Where Are You Going
In Joyce Carol Oates’ “‘Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? ’ and Smooth Talk: Short Story into Film,” Oates writes that Connie “An innocent young girl is seduced by way of her own vanity” and that “she confuses death for erotic romance” (419). Oates clearly defines her point when Connie first discovers Arnold Friend at the drive in diner. She catches Friend staring at her with a big smile and Connie “slit her eyes at him and turned away, but she couldn’t help looking back” (409).
The fact that Connie “slits” her eyes and “couldn’t help looking back” (409) shows that she is interested, but does not want to put her true feelings on display. Her more erotic interest comes in the form of his style and physical appearance. Oates illustrates this by using diction and imagery; “she liked the way he dressed” and Connie noticing “the small hard muscles of his arms and shoulders” (419) when Friend First appears at her house. Unlike Connie, the reader sees Arnold Friend in all of his depravity, we see him as the predator.
He displays this at the drive in by “ waving his finger and laughing” and saying “Gonna get you baby” (409). Oates again uses carefully thought out word choice to prognosticate that we could see Friend later in the story to possibly confront Connie in a derogatory way. In this way, we can see that Connie is both seduced by way of her own vanity” and that “she confuses death for erotic romance” (419). Oates demonstrates how Connie’s life can be seen in two different lights or two sides, “everything about her had two sides to it, one for home and one for anywhere that was not home” (408).
Her life at home was unusual, Connie’s mother is jealous of her beauty and always scalding her about everything. Though Connie’s mother once encompassed external beauty, her looks had dissipated over time.. Her mother finds anyway possible to negatively comment about her, always using her older sister June as an example of how she should live her life. June becomes Connie’s mothers assault weapon because she is not a threat, as described by Oates, June is “twenty four and still lives at home” and “so plain and chunky” (407).
This fed Connie’s confidence because she “thought her mother preferred her to June because she was prettier” (409). Connie led a pessimistic life with an attitude, she had no one there whom she felt the need to impress. When she was anywhere else besides her house, everything was different, her clothes, her walk, and even her laugh. “ she wore a pullover that looked one way at home and another way when she was away from home” (408). It was all about impressing, showing off, and being someone she wanted to be, but wasn’t.
When Connie was out the house, most likely at the mall or drive in diner, her life turned into a movie, where all reality was turned into a dream. This is evident when she “goes down an alley a mile or so away” (409) with a boy named Eddie and later remembers the experience as “sweet and gentle, the way it was promised in movies and songs” (410). Arnold Friend sees right through Connie, for who she really is, a pretty, young, and insecure girl. Connie gets all the attention that she craves, but the moment Friend takes off his glasses, she notices that he is much older than was previously thought.
Panic starts to set in when Friend and Ellie won’t leave her house. Friend knows about all her family and friends and where they all are. He starts to come on stronger with every word as he states “I’m your lover. You don’t know it now, but you will” and later “I’m always nice at first, the first time. ”(414). This is implying that everything is alright now or “the first time” (414) but is suggesting something bad will happen later. At this moment Connie looses all of her cockiness and vanity and gets a reality check, she is no longer living in a dream, her stress becomes real.
She notices everything around her as if she’s never seen it before, as illustrated by Oates “The kitchen looked like a place she had never seen before, some room she had run inside but which wasn’t good enough” (415). Friend never looses his composure, he is calm, almost sadistic, he promises her he will not enter the house as long as she doesn’t pick up the phone. Finally, Friend threatens Connie’s family, but nothing will happen, so long as Connie goes with him. Connie realizes when Friend says “The place you came from ain’t there anymore, and where you in mind to go is canceled out. (417) she will not be coming back. All of her pervious vanities are stripped as she makes a generous sacrifice to save the lives of her family. Oates describes distillation; “Connie is shallow, vain, silly, and hopeful-but capable nonetheless of an unexpected gesture of heroism” (419). Connie surprises us all with her heroism, she ends her life deep and pure, not shallow and vane as once conceived. Even after her whole world comes crashing down with all of Connie’s insecurities showing, she makes a choice that was thought implausible.