M K Cantrell
6 November 2013
Connie’s Coming of Age
In her famous short story, “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been,” Joyce Carol Oates shows the transition from childhood to adulthood through her character Connie. Each person experiences this transition in their own way and time. For some it is leaving home for the first time to go to college, for others it might be having to step up to a leadership position. No matter what, this transition affects everyone; it just happens to everyone differently. Oates describes Connie's unfortunate coming of age in a much more violent and unexpected way than the typical coming of age story for a fifteen year old girl.
Connie has the need to be viewed as older and as more mature than she really is, all the while still displaying childlike behavior. She shows this childlike behavior by “craning her neck to glance in mirrors [and] checking other people’s faces to make sure her own was all right” (Oates 323). This shows that Connie is very insecure and needs other people’s approval. Although on one side she is very childish, on the other side she has a strong desire to be treated like an adult. This longing for adulthood is part of her coming of age, and is demonstrated by her going out to “bright-lit, fly-infested restaurant[s]” and meeting boys, staying out with those boys for three hours at a time, and lying to her parents about where she has been and who she has been with (Oates 325, 326). “Everything about her ha[s] two sides to it, one for home and one for anywhere that was not home” (Oates 324). Even her physical movements represent her two-sided nature: “her walk that could be childlike and bobbing, or languid enough to make anyone think she was hearing music in her head” (Oates 324). These are examples of how Connie has two identities which even extend into two sides of morality—“the two sides of human nature—good and evil” (Cuizon 1). Connie is not alone in this disparity; many teenagers represent a combination of childlike and adult-like qualities and the struggle between good and bad. An example can be seen in that Connie seems to care for her friends deeply until something better comes along. She leaves her friend stranded at a restaurant for three hours in order to go out and flirt with a boy she just met. In addition to this selfishness, Connie is devious. She displays this deceitfulness by Connie avoiding her mother’s questions about her friends. Connie will simply dodge such questions by saying “Oh, her. That dope,” and continue on, acting as if she would never spend time with these girls. When in reality, Connie is close to such girls and participates in these frowned-upon actives. This trickery helps Connie to put on the persona of a good girl and deceive her family from her true lifestyle.
The reader has seen Connie’s quest for adulthood get severely off track from her childish, two-sidedness and deceitfulness. This coming-of-age journey is further...