Where Are You Going Where Have You Been
“Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” Ending and Main Scenes Analytical Essay
Joyce Carol Oates is considered to be one of the most captivating authors. Her novels and short stories introduce numerous themes, which are significant for both men and women of any age. Her “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” was written in the 1960s as a kind of response to the events in Arizona, connected to the times, when one man raped and killed several girls. This essay shall analyze the main scenes and the ending of “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?”
This is why realism and real-life cruelty are the things, which are inherent to this story and turn out to be significant points for any time. The main character in “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?”, Connie, is a 15-year-old girl, and Arnold Friend, the antagonist, is an adult man. The interactions, which happen between Arnold Friend and Connie and several rather provoking moments connected with Connie’s young age, immaturity, and her family’s lack of understanding, lead the story and Connie’s life to a tragic end.
Lots of students and ordinary readers find “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” as an educative story that “captures so well their sense of rebellion against their patriarchal mothers, in particular, and family and society in general” (Doll, 94). Lots of young girls try to become independent earlier than it is possible. They try to pay the attention of other people to their appearance, their hair cut, and their style, but they do not comprehend that their behavior is not that appropriate.
What happens to Connie in “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?”?Connie faces specific problems within her own house: her mother cannot comprehend her daughter’s intentions and always compares her with her sister. The mother does not want to search for the necessary way to help her daughter; she just let Connie be more closely to the cultural phenomenon and be under threat to choose the wrong way. “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 her own was all right” (Oates, 25).
To my mind, this very age requires thorough attention from the parents’ side: a child should feel her relatives’ care and support. If there is no chance to find such kind of care, the child starts paying attention to numerous real-life examples and does not have an opportunity to comprehend what is wrong and what is right. This is what resulted in the conflict in the book. This is why this lack of parents’ comprehension and support is one of the crucial reasons, which cause Connie’s tragic end.
As Connie does not see any support from her family’s side as they “fail to become involved in a meaningful way in her life” (Seibel, 367), she starts searching for something outside. As the analysis essay on “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” shows, Arnold Friend turns out to be one of those people, who were eager to provide this little girl with the necessary support. His criminal past and his cruel intentions are not the main reasons, which may lead to the tragic end. To my mind, they are just the other consequences, which appear as a result of family situations and personal uncertainty.
I do agree with the author’s ideas for the relations between the members of the family. If parents are not able to provide their child with the necessary support, this child may face numerous troubles and unpleasant situations, which lead to the tragic end. The analysis of the main scenes and the ending of “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” shows that, with the help of one concrete case, Joyce Oates demonstrates how one or two misunderstandings may influence the future of a person, the prospect of a child.
As is clear from the summary, Arnold’s criminal past and his terrible attitude to other people, young ladies, in particular, is not the reason that leads to Connie’s tragic end. Connie’s family, parents’ inattentiveness, and teenage culture – these are the major factors that result in the tragic end of the major character of the story under consideration.
Doll, Mary, A. Like Letters in Running Water: A Mythopoetics of Curriculum. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2000.
Oates, Joyce, C. Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? Rutgers University Press, 1994.
Seibel, Hugo, R., Guyer, Kenneth, E., Conway, Carolyn, M. Barron’s MCAT: Medical College Admission Test. Barron’s Educational Series, 2008.
“The Lesson” and “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” Essay
The short stories “The Lesson” by Toni Cade Bambara and “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” by Joyce Carol Oates disclose the sudden realization of facts about life by two young female characters. When people encounter incredibly horrifying or disturbing situations or face facts about their conditions, and especially when the outcomes posed by the sudden realizations are not predictable, they tend to change greatly viewing life from different perspectives.
The paper compares and contrasts the epiphanies of the major characters in the two short stories giving an account of what triggers the epiphanies in each of them and further addressing the insights that the characters arrive at about themselves, human conditions and the world at large.
In Toni Cade Bambara’s “The Lesson”, although she does not admit it, the main character Sylvia, a young girl learns a lesson about how life really is after the trip to the Toy store sponsored by Miss Moore, the young girl’s neighbor. Earlier on in her life, the young girl is just as cheeky as other little girls are and never stops to wonder about her situation.
Her experiences of the trip to Toy store where Miss Moore takes them changes her perception about the society they are living in. Her friend Sugar seems to echo her thoughts when she says, “Imagine for a minute what kind of society it is in which some people can spend on a toy what it would cost to feed a family of six or seven. What do you think?”(Bambara 5). Through this trip, that she realizes that the society is not as fair as she thinks and that something is worth doing as Miss Moore always says.
This shapes her epiphany and motivation to working hard and taking Miss Moore’s advice seriously. The epiphany experienced by the main character Connie in the story “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been” is somehow different from this in that Connie has got no way out, hence the force into giving in to the rapist Arnold Friend’s demands since her fate seems completely determined.
The freedom provided to her by her parents lands her into the hands of the rapist and a potential serial killer. She reflects back on her previous and current living style and wonders whether it will ever take after the life of her dreams. She comes to the realization of declaring the shape of her as determined by the rapist. Her epiphany seems different from that of Sylvia in The “lesson” in that she resigns into her fate by herself face whatever that may happen.
The epiphany of the character Sylvia in “The Lesson” comes because of the challenge that she gets when Miss Moore her neighbor takes her for window-shopping together with kid friends in the neighborhood. This challenge shapes the perception of the kids towards life since they do not put much thinking into it.
Their childish nature has blocked their sight in that they do not experience things evident in the society such as class differences. After the encounter at the toyshop, the kids come into the realization that life is much more than just kidding around and not taking things seriously.
The epiphany shows the fact that the kids now realize how their lives seem different from that of others that of others and that they should not behave as they do. In the short story ‘Where are you Going and Where Have You been”, Connie’s epiphany is not really an epiphany considering the fact it seems motivated by regrets of the freedom she receives from her parents and which she misuses.
Rather than reciprocating on her parents, trusting effectively and going where she claims: to the movies, she takes the advantage to go to clubs where people like the rapist and the serial killer Arnold’s friend identifies and targets her. She falls prey of her misfortunes because of her deviant behavior and neglect.
One can attribute the conditions that lead to the epiphany of the young character Sylvia in the short story “The Lesson” by Bambara to her behavior and too the manner in which the society organizes itself. Sugar who is her friend echoes her thoughts when she says, “I think… that this is not much of a democracy if you ask me.
Equal chance to pursue happiness means an equal crack at the dough, doesn’t it?”(Bambara 5 ) implying the fact that the kid comes to realize the unfairness of the society after all as she does, though earlier on in her life.
Though she still has four dollars that belongs to Miss Moore, she does not feel good after this realization of how the society seems so unfair. On the other hand, the teenage Connie succumbs to her fate because of her own defiant behavior. Had she taken heed to her mother’s concern, as the case appears with her elder sister, she would have avoided the misfortunes that befall her. Further, should she have gone to the movies avoiding the club, she would have not met Arnold’s friend.
Therefore, on that eventful Sunday, she would have accompanied her parents and sister to the barbecue avoiding the encounter with the rapist. Anyway, experience, as people say, passes for the best teacher and fortune knocks at least once to every person’s door.
The seemingly trivial fact of the prize of a toy triggers Sylvia’s epiphany giving her the realization that her freedoms have a limit economic wise and that she cannot get everything that she wishes. Even the cheapest toy in the toy store, which goes for thirty-five dollars is worth the rent that the family pays for the house that they live in.
The realization provokes more thoughts in her head to the extent that she starts experiencing headache. Connie’s world on the other hand seems to flow as she wishes it to until the unexpected happens. A stranger who seems to know everything about her shows up and starts demanding that they go out for a ride. At first, she does not take him seriously until he reminds her that she can do nothing to stop him from doing whatever he wants to do with her.
The realization induces to her a feeling of hopeless that leads Connie to start reflecting upon her life seeing how it has been like and how different it will be after her encounter with Arnold ‘s Friend. The case appears more different considering her lack of certainty of her fate as the case seems with Sylvia in “The Lesson”. The aforementioned epiphanies too feature some striking similarities.
The two characters from the different stories come to the realization that they have been viewing life differently from how it actually is and that their futures would not be the same again. In addition, the two as portrayed in the stories, have lived a life of carelessness blinded by their youth.
For instance, in the story “The Lesson”, the character Sylvia and her friends never looks at life from the perspective of what it holds for them neither do they consider what their future would be like. Instead, they think that their childish adventures will shape their life. For instance, they never imagine of things such as having a desk for doing homework as important (Bambara 3).
Similarly, in the story “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been” Connie’s life is never inclusive of any serious considerations prior to the appearance of the rapist Arnold Friend. Life seems characterized by girlish adventures, boys, clothes, as well as her looks. She really portrays so little sense such that she only values her deviance. Therefore, her encounter opens her eyes about the other things that can happen to her despite the tragic and suspended ending of the story without hinting on what happens to her next.
The two girls come to the realization that what has earlier on formed their world is a mirage. What they cared for was themselves and nothing more. Sylvia in “The Lesson” has never thought of the existence of any limits to her freedom since that is the level of her exposure before Miss Moore takes her out, together with her friends. Certain realities such as the existence of social classes seemed unclear to her before.
