teenagers and not aggressively react to it. Also, adolescents are very vulnerable, so it is necessary to maintain the confidence of adolescents in themselves and in their abilities. In this case, there will be full trust and mutual understanding.

Works Cited

De Bruin Marc. The Law of the Attraction. GBonkers.

Duvall, E. M. Family Dilemmas with Teen-Agers. The Family Life Coordinator, vol. 14(2), Apr., 1965, pp. 35-38.

Siegel, J. and Shaughnessy, M. F. There’s a First Time for Everything: Understanding Adolescence. Libra Publishers, Inc., 1995.

January 13, 2023
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