Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?’ is a vivid and yet graphical short story. Joyce uses fiction to illuminate the life of most 21st century teenagers. Connie’s story resonates with the desires of most teenagers who live under their parents’ roof. It shows the desire of a teenager who seeks to find the freedom to break away from her depressing mother. Connie says that her mother has been too harsh and unfriendly. She goes to the point of wishing that she was dead.
She naively wished to walk away from her misery. Connie’s sister, June, has been the standard on which her mother gauges Connie. Connie is not happy because June is 24 years and working. Her mother wants a teenage girl to act and behave like a secretary. This is practically impossible. Nevertheless, June and Connie have a common problem. Their father is an absentee parent. It happens that he worked from far. He only comes home at night.
Instead of having family time with his family, the father reads a newspaper every night. He then eats his supper and proceeds to bed.
The two sisters have lost the touch of a loving father. They are left under the primary care of their nagging mother. Connie’s mother does not see anything positive from her youngest daughter. Connie laments that whenever the three g ladies are in the house, the mother makes approval statements for June and disapproving of quotes for Connie. However, Connie is quite used to her fate.
Those sentiments from her mother no longer worry her. June is allowed to go out with her modest girlfriends. One time Connie gets a privilege to go out with her friends. They walk up and down. Connie meets Eddie. The two do rounds in several restaurants. Connie is very happy to be walking around a boy. During her out, a boy name Arnold Friend takes note of her beauty. He decides in his heart to pursue her. After the incident during the date with Eddie Connie becomes a changed girl. She reminisces about the boys she met. She gains a new purpose in life. Her mother notes this change. Yet, she does not concern herself with the affairs of her teenage daughter. Since Connie has never been happy in the company of her mother and sister, she yearns to meet the boys more and more.
One day, the Connie’s family goes for a barbecue. She is left home alone. Astonishingly, Friend arrives at Connie’s home. He makes sexual advances n her Connie is scared. Arnold Friend tells her that she was his soul mate. Connie does not approve Friend’s interest I her. She is troubled by the fact that Friend and Ellie are way too old for her. Friend tells Connie that they are almost the same age or just a little older. Things get out of hand. Friend makes a proposal. He tells Connie to go for a ride with him in his gold-painted convertible. He threatens that he knew a lot about her family. He even threatens to harm them if Connie does not heed to his request. Connie decides to get into the house to flee from the raging Arnold. She tiptoes towards the main door. She is scared and shaking. Her hands are wet. She is unable to lock the door. She goes ahead to pick a phone and call the police. Abruptly, she feels dizzy. She sees herself being stabbed by Arnold Friend. She is too scared to make the call. He tells her, “No, honey, pick it up, put it right back right” (Oates,576).
At this point, Friend orders her to stand up and walk towards the door. They were going for a walk. Connie asks, “Where are we going?” (Oates,570) Connie finds herself obeying all the orders without questions. Ironically, Connie, the same Connie who wished the death of her mother, is now sacrificing herself to protect the same mother from hurt. At this point, she realizes that she truly cared for her family. Joyce demonstrates two themes in her story. First, there is the theme of reality versus fantasy. Connie tries very hard to prove to her family that she is a mature woman. Her choice of dressing resembles that of a mature girl. She sends mixed signals to preying boys(Natalia,21). She lives in her own fantasy; she wants to be a perfect girl. She spends a significant amount of time f looking at the mirror to ensure that she is flawless. She believes or rather knows that she is the most beautiful woman in her family. She chooses clothes that reveal her figure. Luckily she has the body of a mature girl, albeit she is just 15 years. She wants to experience the life of a mature girl way before her time. She thinks she is equal to Jane by virtue of them being women. She is naïve about what adulthood brings. She presents herself as a mature woman who is experienced with men.
However, her experience with Arnold Friend sends her back to the drawing board. She realizes that she is yet to be the character she thought she was. She seems lost in herself. She does not really know where she is. Neither does she know where she has been. It dawns on her that she had been living a fantasy. It is high time she came back to reality. Her mature presentation gets the attention she desires from the boys. Like begets like. Since her motives were to get attention from boys, she gets the attention very fast. During her solitude moments, Connie spent most of her time decorating her to compliment her beauty. She uses hair perfumes and other ointments. She listens to romantic songs. She arms herself with all the characteristics of an attractive ideal woman. She leads a pop culture. She confuses her desire to have boys make sexual advances to her with her concern for beauty. In her mind, maturity is all about sex, fun, and more fun. Nevertheless, she still has elements of a teenage girl. Connie experiments sexuality with Eddie during their encounter in the alley.