She says, “So we heading down the street and she’s boring us silly about what things cost and what our parents make and how much goes for rent and how money…the part about we all poor and live in the slums, which I don’t feature”(Bambara 2). Connie on the other hand never thought of the existence of any bad people in her world. She had trusted any one to the extent that the night when she first encounters Arnold’s Friend, she never considers seriously the threats that he issues to her.
The epiphanies of the two characters in the short stories have more differences than similarities because the short story by Joyce Carol Oates lacks a proper ending leaving the reader to speculate on what happens next to the character Connie who falls in the hands of a rapist and a potential serial killer. There is no clarity whether Connie survives the encounter to experience the change as per the epiphany.
Bambara, Tony. Black Woman: An Anthology. Washington: Washington Square Press, 2005.
“Oate’s” and “Where are You Going, Where Have You Been?” Essay
You Aren’t Going Anywhere: A Feminist Critique of Joyce Carol Oates
The story “Where Are You Going, Where have You Been,” by Joyce Carol Oates, is the story about a young girl’s attempts who tries to gets free from the surrounding and acts accordingly, drawing the attention of a dangerous man. The main character in the story, Connie, lives in a small town with her mother, father, and Connie’s older sister. Although Connie is fifteen, she realizes that males find her attractive. She defines herself in opposition to her mother and sister, the former used to be beautiful, and the latter never was.
The unfortunate aspect of the story is that Connie plays up her attractiveness and plays the roll that other people want her to have, the one of a beautiful girl. Using a feminist critique, we can see how Connie leads herself to her unfortunate fate by allowing to be unwittingly trapped in the patriarchal gender roles of society.
The photograph of Connie’s mother where she was younger is a symbol of the emptiness that comes from defining oneself solely through one’s looks. Connie’s mom was a very attractive woman in her youth, but growing older, she lost those looks. When the mother sees the pictures of her daughter, she recognizes the beauty that she once had but lost. This is the major loss for the mother, since she apparently never learned to define herself in any other manner.
Once her looks were gone, there was nothing left of the woman. As such, she envies her own daughter’s physical attractiveness and acts in a mean way towards Connie. Her mother, who noticed everything and knew everything and who hadn’t much reason to look at her own face, is always scolding Connie for it. ‘Stop gawking at yourself. Who are you? You think you’re so pretty?’. (Oates)
Since her mother is obviously jealous of her, Connie feels as though she is right in valuing her looks in the way she does. To Connie, physical attractiveness is so important that nothing else seems to matter, so she doesn’t hold any regard for what other people might have to offer. Instead of listening to anything that her mother has to say, Connie feels as though she can simply dismiss anything that her mother might have to say to her, which is simply another way for a woman to keep herself trapped.
For example, she can hardly believe that the woman in the pictures is really her mother: Her mother was pretty too, if one could believe those old snapshots in the album, but now her looks were gone and that is why she has always been after Connie. For Connie, being beautiful is simple, the state which you are to inherit, and like all young and immature people, she doesn’t have any idea how easily it can be lost, whether slowly over time like her mother did, or having it suddenly and violently ripped away from her.
The thing that she ran away with a boy foolishly led Connie to believe that she matured further than her older sister and anyone else in her own age group. It appears to almost be a game for her, but when she finally realized what the price of her desires were, it was too late.
Being only fifteen, Connie has yet to realize that she has defined herself by the way other people view her, which is through her looks only. She has become trapped in her own assets, and this stunts her growth as a whole person. While she views herself as using these tools to her advantage, in reality she is doing nothing but harming herself and her ability to survive in life.
While at times Connie gets excited and enjoys the attention that she receives, she quickly realizes how terrifying unwanted attention of this kind from the wrong person can be. When Arnold Friend tells her that he was “Gonna get you, baby,” she quickly realizes that not only she is trapped, but she has been trapped all that time by allowing herself to be defined in such a manner. What Arnold does is to treat her as a mere physical attribute, thus, neglecting her personality.
He thinks he has the right to do the horrible things with her: Arnold Friend stabs her with words again and again with no regret. After that she becomes withdrawn form the rest of the world. Once it happens to her, she no longer has any forces to struggle, live and survive. We can see Connie’s unequivocal surrendering and resignation when she allows people to treat her as an object but not a person, that is something that she has been allowing to do to herself all those years unconsciously.
At the end of the story, she has completely broken away from herself and any sense of self-identity; she views the events as though they are happening to somebody else and not to her: “She put out her hand against the screen. She watched herself push the door slowly open as if she were back safe somewhere in the other doorway, watching this body and this head of long hair moving out into the sunlight where Arnold Friend waited.” (Oates)
The story does not have a clear ending, we see Connie fully losing herself and becoming fully trapped within this patriarchal system represented by the terrible and dangerous Arnold Friend. This main aspect of Connie completely breaking away from herself and surrendering herself and her sense of identity is what we need to realize from this story which shows the readers the dangers that women face in a prison of patriarchy.
Oates, Joyce Carol, “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” Epoch, Fall 1996, https://celestialtimepiece.com/2015/01/21/where-are-you-going-where-have-you-been/
You Aren’t Going Anywhere: A Feminist Critique of Joyce Carol Oates
Analysis and Interpretation of Short Fiction Essay
Toni Cade Bambara and Joyce carol Oates, the authors of the allegorical stories the lesson and where are you going, where have you been respectively describe the epiphanies of the principal characters.
Through her interaction with Miss Moore, Sylvia is able to awake to the reality of the socioeconomic class that exists in her community. Initially, Sylvia seems to be happy with her lifestyle but when she realizes her level of poverty, she becomes angry. Miss Moore is a figure that represents the fight for minority like blacks against racism and discrimination especially in America.
On the other hand, Connie’s personal experience with a stranger Arnold who forced her to lose her sexual innocence awakens her into the reality of oppression, abuse, and discrimination of women in the society. Besides, the epiphanies that occur in the lives of the main characters like Sylvia and Connie opening them up to the bleak future in a discriminatory or oppressive society, have comparison and contradictory elements.
Sylvia’s exposure and observations about the other side of the town puts her in somber mood while Connie’s personal experience with Arnold puts a permanent mark in her life. Sylvia is a tough, witty, or distrustful Harlemite girl. She is also bright and her trip to Manhattan exposes her to the injustices and discrepancies or inequality in her society.
Her hometown is filthy, dirty and only occupied by uneducated blacks who live in abject poverty. Their playground is not safe because it is not only a waste disposal ground but also acts as urinal thus producing a bad odour. Although she is an American, discrimination has divided the society in two diverse worlds. On their way to Manhattan, Sylvia and her friends gape at the dressing and the lifestyle of the whites.
Due to cultural differences, she is unable to comprehend why the white people wear stockings or fur coats during summer. At the toy store, Sylvia and her friends become perplexed at the elegant but expensive toys, which cost more than they can afford. Only the children of the white people can afford such expensive toys, which may not live forever. The white community lives in a lavish lifestyle while the black anguish in poverty.
Finally, reality dawns on Sylvia that she can neither touch nor buy the toys at the store. Instantly, she becomes mad not because that she hates anybody around her but because of the poverty, discrimination, and oppression in her society.
She feels that due to racial discrimination and that she is unable to afford or live the same lifestyle as the majority in the society. Her observation, wittiness and intelligent compels her to hate the discriminatory nature in the society. Her anger is symbolizes that she is ready to fight for her rights and that of the minority people in the society.
Furthermore, her moment of epiphany gives her the urge to come out of the prison she lives. For instance, her happiness mood changes to sadness and she tells her friends “let’s go” (Bambara par.12). This means that she does not want to continue being a prisoner or see the inequality that exists in her society. Thus, Sylvia’s brightness opens her to a future that is full of obstacles but her anger is a symbol of determination that she is ready to fight on.
On the other hand, Connie is a beautiful but disobedient girl in her adolescent stage. She listens neither to her mother nor to her aunties who want her to change her mannerisms and attitude towards life. Her dressing, walking and laughing styles are ways to seek attention from members of the opposite sex (Oates 2).
Regrettably, one of the male figures she attracts turns out to be violent, which leads to a conflict and eventually to rape. Connie is unable to resist Arnold’s advances due to his threats and leaves with him to unknown destination (Kurkowski par.2). Nevertheless, the conflict, rape, and forceful eviction from her home open her to the reality of oppression, sexual or physical abuse and disrespect women undergo in the society.
If Connie had listened to her parents and accompanied them to the barbecue party, she would not have had the awful experience. Therefore, Connie’s moment of epiphany comes in a form of a fight and personal experience that leaves her distressful while Sylvia’s moment of epiphany is through an observation that indirectly touches her life compelling her to fight for her rights.
Sylvia’s moment of epiphany has both a social and political orientation. All the leaders in either public or private institutions are from the majority group or race. Miss Moore symbolically represents the black people in the society who have risen above all odds to fight for their rights. She mainly speaks for the author when she enlightens Sylvia and her friends about the division of the world into social classes (Brandon par.1).
She is both educated and has relevant information about the social, political and economic state of her country thus volunteering to give lessons to poor black children. Through Miss Moore, the moment of epiphany in Sylvia’s comes through a learning process that makes her envy the white people or the majority group in the society. Moreover, Sylvia is able to realize the political, social, and economic status of her society through Miss Moore, which was the aim of the author.
