The story “Where are you going, where have you been? ” by Joyce Carol Oats embraces some ideas of existentialism theory, popular in the sixtieths of the past century, that a person’s true and best qualities reveal during dramatic situations, usually during their fighting for life. This story is about a teenage girl, whose behavior and a perception of self drastically changes within minutes because of a brutal reality breaking into her life and destroying it. Connie is a protagonist of the story.
She is a fifteen year-old self-centered teenager, who “knew she was pretty, and that was everything” (626). Not showing a deep personality, she concludes that her mother is “simple” and fools her with a little remorse (627). Connie considers her twenty-four year old sister “plain and chunky” , “poor old June” (628); and draws a “thick line“ between herself and girls that are not up to her (628). She enjoys her growing power of a good- looking young women over boys and men, and away from home experiments with clothing, walking and laugh, desperately desiring to look as a mature woman.
She likes hanging out with boys, turning some of them down and dream about love, listening to a “hard, fast, shrieking” songs on the radio (629). Connie’s relationships with her family are rather distant and are lacking affection and attention from her parents: with her father, who is “away at work most of the time”, and does not “bother talking much” (627), and her mother, who seemed to have more complaints and discontent with Connie, than love and dedication. Connie’s reality of a romantic dreaming teenager changes at the arrival of a yellow car to her door.
What seems to her in the beginning as a possible intrigue and an adventure, when two boys come to invite her for a ride, after a few moments makes her worry, when Connie asks Friend how old he is and realizes that he is much older then he claims to be (632). The shock follows when she sees another “boy’s” face and also gets him to be a man. As Arnold’s coaxing continues, and threats begin, Connie becomes more and more scared, realizing that she is not ready to face his sexual demands. At understanding of how dark his intentions are and at the new threats to harm her family the girl experiences a horror agony.
As her feelings transform from curiosity to a sense of a danger and from fear to terror, she is instantly forced to grow out of a romantic teenager and is faced to make a choice to safe her family lives by means of her own. Despite of a seeming lack of closeness with her family, this is all she has in her life. And the decision that Connie makes to come out of the house, knowing that she’ll never see her mother, or sleep in her bed again (636) should be considered heroic, because of the responsibility she took for the lives of her family.