Self-esteem, Reputation and a General Mindset in “Where are you Going, where have you Been?”

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The story that will be evaluated is entitled, “”Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?”” This story is by Joyce Carol Oates, published in 1966. The author is trying to get the audience to grasp concepts such as self-esteem, reputation, and a general mindset of how our decision making process can effect us heavily. Through the main character Connie, we learn about how mind-bottling life can be as she goes about her day-to-day activities. The story, “”Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been,”” is an excellent example of how our reputation precedes us in which, it makes us face the reality of our decisions. Thus, we come to terms with our actions and this puts us in unfavorable situations to make choices we don’t necessarily want to make.

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This story is about a fifteen year old girl, Connie. Throughout the story the author submits Connie’s feelings and emotions as she goes about her day. Connie’s character shows strong opinions towards her family especially her mother. The main character’s view is that her mother favors her sister June. Connie’s main belief is that her mother is jealous of her attractiveness. Through her actions/attitude Connie is characterized as a free spirit, who uses her appearance as a tool to, “”hang-out,”” with boys. The conflict of the story is when Connie is left home alone when her family leaves to go to a barbecue. She then sits around and listens to the radio until a jalopy pulls up in her drive way. Connie walks to the screen door where she meets Arnold Friend and instantly she is captivated with curiosity. As they start to conversate Connie begins to question Friend asking, “”Who are you,”” and “”why are you here?”” Connie is constantly observing the scene as she notices Friend’s buddy Ellie Oscar in the car. Also, she notices Friend’s rugged looks and makes the assumption that he is older than 18. As all these thoughts are rushing almost all at once to Connie, she ultimately feels uncomfortable and wants him to leave. Friend insists on taking her for a ride. When she refuses, Friend’s attitude leans towards becoming dangerous and aggressive. At this point, their general conversation elevates to a confrontation. Friend obviously has heard about Connie and what she likes to do in her spare time, so he thinks she is an, “”easy score.”” Arnold then threatens Connie, telling her that he will potentially hurt her family if she doesn’t comply. The main character contemplates calling the police but she fears Friend will hut her before she gets the chance. Friend then tells Connie where her family is and the exact details of what they are doing, without Connie saying anything. As she puts all the possible out comes together, she feels as though going with Friend will protect her family. The author illustrates a scene of hopelessness as Connie gives herself up and hence extinguishing her freedom. The author concludes with a sort of cliff-hanger vibe as Connie leaves with Friend, which puts it all in perspective, that Connie’s old lifestyle is gone forever.


The duration of the story tip-toes around the concept of Arnold Friend’s presence. Connie is enticed by Friend’s elastic ability to be smooth one minute then be completely nonchalant the next. But there are some aspects that just don’t add up, so you have to ask yourself a few questions. “”How did Friend know where Connie lived? How did he know her name? How did he know exactly where her family was and what they were doing? Why did he act as if he had known Connie beforehand? How did he build the audacity to talk to her the way he did?”” Simply, some would say that he heard about her through the, “”grape-vine.”” But there is just some content that is just disturbing.

A theory that can be put into motion is that this whole confrontation is a symbolic representation of Connie’s sub consciousness. For example the series of conversation where Friend says,”” I ain’t late, am I?”” and “”Toldja I’d be out, didn’t I?”” places thoughts into hysteria. Connie wasn’t really expecting anybody over, she was just trying to chill and listen to the radio. Friend rolls up like he owns the joint and Connie is instantly amazed with curiosity.

Potentially, as Connie was daydreaming when her family drove away, she drifted into a slumber. The story says that she had closed her eyes in the sun and was just thinking about the characteristics of love. When she awoke she felt as if her setting was different. “”She shook her head as if to stay awake,”” per Oates. Possibly, during this time lapse Connie slipped into her unconsciousness and created this whole scenario about Friend.

Sounding as far fetched as it seems, this perspective can be examined like a nightmare. So at first, she falls asleep and everything is good then she wakes up feeling offset. During her dream she is accompanied by the confusion Friend brings. She feels obligated to talk to him as she is frozen in her current stance. She wants to move but she is not in control because her mind has invaded itself and created an alternate dimension. The main character is forced to live out this fantasy in order to grapple with the actual reality of her choices. In real life she chooses to get to know her male counterparts better in her form of social or sexual experimentation. Connie always has a perception that her looks are what makes her and she can never be defined by anything else. Her turmoil with her family along with her paranoia coats the fact that she negates to look towards where her life is actually heading.

A form of self-sabotage comes into question as well because Connie’s destructive nature allows room for someone to take advantage of her. It’s not crazy to suspect that her dream was her sub consciousness trying to warn her that the free life she was trying to desperately grasp would only keep to danger. A few things are just to coincidental, such as the convenience that Friend knew where her family was. Along with the timing of the family leaving for the barbecue and Friend just happens to show up. Also the way Oates ends the tale, can only be summarized by the underlying effects of a nightmare. Connie goes through this journey of self discovery to uncover the fear of her decisions as well as, the hopelessness she feels without her family. This all can accumulate to an epiphany suggesting that she should be grateful for what she has and to not try to grow up so fast. Perhaps this dream was a blessing in disguise so she can truly, “”wake up,”” and take responsibility in her young life to prevent a downfall towards an impending road of darkness.


The author captures a unique take on the, “”grip of reality theme,”” to allow young readers to make their own conclusions on what they think happened to Connie. Ultimately we as humans are always caught up with trying to take advantage of life. Often times, the decisions we make when we are younger can backlash on to our entire adult life, which can effect how the world perceives us. Our reputation is a definite essential to us and we always leave some sort of impact on this world with it. So in the end this story, “”Where Are You Going, Where Have You been,”” is an eye opener to all of us because what happened to Connie is a prime example of how our reputation/decisions can be left vulnerable for some else to prey upon. I challenge all who read this story to analyze all the main points, central ideas, and literacy factors to create their own perspective of Connie’s fate.

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Self-esteem, Reputation and a General Mindset in "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?". (2019, Nov 18). Retrieved November 30, 2022 , from

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