On the contrary, the epiphany moment in Connie’s life is only socially oriented. Connie’s transition from adolescent stage to adulthood seems to have thrown her into confusion leading to frequent fights with her mother. Arnold appearance puts her into fear and when he forces himself into her, he not only makes her frightened but also enables her to understand the level of inhumanity in her society or in the world.
Although the author does not give the fate of Connie, the rape and harassment from Arnold are a premonition of the bleak future that lay ahead of her. Therefore, through Connie, the author is able to highlight the social discrimination and traumas women or poor people undergo in hands of men while through Sylvia the author mainly focuses on racial discrimination in the society.
The moments of epiphanies in the main characters are similar because they not only occur to young girls but also change the course of their lives. Additionally, their social nature makes them to interact with strangers who give their lives a different direction. Although Connie resists the advances or the oppressive nature of Arnold, eventually she has no choice but to follow his footsteps.
Therefore, Connie succumbs to Arnold when she realizes her feminine nature and the society’s perception of women as inferior cannot save her. In addition, she realizes the world is full of evil people because she is unhappy and Arnold forces her to smile when he says” let’s see a smile try it “ (Oates 9).Similarly, Sylvia’s poor living conditions and lack of adequate education gives her the urge to fight the oppressiveness, discrimination or inequality that prevails in the society.
Moreover, Sylvia asserts, “ain’t nobody is gonna to beat me at nuthin”, which means she is ready to fight for the rights of the minority in the society (Bambara par.12). Therefore, the moment of epiphanies in the two principal characters reveals to them about the unfairness that is in the world they live in. Therefore, the authors of the two books use the youth to enlighten the society about feminine rights.
In summary, through the description of the way of life of the main characters, the authors are able to describe their epiphany moments, which reveals to them the inhumanity, oppression and discrimination that exists in their world. When Sylvia realizes about the discriminatory nature of the black people in her society, she decides to fight for equality. On the contrary, although Connie is able to learn about the poor perception of women and the poor people in her society, she is unable to fight for her rights.
Sylvia’s moment of epiphany has political, social, and economic orientation while Connie’s epiphany is mainly socially oriented especially on the aspect of poverty and women. The similarity in the epiphany moments in the two cases is that it not only occurs to youths but also transforms the daily lives of the young girls. Finally, Bambara uses Miss Moore to highlight explicitly the political, social, and economic situation in her country.
Bambara, Toni. The lesson, 1972. Web.
Brandon, Martin. ‘The Lesson’ as an Analysis of Societies Economic Differences, 2009. Web.
Kurkowski, Clifford. A Psychological Analysis of Connie: A Feminist Viewpoint of “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? N.d. Web.
Oates, Carol. Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” Ed. Elaine Showalter. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1994.
Self-Awareness and Awakening in Raymond Carver’s “Cathedral” and Joyce Carol Oates’s “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” Research Paper
Can it be too late to see and understand the real nature or real value of definite things and relations? Different people can experience a kind of awakening or catharsis as a result of the external factors’ impact or as a result of the long spiritual journey toward the self-awareness.
The narrator of Raymond Carver’s “Cathedral” published in 1983 is a self-centered man who is inclined to see the world in a way which is convenient for him that is why his world is limited and framed because of his lack of sensitiveness and ability to feel and learn.
Thus, the story’s narrator is focused on himself, he does not understand his wife and her feelings, and he does not want to see the wife’s blind friend in his house because this man is associated with the wife’s past life, however, this blind man helps the main character ‘see’ and understand himself or to awake.
Carver’s character receives the chance to awake in time, when something can be changed. However, Connie as the main character of Joyce Carol Oates’s “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” (1966) seems to receive the chance to understand the values in the life too late, while facing the threat of being abused by the cruel men.
Although both Raymond Carver and Joyce Carol Oates focus on the topic of self-awareness and awakening in their stories, the authors choose different approaches to emphasize the significance of these actions; Carver demonstrates the possibilities to awake through the understanding and learning when Oates shows the negative effects of not being awakened in time.
In his short story “Cathedral”, Raymond Carver uses the first person narrative point of view in order to represent the situations and events through the eyes of the main character who interacts with his wife and the blind man. The important role of this approach is in the fact that the reader receives the opportunity to understand that the narrator lacks self-awareness, and he is rather ‘blind’ while discussing himself and other people with the focus on the narrator’s own words and descriptions.
From this point, the narrator’s narrow-mindedness and impossibility to see the deeper meaning is emphasized with references to his thoughts about the blind man’s visit. Thus, the narrator states, “I wasn’t enthusiastic about his [the blind man’s] visit. He was no one I knew. And his being blind bothered me. My idea of blindness came from the movies.
In the movies, the blind moved slowly and never laughed” (Carver 1). Thinking over the visit, the narrator is focused only on his own feelings and negative associations related to the ‘idea of blindness’, without paying much attention to the wife’s expectations, although the wife discusses this blind man as the closest friend, thus, the first person narrative point of view serves successfully to accentuate the narrator’s true emotions.
According to Clark, “Carver’s laconic speakers often narrate in a reportorial, self-effacing manner. They objectively document subjective sensory experiences, requiring a heightened degree of interpretive synthesis” (Clark 106). To demonstrate his perception of the situation, the narrator describes his emotions in short abrupt sentences, using words with negative connotation.
However, in spite of the worst expectations, the narrator’s meeting with the blind man provides the main character with the opportunity to experience the self-awareness and become awakened in order to understand himself, the other persons, and the real sense of life. Being unable to see beyond the surface, the narrator does not want to learn how to grow spiritually and how to awake.
From this perspective, Carver refers to contrasting the narrator who does not want to act to understand himself and his wife and the blind man for whom “learning never ends” because he “got ears” (Carver 9). Although the narrator can use eyes and ears, he cannot use them appropriately in order to examine the external world and his inner world of feelings.
Clark explains Carver’s approach to depict the main character while stating that “the narrator is emotionally close to the actions he describes, yet maintains a detached stance”, thus, the suggestion about the author’s intention is that “he wants his audience to form their own conclusion” (Clark 108). The narrator is even detached from the life he lives because he cannot open his eyes and learn the deeper meanings or examine the hidden emotions and feelings expressed by his wife.
Nevertheless, the main difference of Carver’s story from Oates’s one is in the fact that the main character receives the chance to learn the truth, to experience catharsis, and to awake with the help of the blind man’s words.
Trying to describe a cathedral, the narrator follows the blind man’s words and closes his eyes in order to draw the cathedral and to feel it. Following the blind man’s advice, the narrator experiences the true awakening, and he says, “I was in my house … But I didn’t feel like I was inside anything. “It’s really something,” I said” (Carver 13).
Carver ends his story with these words, and the reader can assume that the life of the narrator can change significantly because of the experience and these new feelings. It is possible to refer to Clark’s discussion of this ending because the researcher states that for the first time, the narrator “has wrestled with matters of “truth and illusion” and become more aware of a world outside of himself” (Clark 110).
Self-awareness becomes the result of the interactions with the blind man, and it is possible to expect that the narrator can use his chance to learn how to see beyond the surface, while changing his arrogance and ignorance directed toward his wife and the blind man because of the spiritual awakening.
If Carver provides the main character with the opportunity to experience self-awareness and to learn the importance of awakening in order to change the life, Oates demonstrates the significance of self-awareness and awakening though presenting the possible outcomes of not following the right path. Connie, a 15-year-old main character of Oates’s “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?”, is described as a person who intends to present herself as a mature woman while being a teenager who ignores the parents’ rules.
Describing Connie, Oates states that “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” (Oates 1). The author accentuates the girl’s lack of self-awareness while emphasizing Connie’s extreme focus on herself, on her appearance, and on the other people’s vision of the girl.
To give the readers an opportunity to conclude about Connie’s actions and the story’s ending independently, Oates uses the third person narrative point of view in contrast to the first person narrative used by Carver. That is why, Connie’s considerations and thoughts are presented in a rather ironical manner.
The girl is described as rejecting to follow the right path from the teenager’s maximalist visions and naïve discussion of the world around to the spiritual awakening. Thus, for instance, Oates draws the reader’s attention to the fact that “her [Connie’s] mother was so simple, Connie thought” (Oates 2). Connie is inclined to judge the people round her as ‘simple’ without understanding that she lacks the real vision of the mature life.
While discussing Connie’s abilities in understanding herself and the real world, Cruise states that “Connie lacks interest in what either lies outside her orbit or does not bear directly upon the urgencies of her life” (Cruise 97). That is why, Connie needs to experience the awakening from her illusory reality in which she is the mature woman who can have the sexual relations with men or act as women who have the significant background.
Describing Connie’s thoughts and ideas in detail and developing a lot of dialogues, Oates focuses on the fact that Connie used to live in the world of her fantasy. Nevertheless, the author does not provide the young girl with the real chance to change her life and attitude to it with the help of awakening because Connie’s way to self-awareness is too long in spite of her young age, and the author makes the reader assume that, finally, Connie experiences awakening, but there is no time to change something in her life.
