Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?

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Analysis of "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been" by Joyce Carol Oates

Set and published in the 1960s, a period of moral controversy, "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been" by Joyce Carol Oates is a tale of a young lady enslaved by a man and is a reflection of the rape and homicide cases in society today. The story illustrates the world of teenage that is steered by sex, in which females get sacrificed to males' control and aggression.

Connie's Encounter with Arnold and Ellie

Connie, a young woman, who lives with her sister, her emotionally unavailable father and her mother believes that beauty is the most critical thing and loves looking at herself in the mirror, a habit that her mother finds irritating. She meets Arnold's friend, a boy with a convertible and dark hair one evening at a parking lot of a shopping plaza where she and her friends like to meet and take her out the following morning after her parents and her sister leaves. Connie then realizes that there is something strange about Arnold and his friend Ellie Oscar who accompanied them for the ride (Oates, 1993). The two men were older than they looked and Arnold Friend was not as tall as he appeared neither was his hair dark. He wore makeup, a wig, and scuffed boots to look taller than he was. On making these observations, Connie in shock and fear kicked the two strangers out. Arnold then starts to threaten her and forces her to go with him. He reveals to her the sexual intentions that he was and scares her by giving her details of her parents' location. Connie rushes to the house out of fear as Arnold Friend makes threats of hurting her family if she dares to make a call. After failed attempts to use the phone and collapsing, she gives in to Arnold's friend demand and leaves with him (Kowal, 2018).

The Role of Women in Society and Connie's Relationships

The subject of masculine control and aggression and the place of women in society has been portrayed in by Joyce Carol Oates in her story "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been" through the life of 15-year-old Connie that is dependent on men. Her relationship with the women in her life is inferior. She gives more importance to men than to women. She leaves Becky, her closest friend instantly when a boy by the name Eddie asks her to join him for dinner. She loves to spend her evenings in a shopping plaza where she flirts with the boys she meets and depends on a friend's father to drive her to the square. She detests her June, her sister and frequently fights with her mother. The relationship between women is not a healthy one as Connie's aunts are continually arguing over the phone.

Connie's Dysfunctional Family

Connie's family is imperfect and flawed. Her father is emotionally and mentally distant and pays little attention to her or her life. He shows no interest in his wife which stirs up intense sexual jealousy and makes her unavailable for her daughters. Connie feels miserable to the point that she wishes for death and therefore seeks attention and satisfaction from boys such as Arnold's friend who is dangerous and evil.

The Perception of Women and Female Sexuality

Joyce Carol Oates talks about inequality and male control over a woman's sexuality by the use of a female character, Connie, who has just reached the age of sexual maturity. Connie believes that her good looks are everything and therefore she spends time in areas where she can quickly get noticed by older boys. According to Oates, a woman's self-identity is shaped by society as portrayed through the character Connie who sees herself as both independent and conventional. Oates addresses the manner in which women are perceived through the role of Arnold friend who views Connie as nothing more than a sex object and therefore stalks her and forces her to go with him against her will (Oates, 1993).

Consequences of Female Submission to Male Aggression

Connie gives in to Arnold's friend demands to leave with him in the hope of saving her family. This shows how women give up their identity and freedom to masculine aggression. It also shows the social injustices that women go through in today's society. Connie draws her confidence from her looks. She spends time in front of the mirror looking at herself, and her top priority is how she looks. She first fixes her hair when she hears a car in her driveway instead of first thinking of her safety. This obsession with beauty if a reflection of how the society perceives women and what it expects of a woman. A woman's worth is tied to her looks, and so it is quite natural for a teenage girl like Connie first to ensure that she looks presentable and pretty when a stranger arrives at her driveway. Connie loves the attention she gets from an older man, and this puts her in danger (Kowal, 2018).

The Issue of Rape and Male Dominance

The subject of rape and male dominance is also addressed by Joyce Carol Oates in her work "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been" during the part in the story when Connie tries to use the phone to call for help but ends up collapsing. The use of a language that is sexual implies that Arnold raped Connie. It also reflects the rape culture in today's society where women are forced into having sex without their consent.


Kowal, M. (2018). Where Are You Going? Where Have You Been? The Elective Carnegie Community Engagement Classification: Constructing a Successful Application for First-Time and Re-Classification Applicants, 117.

Oates, J. C. (1993). Where are You Going, Where Have You Been?: Selected Early Stories. Ontario Review Press.

December 12, 2023




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