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Reality is Like A Dream in Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been by Joyce Carol Oates

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Reality is Like A Dream in Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been by Joyce Carol Oates



Joyce Carol Oates intrigues readers in her fictional piece “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been” by examining the life of a fifteen year old girl. She is beautiful, and her name is Connie. Oates lets the reader know that “everything about her [Connie] had two sides to it, one for home, and one for anywhere but home (27). When Connie goes out, she acts and dresses more mature than she probably should. However, when she is at home, she spends the majority of her time absorbed with daydreams “about the boys she met”(28). This daydreaming behavior is observable to the reader throughout the story. From theories about dreams, theories about subconscious thought, and the clues that Oates provides, the reader is lead to believe that Connie’s experience with Arnold Friend is a nightmare used to awaken her to the consequences that her behavior could result in.
Have you ever experienced a dream or a nightmare that seemed like reality? Most people in the world today would say that they have. Although this realistic dream experience does not occur often, when it does, clear distinctions are hard to make between the dream and reality. Theories exist that explain dreams as our subconscious
thoughts delving into our minds to make us reflect upon feelings or experiences that we neglect in life when awake. Connie often flirts with her feelings about sexual encounters. In fact, Larry Rubin believes that “Connie’s intense desire for a sexual experience runs head long into her innate fear of having such an experience” (58). Connie’s tendency to eventually dismiss these fears forces the reader to make the connection between her experience wit...


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...tomy between reality and dreams quite well throughout her piece. She provides the reader with two ways to experience the story: either as reality or as reality that turns into a nightmare. This dichotomy that Oates creates “allows the reader to escape this story, and allows this story to end” (Hurley 374). The end of the story shows Connie entering the new world of experience, and Oates wants the reader to sense her fear. Oates intricately provides the reader with clues that help see why Connie’s experience with Arnold is just a nightmare. She also allows the reader to see how this nightmare is meant to scare Connie into making the realization that her decisions have consequences. I hope that anyone reading this learns from Connie that not everything we do is good for us, and we have to think about the consequences of our actions, whether good or bad, before we act.


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