The approaches used by Oates and Carver to discuss the topic of awakening and the necessity of self-awareness are similar in relation to the fact that both authors provide the hints to understand the main characters’ significant experience in the final words of the stories. Thus, following the cruel men, Connie focuses on much land which is observed everywhere, “so much land that Connie had never seen before and did not recognize except to know that she was going to it” (Oates 9).
In this case, Connie develops “the capacity to define herself actively or consciously” (Cruise 102). Although these final words can be discussed as the culmination of Connie’s spiritual awakening, the reader can assume that this experience cannot provide Connie with a chance to change the life for better.
In their short stories, Carver and Oates discuss the topic of self-awareness and awakening while using similar methods of presenting the important experience of awakening in the final words of the stories. However, the authors’ approaches to the presentation of the topic are different because Carver and Oates are inclined to use to contrasting variants to demonstrate the importance of the discussed experience.
Thus, if Carver’s narrator receives the chance to change his life and to grow spiritually, Oates’s Connie has few chances to change any thing in her life because it is too late to analyze the weaknesses in her attitudes and behaviours. From this perspective, in spite of the fact that the authors focus on the same topic of self-awareness, Carver and Oates’s approaches to discussing the topic are quite opposite and rather intriguing.
Carver, Raymond. Cathedral. n.d. Web.
Clark, Robert. “Keeping the Reader in the House: American Minimalism, Literary Impressionism, and Raymond Carver’s “Cathedral”. Journal of Modern Literature36.1 (2012): 104-118. Print.
Cruise, James. “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” and Cold War Hermeneutics”. South Central Review 22.2 (2005): 95-109. Print.
Oates, Joyce Carol. Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? 2003. Web.
Analysis of "Where Are You Going Where Have You Been" by Joyce Carol Oates
“In her short story, Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? Joyce Carol Oates tells a rather disturbing tale of a vain teenaged girl and a mysterious man. This narrative truly showcases Oates’s brilliant writing style and the characters in this work are deeply fascinating. All the main characters in this short story represent something more than they appear at surface level and the interpretations of these characters by literary scholars vary greatly.
The characters and what they mean are the most important part of this story. Connie and her family are a bit ordinary, but they are easily relatable characters. In contrast, Arnold and Ellie are strange and dangerous depictions of dark forces. From young Connie and the older strangers Arnold and Ellie to Oates’s dreamy storytelling there is a lot to discuss.
Oates hooks us into her story by introducing us to Connie, a self-involved fifteen-year-old who is spending her summer chasing boys and listening to music. She seems to have issues with all her family members for one reason or another. Connie and her friend meet some boys at a restaurant when she spots Arnold Friend for the first time in a parking lot. She forgets about both him and his strange car until later. Then, one Sunday afternoon, her family leaves to go to a picnic and Connie stays home to wash her hair and listen to music. While she is listening to the radio Arnold and his friend Ellie Oscar show up at her house. The combination of Arnold’s strange appearance, his age, and his creepily-intimate knowledge of Connie and her family frightens our main character. He tries in many different ways to lure her outside until eventually Arnold gains seemingly complete control over the girl, rendering her helpless. The story ends with Connie leaving the protection of her home and going with Arnold- ostensibly against her will. The story when taken at face-value might seem like realistic fiction but with closer inspection the events are probably just a part of Connie’s nightmare.
When we are first introduced to Connie, it quickly becomes obvious that she is immature. This character was not written as one who was wise beyond her years, like a lot of stories portray their heroines. Instead, she pretends to be more mature than she really is. The lack of parental interest in Connie’s life allows her to roam freely without any real structure which leads to her feeling more independent than she actually is. In the story’s setting of mid-century suburbia, we see that the youth is heavily influenced by pop-culture and music, and Connie is no exception. Popular culture plays an important role in shaping Connie’s consciousness and in creating her idea of romantic love as idealistically sweet and gentle; this hope is ultimately destroyed by Friend (LitFinder). Connie is obsessed with music, and it saturates everything in the story. Her love for music might even be her undoing, because it seems as though music is the weapon Arnold and Ellie use to control her.
“”In ‘Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?’ a satyr does come into the city, in the form of Arnold Friend”” (Easterly). Joan Easterly believes that the unusual Arnold Friend is actually a satyr in disguise. Oates gives many clues that this could be the case. His unusual appearance might be hiding several bits of demi-god anatomy from a wig covering his horns to his ill-fitting boots that might be secretly housing hooves. Naive Connie might not fully understand the extent of Arnold’s deception. She seems to think he is only an older man pretending to be young but if he is actually a mythological creature he is far more dangerous. His complete and unnatural control over Connie is a lot easier to explain if you think he is a supernatural being. However, many people believe that he is just a representation of Charles Schmid, a murderer that somehow lured teenaged girls to their deaths during the same time period as this story. While it is likely that he represents a satyr, without a direct statement from Oates as to who Arnold represents, he is open for interpretation. As Easterly puts it, The interpretations of Arnold Friend are complex and diverse, a tribute to Oates’s skill in creating allusive patterns, but the shadow of a satyr, flute in hand, lurks behind them all.
Arnold Friend and Connie are not the only characters in this story that critics have dissected. Arnold’s partner-in-crime Ellie Oscar has drawn the attention of many scholars as well. According to Alice Hall Petry, he is a representation of The King. She describes him as “”a character whose appearance, personality, and behavior suggest he is the incarnation of the admitted idol of Friend’s prototype: Elvis Presley.”” If you picture the character’s hair, sideburns, and clothes- chances are you’re just picturing Elvis. It also seems impossible for this character to exist without music, as it’s always following him and Arnold. His and Arnold’s music seem to be the most important part of the spell they have over Connie, and Ellie plays a big part in charming her with it- even turning up the radio in the car while Arnold is attempting to lure Connie outside. As with Elvis, Ellie projects an ambivalent sexual/motivational message which leaves his intended victim- a sexually mature but inexperienced adolescent girl- unsure of whether to perceive him as innocuous or sinister (Petry). There is a more sinister interpretation of Ellie though that is quite popular. He could also be a satyr alongside Arnold. It is strange and threatening that this character is silent except when he offers to help his friend by pulling out Connie’s telephone. And as Easterly says, several critics have noted, however, that these two men probably killed the old woman who lived down the road from Connie, and the threats to Connie’s family are direct. It seems as though Ellie Oscar might be more dangerous than just a caricature of a dead rock star.
While Connie’s family are not quite as interesting as Arnold and Ellie, they are still important to the story. One thing we know for certain about Connie’s family is that she isn’t really very close with them. As far as we can tell, our young protagonist has the worst relationship with her mother. In fact, other than a rocky marriage that’s about all we know about her- that she picks on her daughter and Connie doesn’t like her all that much. She seems to be the formally-beautiful archetypal domestic woman from what we gather from the story. Connie’s mother often compares her to her older sister June, who is a dowdy girl that works at her sister’s school. There is probably a lot of resentment between the two sisters since Connie is prettier, but her sister is portrayed as a dependable professional and is preferred by their mother. Connie’s father is not really a participating member of the family, he appears to only read his newspaper and avoid his wife and daughters. His lack of involvement is really the only remarkable thing about his character. We may not see many examples of affection from Connie towards her family, but it is important to note that when her family was threatened Connie sacrificed herself to save them- that’s one interpretation at least. It could also be interpreted that she had no control over herself with Arnold. Many scholars think that the story was all Connie’s nightmare. In Impure realism: Joyce Carol Oates’s Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?’ D.F. Hurley claims that Oates’s story violates one of the rules’ of dream vision or nightmare fiction: she does not complete the pattern by reawakening the dreamer to his/her old reality. The story ends before we find out for sure if Connie was dreaming her encounter with Friend and Oscar. According to Hurley, the struggle between a nightmare and a nightmarish imitation of reality is not just Connie’s but the reader’s too.
In closing, Oates’s allegorical style of writing lends to many different interpretations of the characters in Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? Connie is a stereotypical teenaged girl preoccupied with her appearance, love and music. Arnold is a personified representation of a mythological demigod and his friend Ellie represents either the King of rock and roll or another dark creature like Arnold. No matter how you understand the characters, they really are the heart of this story.
Self-esteem, Reputation and a General Mindset in "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?"
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.
- 1 Summary
- 2 Analysis
- 3 Conclusion
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.
The Main Characters Connie and Arnold in "Where are You Going, Where Have You Been"
“In the short story, “”Where are you going, Where have you been,”” Connie and Arnold Friend are the main characters who portray the struggles of differentiating fantasy and reality. Connie is a typical fifteen-year-old teenage girl that is rebellious towards her family and mainly cares about her appearance. Along with her appearance, she listens to a lot of pop music that talks about love and romance which gives her a skewed idea of what love is supposed to be.
When she’s out with her friends or around the presence of boys, she acts and dresses more maturely in order to lure boys in to explore her sexuality and the idea of what love is supposed to feel like as it is said in the music she listens to. At home, she acts childish and wanders off into her day dreams. Arnold Friend is a mysterious character that isn’t really clarified as a real human being or a source of Connie’s imagination. From the brief descriptions throughout the story, he is found to be an older man in his late 30 or 40s, who tries to pull himself off as a teenager by dressing up, wearing a wig, and sunglasses that makes it hard to see his eyes, and talking in a nonchalant and careless way that a regular teenage boy would. Although he is insecure and unsure of his own identity, he is intrigued by Connie and comes to her home, which is also her “”safe space,”” and tries to break down her mature persona in order to lure her outside and face the harsh reality of a “”mature”” adult.
