Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? By Joyce Carol Oates

1311 words - 5 pages

Joyce Carol Oates’ “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” is a modern
interpretation of the classic narrative of evil tempting innocence. Oates’ version of the devil
allegory combines this Christian model of temptation with contemporary secular society. Connie
is a pretty fifteen year-old girl, beginning the process of maturation into adulthood. She begins to
become aware of her ability to act of her own volition, but her naivete renders her ignorant to
Arnold Friend’s layers of deception. Connie’s blindness is the pretext of her loss of innocence
and subsequent fall from grace.
Connie plays with the idea of adulthood, but at fifteen, she is still too young for her
actions to be deemed acceptable by her parents so Connie lives a dual life. She is one person at
home and someone completely different when she leaves. She unbuttons her blouse, adds some
sensuality to her stride, wears lipstick and adds a flirtation to her laugh when she leaves her
home and family. The narration implies that Connie experiments with sexuality, spending hours
with boys in alleyways, but her conception of sex, love, and boys is highly romanticized and
naive, “Her mind slipped over onto thoughts of the boy she had been with the night before and
how nice he had been, how sweet it always was, not the way someone like June would suppose
but sweet, gentle, the way it was in movies and promised in songs,” (122). Her idealized
conception of her encounters highlight her fixation on a kind of lived fantasy blinding her from
reality. Connie acts out mini-romances with boys that she compares to dreamy representations in
movies and songs. However, Connie’s preoccupation with boys has nothing to do with the
individual boys, but rather with her general desire for attention, “all the boys fell back and
dissolved into a single face that was not even a face but an idea, a feeling, mixed up with the
urgent insistent pounding of the music and the humid night air,” (121). Connie uses the faceless
boys to live out her childish delusions of romance and allows herself to be swept away by this
singular sentimental idea. The naivete of her lived fantasies expose her youthful innocence, much
like that of Adam and Eve before their temptation by the serpent.
Connie’s encounter with Arnold Friend is the representation of innocence being tempted
by evil and sin. Arnold Friend first attempts to coax Connie out of her house for a joyride by
trying to charm her, much like the serpent appeals to Eve. Arnold Friend’s presentation of
himself is layered with falsities, and Connie is initially blinded by his deceptiveness. He wears
metallic sunglasses that hide his age, but in her vanity Connie is more concerned that she cannot
see what he is looking at; she is unable to interpret his opinion of her. Connie only cares about
how Arnold Friend sees her and does not realize that she cannot see him or his motives. Arnold
Friend’s attempts...

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