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Essay about Where Are You Going?

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In the short story “Where Are You Going? Where Have You Been?”, by Joyce Carol Oates, the use of the symbolism of Connie’s clothes, her fascination with her beauty, Arnold Friend’s car and Arnold Friend himself help to understand the story’s theme of evil and manipulation. The story, peppered with underlying tones of evil, finds Oates writing about 15-year-old Connie, the protagonist of the story, a pretty girl who is a little too into her own attractiveness, which eventually gets her into trouble with a man named Arnold Friend. The story is liberally doused with symbolism, from the way Connie dresses to the shoes on Arnold Friend’s feet. In “Where Are You Going? Where Have You Been?” the reader can pick up on some of the symbols very easily, while others need deeper thought. The subtle hints of symbolism throughout the story create a riveting tale that draws the reader in. Connie finally succumbs to Arnold Friend at the end of the story, it then becomes obvious that he represents the devil and the symbolism of her clothing and Arnold’s car all tie together to create a better understanding of the story.
Connie’s clothes and infatuation with her own beauty symbolize her lack of maturity or knowing her true self, which in the end enables her to be manipulated by Arnold Friend. Connie was enamored with her own beauty; in the beginning of the story Oates states that Connie “knew
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she was pretty and that was everything” (225). This captivation with herself along with the constant looking in the mirrors and thinking her mother was only pestering her all the time because her mother’s own good looks were long gone by now (225) shows a sign of immaturity because she believes everything revolves around whether or not someo...


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...; he has evil intentions and evil behind every aspect of his being.
Oates’ use of the way Arnold looks and acts so similar to the devil, her use of the words on the car meaning something foreign and her subtle symbolism with Connie’s attire make the story’s theme of evil and manipulation stand out so much more. Connie’s clothing symbolizing
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the lack of knowing her true self lets Arnold Friend overpower her in the end. The words and letters on Arnold’s car symbolize warnings that Connie should have picked up on. Because Arnold symbolizes the devil, the evil inside of him gives him advantages to manipulate Connie into leaving her house, despite everything inside of Connie screaming at her not to go. The symbolisms in these objects or people are all deeply rooted to the theme of this short story, “Where Are You Going? Where Have You Been?”.



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