Oates describes Connie’s identities by saying, “”Everything about her had two sides to it, one for home and one for anywhere not home, her walk that could be childlike and bobbing, or languid enough to make anyone think she was hearing music in her head smirking her laugh which was cynical and drawling at home but high pitched and nervous everywhere else, (Oates, 370)”” which gives off the impression that she feels the most comfortable and safe at home, while she is a unsure, sexy, and mature everywhere else. Her transition from teenager to adult is almost effortless because she uses location as an indication for how she should and shouldn’t behave. She is the most confident of who she is and how she should act when she’s at home, but when she is out and about with her best friend or around boys, she’s a bit more hesitant and trying to figure out what’s the best way to get the attention of the boys around her. Connie portraying a double personality instead of one stable is a sign of confusion and struggle to find the balance between the two. This sense of confusion is common amongst adolescents as they still have the mindset of a child, but society is pushing them to continuously mature, hence having different identities. It’s normal to have multiple personalities with different people, but Connie takes it a huge extreme. This is where Arnold Friend comes in to exploit her confusion and leads her to the harsh truth.
One way that Arnold breaks down her adult-like identity is through music. Music plays a huge role in Connie’s double personality and her escape from reality. When she is listening to music, “”…her mind is slipped over onto thoughts of the boy she had been with the night before, how sweet it was…the way it was in movies and promised in songs,”” (Oates, 373) showing her skewed idea of what love really is. She uses lyrics to determine that love is portrayed through sex and physical attraction and is often daydreaming when she’s listening. When Arnold first comes to the house, he knew to play music that happens to be “” the same program that was playing inside the house,”” (Oates, 374) in order to get her intrigued and comfortable enough to let him stay. As they continue to talk and get to know each other, Connie starts to become suspicious of Arnold’s character and, “”…she had the idea that he had driven up the driveway all right but had come from nowhere before that and belonged nowhere and that everything about him and even about the music that was so familiar to her was only half real,”” (Oates, 379) which is an indication that she’s finally coming to her senses that there’s more to love than sexual attraction and the fantasy she once knew isn’t the same anymore. Arnold Friend does everything that would usually attract her, which is why she references the song being so familiar but knows that this situation is not the same as her time with Eddie or any other boy she’s been with.
With Connie’s want to act more mature, comes the want of independence from her authoritative figures. She doesn’t have a close relationship with her father because, “”Their father was away at work most of the time, and when he came home He didn’t bother talking much to them,”” (Oates, 370). Connie pays more attention to her appearance which makes “”Connie’s mother [pick] at her until Connie wished her mother was dead,”” (Oates, 370) showing that their relationship consists of hostile interactions. And June, her sister that she seems to hate the most because her mother would compare the two and say, “”June did this, June did that and Connie couldn’t do a thing, her mind was all filled with trashy daydreams,”” (Oates, 369). Although she wants to be independent and want nothing to do with her family, she relies on them for a roof over her head, food, ride to school, and etc. She also relies on her best friend’s father for rides to the movies or diner where they both have their sexual explorations with boys. With her nonchalant and careless mindset, it’s easy to believe that she would only do things that would benefit herself. This perception is broken once Arnold gives her the incentive, “”you come out here nice like a lady and give me your hand, and nobody else gets hurt,”” (Oates, 382) which wasn’t a hard decision for her to make. Something clicked in her mind, changing from child to mature adolescent to think about the lives of her family over her own is impactful in her character development. Although she gives them the idea that she doesn’t care or love them, she ultimately shows her true colors and appreciates all that she had when she is making her decision to leave the house into the uncertain future or reality.
Arnold Friend’s character remains a mystery – unsure of his true motives and why he wanted to target Connie specifically. Whether he’s in her imagination or reality, he acted as the confusion and uncertainty that Connie seems to have with her life. Breaking down one of things she enjoyed most, music. He broke down the fantasy that she escaped to at home by doing and saying everything she would like but at the same time, she knows that there’s no sincerity or passion that she once hoped for. Coming to her home, which is her time to act her age. Inflicting fear into her mind and giving Connie the idea that “” inside your daddy’s house – is nothing but a cardboard box I can knock down at any time,”” (Oates, 383) making her unfamiliar of the life she has. Connie has a skewed idea of what independence is, as there is more to exploring her sexuality and trying to rebel against her family even though she loves and cares for them dearly. At the end, as she is walking out of the screen door into her yard, there was “”so much land that Connie had never seen before and did not recognize except to know that she was going to it,”” (Oates, 384) showing that her conception of life has changed. This could be interpreted as her transition from adolescent to adult or to her death. Connie’s struggle to balancing her double personality is common in all adolescents in this society as we all put on a different face, attitude, and identity towards different people.
Patriarchal Domination in "Where Are You Going Where Have You Been"
With good looks and sweet charm, men are able to win women over in a heartbeat. Why are men able to do this? Because women believe that they need basic human needs such as love and companionship to live. As you read through the short story, Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? by Joyce Carol Oates, you notice Connie has issues of building a stable relationship with her family, which is shown through her personality.
She seeks out male attention to fill the relationship she believes is missing in her life. This is why she finds herself having an interest in a much older and strange man, Arnold Friend. Connie gets into the car because she wants to get away from her unstable family, likes the attention she is receiving from Arnold and is persuaded by his actions because he is not who he says he is. Reading the short story, you notice that the young girl, Connie, does not get along with her family and she believes they do not like her. She often puts herself out there in some ways because she knows she is pretty. When she runs into Arnold Friend, she never knew her life would change forever. She doesn’t even know this man, but he notices her at the drive-in restaurant and makes catcalls to her.
Connie does not think anything of it and liked the attention she was receiving. Connie didn’t get any attention at home, so she was intrigued by the little attention she got from Arnold’s cat call. It wasn’t until Arnold showed up at her house later that day, that she began to question him more. He tries to smooth talk her into going for a ride with him. Connie is still into the attention, so she tries to play hard to get until she notices strange things about Arnold. The first red flag she notices is he is a lot older than she initially thought at the drive-in. Another concern Connie had was he already knew everything about Connie, which brought her fear. He tries to persuade her to come with him but eventually turns to threaten her and tells her that if she doesn’t get into the car there will consequences. She is frightened but also seems to find interest in him and the idea of going with him still. Connie gets into the car with Arnold, potentially thinking this could be an opportunity of freedom for her but little does she know Arnold is not who he says he is. She is intrigued and excited by even the slightest attention, because of the lack of attention she receives at home. Connie does not have a very stable relationship with her family. She does not get along with them and believes they are all against her. She was always compared to her sister and Connie never seemed to live up to the standards of her mother.
Why don’t you keep your room clean like your sister? How’ve you got your hair fixedwhat the hell stinks? Hairspray? You don’t see your sister using that stuff (pg. 186). These comments made Connie feel bad about herself like she wasn’t worthy of love from her family or anyone. Her mother always tore her down and made her feel like an outsider to their family, and as if she was not good enough. Her father did not seem to care to talk to her or build any kind of relationship either. Connie felt like her family was never giving her enough attention, so she put her interests into other things. Through the text, you notice that she likes male attention. Especially when Arnold cat called her from his car by saying Going to get you baby (187). You can tell she uses male attention to fill in the unstable relationship she has with her family. This shows one of the reasons that Connie gets into the car, she is sick of being treated like she is not good enough and with Arnolds smooth words and good looks, she is convinced that he can give her a better life than the one she is living in currently. Connie can barely resist the attention received from Arnold. Male attention, the thing she’s most longing for, is exactly what he’s giving her.
The sweet words he uses are her weakness and a way of getting into her head. I took a special interest in you, such a pretty girl, and found out all about you (191). Connie never really experienced attention like this which drew her in. He offered her love and a life much better than the one she is living in currently. This was the way to draw Connie into leaving with him. He knows that what she wants, which is love, something that will fill in the holes of her missing relationship with her family. We’ll go out to a nice field, out in the country here where it smells so nice and it’s sunny, Arnold Friend said. I’ll have my arms around you, so you won’t need to try to get away and show you what love is like, what it does. The hell with this house! It looks solid all right (196). Connie is intrigued by this and believes no one has ever shown her real love and with him saying this makes her believe that he will show her true love. Arnold is able to persuade her into believing in him because she is vulnerable and young. Throughout the text Arnold’s evil personality is shown. Arnold has this mischievous way about him that seemed to pull Connie in. She liked the looks and the actions that he portrays. As said in the introduction paragraph, Connie uses male attention to help fill in the missing attention from her family and that’s exactly what Arnold is doing for her. He stared at her and then his lips widened into a grin.
Connie slit her eyes at him and turned away, but she couldn’t help glancing back and there he was still watching her (187). The way he acted towards her made her feel wanted, gave her attention. And that’s exactly what she wanted, male attention to draw her in. But we do not know if Arnold Friend is truly a good man. He tries to play it off as he is but through the text, you notice he is more like the devil. This is how it is honey: you come out and we’ll drive away, have a nice ride. But if you don’t come out we’re gonna wait till your people come home and then they’re going to get it (195). This shows an evil aspect of Arnold, threatening Connie that if she does not come with him, he is going to kill her family. She may be threatened by what he says but also finds an interest because she wants the love and attention that Arnold promised he’d give her if she got into the car. And with a little sweet talk and persuasion, Connie walks out the front door and right into the arms of evil.
