Womanhood Initiation Essay

1460 words - 6 pages

Womanhood Initiation "Where are You Going, Where Have You Been", a short story written by Joyce Carol Oates, is a story of a young girl's initiation to adulthood. Whether "Connie exists in a dreamlike state but never in a dream"(507) as A. R. Coulthard states or "dreams Arnold Friend"(55) as suggested by David Gratz is unimportant to the theme: Connie's coming of age and change from the innocence of youth to the bitter reality of true life. Connie is the story's only truly dynamic character and therefore of the most interest to the reader. The change she undergoes making her a dynamic character also makes the story an initiation story. An initiation story is one in which a person learns a life changing lesson or truth. In "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been", Connie learns about life. She learns that the world in her fifteen year old mind doesn't exist; the world of boys and music is imaginary and there is true danger. The lesson Connie learns comes out of an experience with Arnold Friend who maybe a figment of her imagination. Whether he is real or imagined is not important, Connie changes because of this experience. Connie is introduced as the typical fifteen year old girl; she's interested in boys and does not want to be with her parents most of the time. She is going through the stage where her mom still wants her to be a little girl and she is ready to be an adult; only without the responsibilities. Connie seems to have little knowledge of how the world really works or the severity of its dangers. Her innocence of danger is shown when Oates writes, "but sometimes they went across the highway, ducking fast across the busy road, to a drive-in restaurant where older kids hung out"(Oates 28). She wanted to feel older so she went where older teenagers were, uncaring of the hazards present in the traffic and unknowing of the possible situations hanging out with older kids can present to a young girl. Her age and lack of experience lead to troubles with Arnold Friend, imagined or real, and also to her change and initiation to adulthood. Connie's attitude is very normal in our society. Teenagers think they are grown up before they understand the repercussions of adult actions. She is at an age of ignorance, at time where she thinks she knows it all but doesn't really understand. The music that constantly runs through Connie's head is evidence of the fact that nothing real is on her mind. Just the typical fifteen year old thoughts of boys and getting away from home. Connie has two sides, "one for home and one for anywhere that was not home"(Oates 28). She does not think anyone at home understands her needs or what is going through her head. Connie's character represents the change to adulthood common in our society. Even though Connie believes her problem is unique and no one understands, she is aware her mom underwent a similar change. Oates writes, " Her mother had been pretty once too, if you could believe...

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