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Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?, by Joyce Carol Oates Essay

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Woven into the twisted short story by Joyce Carol Oates “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” stands a figure of demonic proportions; a man whose mere presence develops into an ominous fear, bringing with him a thickness of anxiety and an eerie sense of premature death. While her parents are away on a Sunday afternoon, Connie is approached by a strange man named Arnold Friend who is determined to seduce her and steal her away. Rather than use force, Arnold Friend insinuates his way into Connie’s mind and subdues her vulnerable and emerging sexuality. In the end, Oates indicates that he leads her to her death, whether spiritual or physical, and that his love is empty, but she is powerless against him. Within this novella lies a battle of wits between a young girl and a demonic man who is the metaphorical illusion of a fate – the fate of isolation and death.
The sense of dread is explored through the extensively symbolic use of a third person, past tense narration. The omniscient style of writing reflects irrevocable doom and that Connie, the protagonist, faces her inevitable fate. This destiny is the launch point from which Oates begins to unravel her insidious tale of a young girl who is too naïve to fully comprehend the dangers that lurk within this world.
Connie is revealed to be immature and vain from the beginning. She has a “quick nervous giggling habit” of craning her neck to glance into mirrors and checking other people's faces to see if her own face is fine (Oates 584). She is illustrated as having a two-sided personality. She smirks and laughs “a cynical and drawling laugh” at home, but she is high-pitched and nervous everywhere else, and speaks in a “high, breathless, amused voice” that has people doubt her sinc...


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Korb, Rena. "An overview of “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?”."Short Stories
for Students. Detroit: Gale, 2002. Literature Resource Center. Web. 3 Nov. 2013.
Urbanski, Marie Mitchell Olesen. "Existential Allegory: Joyce Carol Oates 'Where Are You
Going, Where Have You Been?'." Studies in Short Fiction (Spring 1978): 200-203. Rpt.
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Research, 1979. Literature Resource Center. Web. 3 Nov. 2013.
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