Connie may think she is escaping her miserable life at home and her absent relationship with her family by running away with Arnold, but she only makes matters worse by living in a life of lies with Arnold. Running off with Arnold is not just leaving with him but also leaving with a form of the devil. He persuades her with the kind of words she wants to hear and shows her the love and attention she wants and thinks she needs. So much land Connie had never seen before or did not recognize except to know that she was going to it (197). We may not know what initially happens in the end, but we have an idea of what could have potentially happened to her. As a young girl, it is easy to believe charming men and fall for the words he is feeding and telling you. As for Connie, the words from Arnold were the words she had been longing to hear from her family. She wanted love and someone to show her she mattered by giving her attention. Arnold took advantage of this poor young girl and ended up showing her the love she thought she wanted but possibly not the kind of love she truly needed. He used treats to get her to take the first step to come, which initially worked. He then used this power over her with charming words and actions to get her to stay with him forever.
Vulnerable women tend to lean towards men to fulfill their void of loneliness. Connie’s lack of structure at home creates a wall between her and her family. Without support at home from her family, Connie becomes lonely and in need of attention to fill the absence of attention from her main support system. These factors set Connie up to be very vulnerable and being taken advantage of by a man or anyone whiling to feed off her. Arnold tells Connie exactly what she needs to hear, and she begins to feed off his attention. Many women become attracted to men who give them what they think they need and tell them all the things they want to hear. Connie was intrigued by the idea of Arnold’s attention and love, not necessary him as a person. She becomes blinded by the evilness behind his charming words and actions that make her feel cared for and loved.
"Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been" by Joyce Carol Oates (1966)
Her name was Connie. 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. Her mother, who noticed everything and knew everything and who hadn’t much reason any longer to look at her own face, always scolded Connie about it.
“”Stop gawking at yourself. Who are you? You think you’re so pretty?”” she would say. Connie would raise her eyebrows at these familiar old complaints and look right through her mother, into a shadowy vision of herself as she was right at that moment: she knew she was pretty and that was everything. Her mother had been pretty once too, if you could believe those old snapshots in the album, but now her looks were gone and that was why she was always after Connie.
“”Why don’t you keep your room clean like your sister? How’ve you got your hair fixedwhat the hell stinks? Hair spray? You don’t see your sister using that junk.””
Her sister June was twenty-four and still lived at home. She was a secretary in the high school Connie attended, and if that wasn’t bad enoughwith her in the same buildingshe was so plain and chunky and steady that 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. Their father was away at work most of the time and when he came home he wanted supper and he read the newspaper at supper and after supper he went to bed. He didn’t bother talking much to them, but around his bent head Connie’s mother kept picking at her until Connie wished her mother was dead and she herself was dead and it was all over. “”She makes me want to throw up sometimes,”” she complained to her friends. She had a high, breathless, amused voice that made everything she said sound a little forced, whether it was sincere or not.
There was one good thing: June went places with girl friends of hers, girls who were just as plain and steady as she, and so when Connie wanted to do that her mother had no objections. The father of Connie’s best girl friend drove the girls the three miles to town and left them at a shopping plaza so they could walk through the stores or go to a movie, and when he came to pick them up again at eleven he never bothered to ask what they had done.
They must have been familiar sights, walking around the shopping plaza in their shorts and flat ballerina slippers that always scuffed the sidewalk, with charm bracelets jingling on their thin wrists; they would lean together to whisper and laugh secretly if someone passed who amused or interested them. 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. 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.
Sometimes they did go shopping or to a movie, but sometimes they went across the highway, ducking fast across the busy road, to a drive-in restaurant where older kids hung out. The restaurant was shaped like a big bottle, though squatter than a real bottle, and on its cap was a revolving figure of a grinning boy holding a hamburger aloft. One night in midsummer they ran across, breathless with daring, and right away someone leaned out a car window and invited them over, but it was just a boy from high school they didn’t like. It made them feel good to be able to ignore him. They went up through the maze of parked and cruising cars to the bright- lit, fly-infested restaurant, their faces pleased and expectant as if they were entering a sacred building that loomed up out of the night to give them what haven and blessing they yearned for. They sat at the counter and crossed their legs at the ankles, their thin shoulders rigid with excitement, and listened to the music that made everything so good: the music was always in the background, like music at a church service; it was something to depend upon.
A boy named Eddie came in to talk with them. He sat backwards on his stool, turning himself jerkily around in semicircles and then stopping and turning back again, and after a while he asked Connie if she would like something to eat. She said she would and so she tapped her friend’s arm on her way outher friend pulled her face up into a brave, droll lookand Connie said she would meet her at eleven, across the way. “”I just hate to leave her like that,”” Connie said earnestly, but the boy said that she wouldn’t be alone for long. So they went out to his car, and on the way Connie couldn’t help but let her eyes wander over the windshields and faces all around her, her face gleaming with a joy that had nothing to do with Eddie or even this place; it might have been the music. She drew her shoulders up and sucked in her breath with the pure pleasure of being alive, and just at that moment she happened to glance at a face just a few feet from hers. It was a boy with shaggy black hair, in a convertible jalopy painted gold. He stared at her and then his lips widened into a grin. Connie slit her eyes at him and turned away, but she couldn’t help glancing back and there he was, still watching her. He wagged a finger and laughed and said, “”Gonna get you, baby,”” and Connie turned away again without
Eddie noticing anything.
She spent three hours with him, at the restaurant where they ate hamburgers and drank Cokes in wax cups that were always sweating, and then down an alley a mile or so away, and when he left her off at five to eleven only the movie house was still open at the plaza. Her girl friend was there, talking with a boy. When Connie came up, the two girls smiled at each other and Connie said, “”How was the movie?”” and the girl said, ‘You should know.”” They rode off with the girl’s father, sleepy and pleased, and Connie couldn’t help but look back at the darkened shopping plaza with its big empty parking lot and its signs that were faded and ghostly now, and over at the drive-in restaurant where cars were still circling tirelessly. She couldn’t hear the music at this distance.
Next morning June asked her how the movie was and Connie said, “”So-so.””
She and that girl and occasionally another girl went out several times a week, and the rest of the time Connie spent around the houseit was summer vacationgetting in her mother s way and thinking, dreaming about the boys she met. But all the boys fell back and dissolved into a single face that was not even a face but an idea, a feeling, mixed up with the urgent insistent pounding of the music and the humid night air of July. Connie’s mother kept dragging her back to the daylight by finding things for her to do or saying suddenly, ‘What’s this about the Pettinger girl?””
And Connie would say nervously, “”Oh, her. That dope.”” She always drew thick clear lines between herself and such girls, and her mother was simple and kind enough to believe it. Her mother was so simple, Connie thought, that it was maybe cruel to fool her so much. Her mother went scuffling around the house in old bedroom slippers and complained over the telephone to one sister about the other, then the other called up and the two of them complained about the third one. If June’s name was mentioned her mother’s tone was approving, and if Connie’s name was mentioned it was disapproving. This did not really mean she disliked Connie, and actually Connie thought that her mother preferred her to June just because she was prettier, but the two of them kept up a pretense of exasperation, a sense that they were tugging and struggling over something of little value to either of them. Sometimes, over coffee, they were almost friends, but something would come upsome vexation that was like a fly buzzing suddenly around their headsand their faces went hard with contempt.
One Sunday Connie got up at elevennone of them bothered with churchand washed her hair so that it could dry all day long in the sun. Her parents and sister were going to a barbecue at an aunt’s house and Connie said no, she wasn’t interested, rolling her eyes to let her mother know just what she thought of it. “”Stay home alone then,”” her mother said sharply. Connie sat out back in a lawn chair and watched them drive away, her father quiet and bald, hunched around so that he could back the car out, her mother with a look that was still angry and not at all softened through the windshield, and in the back seat poor old June, all dressed up as if she didn’t know what a barbecue was, with all the running yelling kids and the flies. Connie sat with her eyes closed in the sun, dreaming and dazed with the warmth about her as if this were a kind of love, the caresses of love, and her mind slipped over onto thoughts of the boy she had been with the night before and how nice he had been, how sweet it always was, not the way someone like June would suppose but sweet, gentle, the way it was in movies and promised in songs; and when she opened her eyes she hardly knew where she was, the back yard ran off into weeds and a fence-like line of trees and behind it the sky was perfectly blue and still. The asbestos ranch house that was now three years old startled herit looked small. She shook her head as if to get awake.
It was too hot. She went inside the house and turned on the radio to drown out the quiet. She sat on the edge of her bed, barefoot, and listened for an hour and a half to a program called XYZ Sunday Jamboree, record after record of hard, fast, shrieking songs she sang along with, interspersed by exclamations from “”Bobby King””: “”An’ look here, you girls at Napoleon’sSon and Charley want you to pay real close attention to this song coming up!””
And Connie paid close attention herself, bathed in a glow of slow-pulsed joy that seemed to rise mysteriously out of the music itself and lay languidly about the airless little room, breathed in and breathed out with each gentle rise and fall of her chest.
