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Where Are You Going Where Have You Been Connie Character Analysis Essay

In Joyce Carol Oates story, Connie is, at first, a stereotypical teenage girl, superficial, self-centered, vain, and deceitful.  As she makes the transition from girlhood to womanhood, she detours into her "trashy daydreams" and her duality of nature:

She wore a pulover jersey blouse that looked one way when she was at home and another way when she was away from home.  Everything about her had two sides to it, one for home and one...

In Joyce Carol Oates story, Connie is, at first, a stereotypical teenage girl, superficial, self-centered, vain, and deceitful.  As she makes the transition from girlhood to womanhood, she detours into her "trashy daydreams" and her duality of nature:

She wore a pulover jersey blouse that looked one way when she was at home and another way when she was away from home.  Everything about her had two sides to it, one for home and one for anywhere that was not home:  her walk that could be childlike and bobing, or languid enough to make anyone think she was hearing music in her head....

The music that "made everything so good" is always in the background of Connie's head, as she feels it is like the music at a church service, "something to depend upon."

Finally, however, Connie's trashy daydreams and music materialize in the shape of Arnold Friend, who drives up to her house where she is alone, having refused to accompany her family to a barbeque at her aunt's.  In a vehicle suggestive of the "magic whirling ship" of Bob Dylan's song, "Mr. Tambourine Man," Connie finds herself reflected in the "tiny metallic world" of Arnold's sunglasses.  Without the rs in his name, the man who is older than he at first appears is An old   Fiend, the embodiment of her trashy daydreams to extreme.  Faced with the psychological horror dealt her by Arnold, Connie shakes herself from her hedonism and becomes, as Oates herself states in an article, capable of "a heroic gesture":  She sacrifices herself and gets into Friend's car so that her family will be unharmed upon their return home.  As she rides away, Connie faces the existential question of the story's title, perhaps in a new order:  "where have you been, where are you going?"

The most important characters in the short story “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” by Joyce Carol Oates are Connie and Arnold Friend. The other characters – Connie’s parents, Jane, her girlfriend, Eddie – are only relevant for the way Connie relates to them, like Ellie is relevant for the way Arnold relates to him.

Connie is the protagonist of the short story, whom the narrator follows through the whole narrative and whose perspective of the events he/she employs.

Outer characterization

The girl’s outer characterization presents her as a teen of fifteen (p. 162, l. 1) who has an older sister, Jane, and two parents with whom she does not relate well. The girls’ physical traits are also rendered and indicate that she is good-looking and attractive:

Connie had long dark blond hair that drew anyone's eye to it, and she wore part of it pulled up on her head and puffed out and the rest of it she let fall down her back. She wore a pull-over jersey blouse that looked one way when she was at home and another way when she was away from home. (p. 163, ll. 4-8)

Inner characterization

Connie’s inner characterization presents her as a self-absorbed girl, whose mind is on music and boys, and who likes to think of herself as pretty: “She was fifteen and she had a quick, nervous giggling habit of craning her neck to glance into mirrors or checking other people's faces to make sure her own was all right.” (p. 162, ll. 1-3); “…she knew she was pretty and that was everything.” (p. 162, ll. 9-10)

Connie is also two-faced, as she dresses and acts differently, according to circumstances:

Everything about her had two sides to it, one for home and one for anywhere that was not home: her walk, which could be childlike and bobbing, or languid enough to make anyone think she was hearing music in her head; her mouth, which was pale and smirking most of the time, but bright and pink on these evenings out; her laugh, which was cynical and drawling at home—"Ha, ha, very funny,"—but highpitched and nervous anywhere else, like the jingling of the charms on her bracelet. (p. 163, ll. 8-15)

Her relationship with the other members of her family is flawed. Her father is absent; her mother scolds her constantly and compares her with her sister Jane, whom Connie despises because she finds her too righteous:

… Connie had to hear her praised all the time by her mother and her mother's sisters. June did this, June did that, she saved money and helped clean the house and cooked and Connie couldn't do a thing, her mind was all filled with trashy daydreams. (p. 162, ll. 19-22)

Furthermore, she judges her mother and considers her too simple, lying to her when the woman asks about her friends and other girls at school: “She always drew thick clear lines between herself and such girls, and her mothe...

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