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 with Arnold Friend and a nightmare.
Since dreams and nightmares are both believed to represent our repressed thoughts, it would make sense that Arnold Friend “certainly represents her [Connie’s] fear of sex” (Gratz 55). Her knowledge of her beauty allows her to draw attention to it from many guys of many ages. She loves the attention that she gets from these boys, and that often seduces her into the decisions that she makes. Her first encounter with Arnold Friend occurs when she is in the car with one of the boys she met, Eddie. She glances to her right and sees Arnold, in his car, staring at her. Arnold spoke with his lips to tell her “Gonna get you, baby”, and perhaps it is this threat that causes Connie to symbolize him as a jeopardy to her innocence that the reader sees in her nightmare (Oates 28).
The encounter that Connie experiences with Arnold Friend involves a series of events that would lead someone to believe that he in fact was a figment of her subconscious, or a nightmare. Before their rendezvous, Connie had been sitting “with her eyes closed in the sun”, daydreaming (29). This is the first clue Oates presents the reader to show that Connie falls asleep. In addition to this, when Connie “opened...