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

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Identity is who you are, how people know you; it determines the group you belong in. Without identity, we would all be the same and it would be a pretty boring world. Dee in “Everyday Use” and Connie in “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” both face the struggle of trying to find their identity with escapism from their families, their image in society, and the new influences that enter their lives.
Your image in society is a substantial part of your identity. Connie is constantly worried about her image and what other people think of her. Oates gives us evidence of this in the first paragraph of the story, “Her name was Connie. She was fifteen and she had a quick nervous giggling habit of craning her neck to glance into mirrors, or checking other people’s faces to make sure her own was all right” (Oates 107). Connie thought her image was everything she was so focused on how she looked all the time she was not even sure who she really was. Image is not everything, beauty fades but personality and morals can go a long way in life. The fact that she was always checking herself and her appearance shows how insecure she was. Her lack of morals and something to stand for made her vulnerable to Arnold Friend and his manipulating words, all he had to do was make her feel beautiful. Dee in “Everyday Use” also tries to fit in with society and change her image as to what society thinks it should be. During the time period of which this story was set slaves were trying to get in touch with their heritage. They started practicing a lot of things that Africans did, such as their clothes, religion, names, etc. Dee was not to be left out in this new trend in society, so she started practicing some of these things too. She changed her appea...


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...in the story that he makes her change her name but from context clues and the situation we can assume they made this choice together since they both have African names. Dee changes herself to fit in with him and his culture or what he would for his culture to be.
The two girls both made conscious and unconscious decisions throughout their lives to try to find their identity with escapism from their families, their image they portrayed in society, and the new influences they allowed to enter their lives. These decisions ultimately determined their identity for them.




Works Cited

Oates, Joyce Carol. “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” Literature and Ourselves sixth edition. Vivian Garcia, 2009. Pearson education. 106- 120. Print.
Walker, Alice. “Everyday Use” Literature and Ourselves sixth edition. Vivian Garcia, 2009. Pearson education. 912-920. Print.



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