From this experience, Connie is happy to have had a boy. However, she realizes that she is actually afraid of becoming an adult. She takes to herself to enjoy life for what it is worth. Later one Arnold Friend takes her into adulthood by force. This experience makes her change her perception of adulthood. Joyce does not clearly tell whether Friend was actually a real friend or a nightmare in Connie’s mind. May be Friend was sent from heaven to help Connie move from fantasy to reality. He opened her inner eyes. The violent encounter with Friend allows Connie to abandon her childlike fantasy to the actual reality of adulthood. Connie’s mother denied her exposure rue to her young age. She thought that her mother hated her and preferred June. She forgot that June was almost ten years her senior. Connie was not impressed by the fact that June was a secretary in their school. She could have wished that the two le separate lives. Their mother always inferred June’s perfectionism to condemn Connie. Connie thought that if June had been a little less, the perfect woman she was, maybe their mother would be a little lenient with her. Actually, this happened when June started going out with girls. Connie used that opportunity to go out too. The mother was naïve in that she thought that Connie would behave the same way as her elder sister. She seemed ignorant of the emotional changes that occur in adolescent girls. Connie was driven by hormones. She had ravenous sexual desires. The mother and June had created a rift between them and Connie. She did not have anyone to run to for advice in case she needed any. The second theme in Joyce’s story is the desire for independence.
Connie’s behavior was propelled by her search for freedom. She believes that if she succeeds in making herself look attractive, she will be independent and will not struggle to get boys to like her. She desired to control the boy’s sexuality using her beauty. Additionally, she wanted to remind her mother that she was a mature girl now. She used her dressing and hairstyle to portray maturity. She thought maybe her mother was not aware of her changed body. She wanted to make her see the mature body she had. She thought that her mature looks would allow the mother to accord some degree of freedom. She as always disturbed by occasional reprimands from her mother about her failure to act like her sister. She thought that June was that good because she was an adult and quite independent. Besides her family, Connie does not know any other life. Her friends take her out to dinner. She experiences her first sexuality instance with Eddie on the alley. Later, she is driven home to the safety of her familiar life. This continues for quite long. In her life, she has only experienced a soft part of adulthood(Szedo,88). She occasionally goes out with her friends. She meets several boys. They enjoy the moments in a movie theatre. She later goes home safely. Her sexually attractive lifestyle entices boys. She uses her moments in the local dinner to serve to explore new adventures. She realizes that there is a lot that has been happening outside her realm. She enjoys a safe relationship with the boys and the girls until the arrival of Arnold Friend. She claims to know everybody. “I know everybody” (Oates,570).
Connie’s search for freedom takes an unpleasant route. Arnold uses violence on her.Arnold puts Connie, where she had always desired. He treats her as the mature woman she portrays. Arnold does not seem to care that Connie is a minor who is innocent. He talks to her is a rather explicit manner. She says, “People don’t talk like that, you are crazy” (Oates,573). He knows that Connie is lost. He is looking forward to getting the best of her before she realizes herself. He is aware that Connie is green to the matters of a love affair. The teenage girl is living a fantasy. He tells her, “I’m your lover. You don’t know what that is, but you will”.Connie is confused. Previously, she thought that maturity was full of bliss and joy. She cannot fathom the sudden change of events. Arnold seems to be the perfect answer to all her fears. He tells her that she has started a journey towards maturity. The path was one way. She had gone too far. There was no turning back. She cannot go back to her childhood fantasies. She has to embrace a life that she was not adequately prepared to take. Arnold says, “The place where you came from ain’t there anymore, and where you had in mind to go is canceled out.” Arnold confirms to Connie that the perception of adult life was entirely inaccurate. She was facing the reality of life now(Spencer,54).
The story concludes with Connie being more confused about whether she really wanted to be where she was. She no longer desired the kind of independence that she fantasized about. In conclusion, Connie lacked a strong connection with her family. She felt alone and sought to seek freedom and independence. Her mother said, “Stay home alone” (Oates,566)seemed to make her lose direction. The mother was always against b everything that she seemed to like. She became confused and lost. She forged her path to seek happiness in life. Unfortunately, her experience made her realize that life was all vain. There was no perfect joy anywhere,