Patriarchal Domination in “Where Are You Going Where Have You Been”

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With good looks and sweet charm, men are able to win women over in a heartbeat. Why are men able to do this? Because women believe that they need basic human needs such as love and companionship to live. As you read through the short story, Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? by Joyce Carol Oates, you notice Connie has issues of building a stable relationship with her family, which is shown through her personality.

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She seeks out male attention to fill the relationship she believes is missing in her life. This is why she finds herself having an interest in a much older and strange man, Arnold Friend. Connie gets into the car because she wants to get away from her unstable family, likes the attention she is receiving from Arnold and is persuaded by his actions because he is not who he says he is. Reading the short story, you notice that the young girl, Connie, does not get along with her family and she believes they do not like her. She often puts herself out there in some ways because she knows she is pretty. When she runs into Arnold Friend, she never knew her life would change forever. She doesn’t even know this man, but he notices her at the drive-in restaurant and makes catcalls to her.

Connie does not think anything of it and liked the attention she was receiving. Connie didn’t get any attention at home, so she was intrigued by the little attention she got from Arnold’s cat call. It wasn’t until Arnold showed up at her house later that day, that she began to question him more. He tries to smooth talk her into going for a ride with him. Connie is still into the attention, so she tries to play hard to get until she notices strange things about Arnold. The first red flag she notices is he is a lot older than she initially thought at the drive-in. Another concern Connie had was he already knew everything about Connie, which brought her fear. He tries to persuade her to come with him but eventually turns to threaten her and tells her that if she doesn’t get into the car there will consequences. She is frightened but also seems to find interest in him and the idea of going with him still. Connie gets into the car with Arnold, potentially thinking this could be an opportunity of freedom for her but little does she know Arnold is not who he says he is. She is intrigued and excited by even the slightest attention, because of the lack of attention she receives at home. Connie does not have a very stable relationship with her family. She does not get along with them and believes they are all against her. She was always compared to her sister and Connie never seemed to live up to the standards of her mother.

Why don’t you keep your room clean like your sister? How’ve you got your hair fixedwhat the hell stinks? Hairspray? You don’t see your sister using that stuff (pg. 186). These comments made Connie feel bad about herself like she wasn’t worthy of love from her family or anyone. Her mother always tore her down and made her feel like an outsider to their family, and as if she was not good enough. Her father did not seem to care to talk to her or build any kind of relationship either. Connie felt like her family was never giving her enough attention, so she put her interests into other things. Through the text, you notice that she likes male attention. Especially when Arnold cat called her from his car by saying Going to get you baby (187). You can tell she uses male attention to fill in the unstable relationship she has with her family. This shows one of the reasons that Connie gets into the car, she is sick of being treated like she is not good enough and with Arnolds smooth words and good looks, she is convinced that he can give her a better life than the one she is living in currently. Connie can barely resist the attention received from Arnold. Male attention, the thing she’s most longing for, is exactly what he’s giving her.

The sweet words he uses are her weakness and a way of getting into her head. I took a special interest in you, such a pretty girl, and found out all about you (191). Connie never really experienced attention like this which drew her in. He offered her love and a life much better than the one she is living in currently. This was the way to draw Connie into leaving with him. He knows that what she wants, which is love, something that will fill in the holes of her missing relationship with her family. We’ll go out to a nice field, out in the country here where it smells so nice and it’s sunny, Arnold Friend said. I’ll have my arms around you, so you won’t need to try to get away and show you what love is like, what it does. The hell with this house! It looks solid all right (196). Connie is intrigued by this and believes no one has ever shown her real love and with him saying this makes her believe that he will show her true love. Arnold is able to persuade her into believing in him because she is vulnerable and young. Throughout the text Arnold’s evil personality is shown. Arnold has this mischievous way about him that seemed to pull Connie in. She liked the looks and the actions that he portrays. As said in the introduction paragraph, Connie uses male attention to help fill in the missing attention from her family and that’s exactly what Arnold is doing for her. He stared at her and then his lips widened into a grin.

Connie slit her eyes at him and turned away, but she couldn’t help glancing back and there he was still watching her (187). The way he acted towards her made her feel wanted, gave her attention. And that’s exactly what she wanted, male attention to draw her in. But we do not know if Arnold Friend is truly a good man. He tries to play it off as he is but through the text, you notice he is more like the devil. This is how it is honey: you come out and we’ll drive away, have a nice ride. But if you don’t come out we’re gonna wait till your people come home and then they’re going to get it (195). This shows an evil aspect of Arnold, threatening Connie that if she does not come with him, he is going to kill her family. She may be threatened by what he says but also finds an interest because she wants the love and attention that Arnold promised he’d give her if she got into the car. And with a little sweet talk and persuasion, Connie walks out the front door and right into the arms of evil.

Connie may think she is escaping her miserable life at home and her absent relationship with her family by running away with Arnold, but she only makes matters worse by living in a life of lies with Arnold. Running off with Arnold is not just leaving with him but also leaving with a form of the devil. He persuades her with the kind of words she wants to hear and shows her the love and attention she wants and thinks she needs. So much land Connie had never seen before or did not recognize except to know that she was going to it (197). We may not know what initially happens in the end, but we have an idea of what could have potentially happened to her. As a young girl, it is easy to believe charming men and fall for the words he is feeding and telling you. As for Connie, the words from Arnold were the words she had been longing to hear from her family. She wanted love and someone to show her she mattered by giving her attention. Arnold took advantage of this poor young girl and ended up showing her the love she thought she wanted but possibly not the kind of love she truly needed. He used treats to get her to take the first step to come, which initially worked. He then used this power over her with charming words and actions to get her to stay with him forever.

Vulnerable women tend to lean towards men to fulfill their void of loneliness. Connie’s lack of structure at home creates a wall between her and her family. Without support at home from her family, Connie becomes lonely and in need of attention to fill the absence of attention from her main support system. These factors set Connie up to be very vulnerable and being taken advantage of by a man or anyone whiling to feed off her. Arnold tells Connie exactly what she needs to hear, and she begins to feed off his attention. Many women become attracted to men who give them what they think they need and tell them all the things they want to hear. Connie was intrigued by the idea of Arnold’s attention and love, not necessary him as a person. She becomes blinded by the evilness behind his charming words and actions that make her feel cared for and loved.

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