After a while she heard a car coming up the drive. She sat up at once, startled, because it couldn’t be her father so soon. The gravel kept crunching all the way in from the roadthe driveway was longand Connie ran to the window. It was a car she didn’t know. It was an open jalopy, painted a bright gold that caught the sunlight opaquely. Her heart began to pound and her fingers snatched at her hair, checking it, and she whispered, “”Christ. Christ,”” wondering how bad she looked. The car came to a stop at the side door and the horn sounded four short taps, as if this were a signal Connie knew.
She went into the kitchen and approached the door slowly, then hung out the screen door, her bare toes curling down off the step.
There were two boys in the car and now she recognized the driver: he had shaggy, shabby black hair that looked crazy as a wig
and he was grinning at her.
“”I ain’t late, am I?”” he said.
“”Who the hell do you think you are?”” Connie said.
“”Toldja I’d be out, didn’t I?””
“”I don’t even know who you are.””
She spoke sullenly, careful to show no interest or pleasure, and he spoke in a fast, bright monotone. Connie looked past him to the other boy, taking her time. He had fair brown hair, with a lock that fell onto his forehead. His sideburns gave him a fierce, embarrassed look, but so far he hadn’t even bothered to glance at her. Both boys wore sunglasses. The driver’s glasses were metallic and mirrored everything in miniature.
“”You wanta come for a ride?”” he said.
Connie smirked and let her hair fall loose over one shoulder.
“”Don’tcha like my car? New paint job,”” he said. “”Hey.””
She pretended to fidget, chasing flies away from the door.
“”Don’tcha believe me, or what?”” he said.
“”Look, I don’t even know who you are,”” Connie said in disgust.
“”Hey, Ellie’s got a radio, see. Mine broke down.”” He lifted his friend’s arm and showed her the little transistor radio the boy was
holding, and now Connie began to hear the music. It was the same program that was playing inside the house.
“”Bobby King?”” she said.
“”I listen to him all the time. I think he’s great.””
“”He’s kind of great,”” Connie said reluctantly.
“”Listen, that guy’s great. He knows where the action is.””
Connie blushed a little, because the glasses made it impossible for her to see just what this boy was looking at. She couldn’t decide if she liked him or if he was just a jerk, and so she dawdled in the doorway and wouldn’t come down or go back inside. She said, “”What’s all that stuff painted on your car?””
“”Can’tcha read it?”” He opened the door very carefully, as if he were afraid it might fall off. He slid out just as carefully, planting his feet firmly on the ground, the tiny metallic world in his glasses slowing down like gelatine hardening, and in the midst of it Connie’s bright green blouse. “”This here is my name, to begin with, he said. ARNOLD FRIEND was written in tarlike black letters on the side, with a drawing of a round, grinning face that reminded Connie of a pumpkin, except it wore sunglasses. “”I wanta introduce myself, I’m Arnold Friend and that’s my real name and I’m gonna be your friend, honey, and inside the car’s Ellie Oscar, he’s kinda shy.”” Ellie brought his transistor radio up to his shoulder and balanced it there. “”Now, these numbers are a secret code, honey,”” Arnold Friend explained. He read off the numbers 33, 19, 17 and raised his eyebrows at her to see what she thought of that, but she didn’t think much of it. The left rear fender had been smashed and around it was written, on the gleaming gold background: DONE BY CRAZY WOMAN DRIVER. Connie had to laugh at that. Arnold Friend was pleased at her laughter and looked up at her. “”Around the other side’s a lot more you wanta come and see them?””
“”Why should I?””
“”Don’tcha wanta see what’s on the car? Don’tcha wanta go for a ride?””
“”I don’t know.””
“”I got things to do.””
He laughed as if she had said something funny. He slapped his thighs. He was standing in a strange way, leaning back against the car as if he were balancing himself. He wasn’t tall, only an inch or so taller than she would be if she came down to him. Connie liked the way he was dressed, which was the way all of them dressed: tight faded jeans stuffed into black, scuffed boots, a belt that pulled his waist in and showed how lean he was, and a white pull-over shirt that was a little soiled and showed the hard small muscles of his arms and shoulders. He looked as if he probably did hard work, lifting and carrying things. Even his neck looked muscular. And his face was a familiar face, somehow: the jaw and chin and cheeks slightly darkened because he hadn’t shaved for a day or two, and the nose long and hawklike, sniffing as if she were a treat he was going to gobble up and it was all a joke.
“”Connie, you ain’t telling the truth. This is your day set aside for a ride with me and you know it,”” he said, still laughing. The way he
straightened and recovered from his fit of laughing showed that it had been all fake.
“”How do you know what my name is?”” she said suspiciously.
“”Maybe and maybe not.””
“”I know my Connie,”” he said, wagging his finger. Now she remembered him even better, back at the restaurant, and her cheeks warmed at the thought of how she had sucked in her breath just at the moment she passed himhow she must have looked to him. And he had remembered her. “”Ellie and I come out here especially for you,”” he said. “”Ellie can sit in back. How about it?””
“”Where’re we going?””
He looked at her. He took off the sunglasses and she saw how pale the skin around his eyes was, like holes that were not in shadow but instead in light. His eyes were like chips of broken glass that catch the light in an amiable way. He smiled. It was as if the idea of going for a ride somewhere, to someplace, was a new idea to him.
“”Just for a ride, Connie sweetheart.””
“”I never said my name was Connie,”” she said.
“”But I know what it is. I know your name and all about you, lots of things,”” Arnold Friend said. He had not moved yet but stood still leaning back against the side of his jalopy. “”I took a special interest in you, such a pretty girl, and found out all about youlike I know your parents and sister are gone somewheres and I know where and how long they’re going to be gone, and I know who you were with last night, and your best girl friend’s name is Betty. Right?””
He spoke in a simple lilting voice, exactly as if he were reciting the words to a song. His smile assured her that everything was fine. In the car Ellie turned up the volume on his radio and did not bother to look around at them.
“”Ellie can sit in the back seat,”” Arnold Friend said. He indicated his friend with a casual jerk of his chin, as if Ellie did not count and
she should not bother with him.
“”How’d you find out all that stuff?”” Connie said.
“”Listen: Betty Schultz and Tony Fitch and Jimmy Pettinger and Nancy Pettinger,”” he said in a chant. “”Raymond Stanley and Bob Hutter””
“”Do you know all those kids?””
“”I know everybody.””
“”Look, you’re kidding. You’re not from around here.””
“”Buthow come we never saw you before?””
“”Sure you saw me before,”” he said. He looked down at his boots, as if he were a little offended. “”You just don’t remember.””
“”I guess I’d remember you,”” Connie said.
“”Yeah?”” He looked up at this, beaming. He was pleased. He began to mark time with the music from Ellie’s radio, tapping his fists lightly together. Connie looked away from his smile to the car, which was painted so bright it almost hurt her eyes to look at it. She looked at that name, ARNOLD FRIEND. And up at the front fender was an expression that was familiarMAN THE FLYING SAUCERS. It was an expression kids had used the year before but didn’t use this year. She looked at it for a while as if the words meant something to her that she did not yet know.
“”What’re you thinking about? Huh?”” Arnold Friend demanded. “”Not worried about your hair blowing around in the car, are you?””
“”Think I maybe can’t drive good?””
“”How do I know?””
“”You’re a hard girl to handle. How come?”” he said. “”Don’t you know I’m your friend? Didn’t you see me put my sign in the air when you walked by?””
“”My sign.”” And he drew an X in the air, leaning out toward her. They were maybe ten feet apart. After his hand fell back to his side the X was still in the air, almost visible. Connie let the screen door close and stood perfectly still inside it, listening to the music from her radio and the boy’s blend together. She stared at Arnold Friend. He stood there so stiffly relaxed, pretending to be relaxed, with one hand idly on the door handle as if he were keeping himself up that way and had no intention of ever moving again. She recognized most things about him, the tight jeans that showed his thighs and buttocks and the greasy leather boots and the tight shirt, and even that slippery friendly smile of his, that sleepy dreamy smile that all the boys used to get across ideas they didn’t want to put into words. She recognized all this and also the singsong way he talked, slightly mocking, kidding, but serious and a little melancholy, and she recognized the way he tapped one fist against the other in homage to the perpetual music behind him. But all these things did not come together.
She said suddenly, “”Hey, how old are you?””
His smiled faded. She could see then that he wasn’t a kid, he was much olderthirty, maybe more. At this knowledge her heart began to pound faster.
“”That’s a crazy thing to ask. Can’tcha see I’m your own age?””
“”Like hell you are.””
“”Or maybe a couple years older. I’m eighteen.””
“”Eighteen?”” she said doubtfully.
He grinned to reassure her and lines appeared at the corners of his mouth. His teeth were big and white. He grinned so broadly his eyes became slits and she saw how thick the lashes were, thick and black as if painted with a black tarlike material. Then, abruptly, he seemed to become embarrassed and looked over his shoulder at Ellie. “”Him, he’s crazy,”” he said. “”Ain’t he a riot? He’s a nut, a real character.”” Ellie was still listening to the music. His sunglasses told nothing about what he was thinking. He wore a bright orange shirt unbuttoned halfway to show his chest, which was a pale, bluish chest and not muscular like Arnold Friend’s. His shirt collar was turned up all around and the very tips of the collar pointed out past his chin as if they were protecting him. He was pressing the transistor radio up against his ear and sat there in a kind of daze, right in the sun.
