Psychoanalyzing Connie in Joyce Carol Oates's "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?"

Categories: Joyce Carol Oates

The short story “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been” by Joyce Carol Oates has to be one of my favorite stories just because I get to relate to the main character “Connie” when it comes to exploring who you really are. The story illustrates how her search for independence and trying to grow up too fast can cause you to make bad decisions and get you in trouble. This story consists of a girl named Connie and she is 15 years old and is clearly in that phase where she wants to know what she likes or thinks she is old enough to do whatever she wants.

She would spend her days daydreaming of the perfect guy, in other words, she was fantasizing her whole existence. It was very clear that she was mixing up a fantasy that she sees in movies or television shows with reality. She wanted the perfect story and she was trying to make that happen.

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Throughout the story, Connie goes out with someone she met at the mall and even though the story was not specific I believe they had a sexual interaction when they were at the alley an hour away. Connie stays home one day and somebody pulls up in front of her house and even though she told the guy that she didn’t know him, he knew everything about her and her family.

The guy’s name is Arnold and she remembers seen him when she was at the parking lot where she met Eddie.

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Arnold threatens her and her family if she did not go with him. Even when she wanted to get away from the situation he still took her. The story ended without saying what was going to happen to her after. At the end it said “so much land that Connie had never seen before and did not recognize expect to know that she was going to it”, this left a big cliffhanger because we did not get to know what happened and left us with so many questions like if he killed her, did her family even found her again; endings like that made me love the story even more. I relate to this story because I remember trying so hard to be a grown-up or trying to force myself to do things that were not appropriate for a 15-year-old. Connie’s character is very naive and irresponsible because she was living a lie thinking that she could get a boy by meeting him out of nowhere and fall in love the second they see each other. She really thought that she would be that lucky person that has a great love story.

Her search of becoming her own person got her in a scary situation where most girls today end up in too. She cared about her image in school and tried very hard to fit in so she tried to be like the other girls around her that were considered “cool”. I also believe that Connie is living two different lives or in other words has two separate personalities because she would always act one way in her house but then she would act some other way with her friends and in front of other people. She was trying too hard to prove people around her that she was mature and in order for her to do that she started changing the way she dressed too. Her constant need to also made older guys liked her made her be in the situation that she was at. She then realized that was not what she wanted until Arnold happened. I believe at that moment she saw that she was still growing and that she should have taken her time to figure out herself. She realized that she was still a kid and that she needed her family when Arnold came around. She always pretended that she didn’t need her family and that she could handle anything on her own.

As I was reading this short story I was able to see how I can relate to her because I remember trying so hard to proved my mom that I was mature enough to start dating so I started to change the way I would talk to my parents and the way I would interact around my friends. Time passed and I remember doing something so bad that the entire school knew about and it just made me realize that I was trying too hard and that I shouldn’t care about what other people thought. That is why I liked this story so much. People also have their own way on looking at the story and it is very interesting to see how people see this story differently or understand it in a different way. An article called “The Eternal Present in Joyce Carol Oates’s Where Is You Going, Where Have Have You” by Michele D. Theriot talks about how the title has a lot more to do with the story. She says “Connie is locked in the present, a present that has no sense of the past, a present that is wholly uninformed.” This has summarized Connie’s character as a whole in that story. She thinks that her current decisions do not have any consequences and that everything will turn out right because that was the kind of fantasy she was living in. She also talked about how the family must have felt after they saw that Connie was not home, even though this is just some type of prediction she said “Readers can only assume that her parents and sister will lose a bit of innocence as a result of losing a daughter and sister to a mysterious and violent stranger.” and that is something that tends to happen a lot in our communities.

People are mixing their realities with their dreams, even though they can be nice, they might not end up being what you actually expected and that is exactly what happened to Connie. She always wanted the attention of grown men and she ended up getting it and it was not what she was expecting. The phrase “Be careful with what you wish for” can be a summary of that entire story because that should have been the message that Connie should have gotten before all of that happened. At the end of the article, she talks about “Connie’s inability to learn from the past and plan for the future ultimately condemns her to a violent confrontation with the future, a future she is wholly unprepared for” and that is exactly what she got. Sometimes not planning what you might want to do in the present or the future and just learning one thing at a time can save you from dangerous situations. Furthermore, the story was not only about what Connie wanted to do but you should also think about what other sources made her think the way she does.

In an article named “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue: Psychoanalyzing Connie in Joyce Carol Oates’s “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been” by Nicole Holmen and it is very interesting that there are more factors than just saying that Connie was the way she was because of television or movies and think about other factors in her everyday life. Holmen talks about how her surroundings and the people in her life had a lot to do with it and also how her inner demons got the best of her. She said “This habit of always needing to bolster the knowledge that she is beautiful is an indication that Connie is suffering from insecurity, or having an “unstable sense of self.” and it was very clear that Connie was trying too hard to find herself and that he insecurities were more about what society is expecting you to be and know.

It is hard to be yourself when other people have opinions on what things should look like and do and Connie’s self-esteem was broken because of that. Nicole also talked about how her relationship with their family had also a lot to do with what happened to him because she never really talked about having a real relationship with anyone in her family. Nicole stated “ Connie’s fear of intimacy leads her to retreat emotionally even from the person she should be the closest to”, in other words, she saw how she never had a connection with anyone in her family and in a way made her think that she could never count on them especially her mother. Children’s relationship with parents is very important and since she never had one with hers, she never got the pet talk that would have saved her from what happened to her.

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Psychoanalyzing Connie in Joyce Carol Oates's "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?". (2020, Sep 15). Retrieved from

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