“”He’s kinda strange,”” Connie said.
“”Hey, she says you’re kinda strange! Kinda strange!”” Arnold Friend cried. He pounded on the car to get Ellie’s attention. Ellie turned for the first time and Connie saw with shock that he wasn’t a kid eitherhe had a fair, hairless face, cheeks reddened slightly as if the veins grew too close to the surface of his skin, the face of a forty-year-old baby. Connie felt a wave of dizziness rise in her at this sight and she stared at him as if waiting for something to change the shock of the moment, make it all right again. Ellie’s lips
kept shaping words, mumbling along with the words blasting in his ear.
“”Maybe you two better go away,”” Connie said faintly.
“”What? How come?”” Arnold Friend cried. “”We come out here to take you for a ride. It’s Sunday.”” He had the voice of the man on the radio now. It was the same voice, Connie thought. “”Don’tcha know it’s Sunday all day? And honey, no matter who you were with last night, today you’re with Arnold Friend and don’t you forget it! Maybe you better step out here,”” he said, and this last was in a different voice. It was a little flatter, as if the heat was finally getting to him.
“”No. I got things to do.””
“”You two better leave.””
“”We ain’t leaving until you come with us.””
“”Like hell I am””
“”Connie, don’t fool around with me. I meanI mean, don’t fool around,”” he said, shaking his head. He laughed incredulously. He placed his sunglasses on top of his head, carefully, as if he were indeed wearing a wig, and brought the stems down behind his ears. Connie stared at him, another wave of dizziness and fear rising in her so that for a moment he wasn’t even in focus but was just a blur standing there against his gold car, and she had the idea that he had driven up the driveway all right but had come fromnowhere before that and belonged nowhere and that everything about him and even about the music that was so familiar to her was only half real.
“”If my father comes and sees you””
“”He ain’t coming. He’s at a barbecue.””
“”How do you know that?””
“”Aunt Tillie’s. Right now they’re uhthey’re drinking. Sitting around,”” he said vaguely, squinting as if he were staring all the way to town and over to Aunt Tillie’s back yard. Then the vision seemed to get clear and he nodded energetically. “”Yeah. Sitting around. There’s your sister in a blue dress, huh? And high heels, the poor sad bitchnothing like you, sweetheart! And your mother’s helping some fat woman with the corn, they’re cleaning the cornhusking the corn””
“”What fat woman?”” Connie cried.
“”How do I know what fat woman, I don’t know every goddamn fat woman in the world!”” Arnold Friend laughed.
“”Oh, that’s Mrs. Hornsby . . . . Who invited her?”” Connie said. She felt a little lightheaded. Her breath was coming quickly.
“”She’s too fat. I don’t like them fat. I like them the way you are, honey,”” he said, smiling sleepily at her. They stared at each other for a while through the screen door. He said softly, “”Now, what you’re going to do is this: you’re going to come out that door. You re going to sit up front with me and Ellie’s going to sit in the back, the hell with Ellie, right? This isn’t Ellie’s date. You’re my date. I’m your lover, honey.””
“”What? You’re crazy””
“”Yes, I’m your lover. You don’t know what that is but you will,”” he said. “”I know that too. I know all about you. But look: it’s real nice and you couldn’t ask for nobody better than me, or more polite. I always keep my word. I’ll tell you how it is, I’m always nice at first, the first time. I’ll hold you so tight you won’t think you have to try to get away or pretend anything because you’ll know you can’t. And I’ll come inside you where it’s all secret and you’ll give in to me and you’ll love me “”
“”Shut up! You’re crazy!”” Connie said. She backed away from the door. She put her hands up against her ears as if she’d heard something terrible, something not meant for her. “”People don’t talk like that, you’re crazy,”” she muttered. Her heart was almost too big now for her chest and its pumping made sweat break out all over her. She looked out to see Arnold Friend pause and then take a step toward the porch, lurching. He almost fell. But, like a clever drunken man, he managed to catch his balance. He wobbled in his high boots and grabbed hold of one of the porch posts.
“”Honey?”” he said. “”You still listening?””
“”Get the hell out of here!””
“”Be nice, honey. Listen.””
“”I’m going to call the police””
He wobbled again and out of the side of his mouth came a fast spat curse, an aside not meant for her to hear. But even this “”Christ!”” sounded forced. Then he began to smile again. She watched this smile come, awkward as if he were smiling from inside a mask. His whole face was a mask, she thought wildly, tanned down to his throat but then running out as if he had plastered make-up on his face but had forgotten about his throat.
“”Honey? Listen, here’s how it is. I always tell the truth and I promise you this: I ain’t coming in that house after you.””
“”You better not! I’m going to call the police if youif you don’t””
“”Honey,”” he said, talking right through her voice, “”honey, I m not coming in there but you are coming out here. You know why?””
She was panting. The kitchen looked like a place she had never seen before, some room she had run inside but that wasn’t good enough, wasn’t going to help her. The kitchen window had never had a curtain, after three years, and there were dishes in the sink for her to doprobablyand if you ran your hand across the table you’d probably feel something sticky there.
“”You listening, honey? Hey?”” “”going to call the police””
“”Soon as you touch the phone I don’t need to keep my promise and can come inside. You won’t want that.””
She rushed forward and tried to lock the door. Her fingers were shaking. “”But why lock it,”” Arnold Friend said gently, talking right into her face. “”It’s just a screen door. It’s just nothing.”” One of his boots was at a strange angle, as if his foot wasn’t in it. It pointed out to the left, bent at the ankle. “”I mean, anybody can break through a screen door and glass and wood and iron or anything else if he needs to, anybody at all, and specially Arnold Friend. If the place got lit up with a fire, honey, you’d come runnin’ out into my arms, right into my arms an’ safe at homelike you knew I was your lover and’d stopped fooling around. I don’t mind a nice shy girl but I don’t like no fooling around.”” Part of those words were spoken with a slight rhythmic lilt, and Connie somehow recognized themthe echo of a song from last year, about a girl rushing into her boy friend’s arms and coming home again
Connie stood barefoot on the linoleum floor, staring at him. “”What do you want?”” she whispered.
“”I want you,”” he said.
“”Seen you that night and thought, that’s the one, yes sir. I never needed to look anymore.””
“”But my father’s coming back. He’s coming to get me. I had to wash my hair first” She spoke in a dry, rapid voice, hardly raising it for him to hear.
“”No, your daddy is not coming and yes, you had to wash your hair and you washed it for me. It’s nice and shining and all for me. I thank you sweetheart,”” he said with a mock bow, but again he almost lost his balance. He had to bend and adjust his boots. Evidently his feet did not go all the way down; the boots must have been stuffed with something so that he would seem taller. Connie stared out at him and behind him at Ellie in the car, who seemed to be looking off toward Connie’s right, into nothing. This Ellie said, pulling the words out of the air one after another as if he were just discovering them, “”You want me to pull out the phone?””
“”Shut your mouth and keep it shut,”” Arnold Friend said, his face red from bending over or maybe from embarrassment because Connie had seen his boots. “”This ain’t none of your business.””
“”Whatwhat are you doing? What do you want?”” Connie said. “”If I call the police they’ll get you, they’ll arrest you””
“”Promise was not to come in unless you touch that phone, and I’ll keep that promise,”” he said. He resumed his erect position and tried to force his shoulders back. He sounded like a hero in a movie, declaring something important. But he spoke too loudly and it was as if he were speaking to someone behind Connie. “”I ain’t made plans for coming in that house where I don’t belong but just for you to come out to me, the way you should. Don’t you know who I am?””
“”You’re crazy,”” she whispered. She backed away from the door but did not want to go into another part of the house, as if this would give him permission to come through the door. “”What do you . . . you’re crazy, you. . . .””
“”Huh? What’re you saying, honey?””
Her eyes darted everywhere in the kitchen. She could not remember what it was, this room.
“”This is how it is, honey: you come out and we’ll drive away, have a nice ride. But if you don’t come out we’re gonna wait till your people come home and then they’re all going to get it.””
“”You want that telephone pulled out?”” Ellie said. He held the radio away from his ear and grimaced, as if without the radio the air was too much for him.
“”I toldja shut up, Ellie,”” Arnold Friend said, “”you’re deaf, get a hearing aid, right? Fix yourself up. This little girl’s no trouble and’s gonna be nice to me, so Ellie keep to yourself, this ain’t your date right? Don’t hem in on me, don’t hog, don’t crush, don’t bird dog, don’t trail me,”” he said in a rapid, meaningless voice, as if he were running through all the expressions he’d learned but was no longer sure which of them was in style, then rushing on to new ones, making them up with his eyes closed. “”Don’t crawl under my fence, don’t squeeze in my chipmonk hole, don’t sniff my glue, suck my popsicle, keep your own greasy fingers on yourself!”” He shaded his eyes and peered in at Connie, who was backed against the kitchen table. “”Don’t mind him, honey, he’s just a creep. He’s a dope. Right? I’m the boy for you, and like I said, you come out here nice like a lady and give me your hand.”