Oppression Of Women In Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been

April 27, 2022 by Essay Writer

In the short story ‘Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?’ by Joyce Carol Oates the author symbolizes the oppression of women and the persistent dominance men have tried to sustain. The protagonist, Connie, has been portrayed to be the epitome of this due to perceiving herself as a victim in a society whose life is dependent on her looks. Even though it appears that Connie’s mother likes Connie’s sister June better, Connie believes it is actually her who is the favorite due to her being the prettier of the two. This conveys how women are more valued because of their looks over anything else.

At the beginning of the story, Connie’s life seems to be constantly revolving around their obsession with men and her demeanor. “But all the boys fell back and dissolved into a single face that was not even a face, but an idea.” (Oates,2). Whereas the antagonist, Arnold Friend, represents men and their overall attitude towards viewing women. Throughout the story he grows to enslave her into bondage through manipulation and dominance; quick to discover her insecurities exactly, so he can get her at her weakest and most vulnerable. For years this has been a common stereotype for both men and women, men using women heartlessly for their own satisfaction, and women foolishly falling into the twisted traps of men striving to find that true love. Arnold Friend represents a notion of sexuality in a form of proficiency and control. Connie represents a culture that views women as sexual objects to be looked at, craved, and enticed through lust – but not as desiring subjects in their own manner.

Arnold had worked to get to Connie through her weakness and greatest desires- in this case, Connie’s longing to fulfill her romantic fantasies, to get her right where he wanted her. His greatest tool in doing so was his forked tongue in which he would use to keep his promises that were threats in disguise. Coming from his evil lips the word “love”, one of the purest words showing great affection turned sinister and obscene when leaving his mouth, the home of manipulation. Arnold never revealed anything about himself, however, he still managed to pull Connie just the same through his words. “She was hollow with what had been fear but what was now just emptiness.” ( Oates, 7). Growing up all Connie wished was to appear attractive and wanted by older men, however, once she received that explicit attention she was terrified and confused. Feeling upset with herself for being so oblivious and caught up in her conceited sensual world she began to feel like her only purpose was to satisfy men and their wants.

Connie had always acted one way at home and a completely different way when she is elsewhere. Her maturity in almost everything as well as sexuality enhances when outside the walls of her home. She has worked hard to cultivate that particular manner of lust from the way she dresses all the way down to the way she walks and laughs. However, once Arnold knows she is wrapped around his finger, he shows up at her house causing her two worlds to collide violently. At the point of arrival, Arnold no longer needed to entice and reel her in. Initially, Arnold appealed to Connie in a dangerous sense offering to whisk her away from her despondent life as a teenage girl. He vastly differs from her family and any man she has ever met. This intrigues her vulnerable self. Despite the craving for such attention, once Arnold revealed his true intentions he invited great fear and lessened the attraction. “Be nice to [him], be sweet like [she] can because what else is there for a girl like [her] but to be so sweet and pretty and give in?” (Oates, 8)

Arnold tells her ‘[He’ll] come inside [her] where it’s all secret and [she’ll] give in to [him] and [she’ll] love him’ (Oates, 6). He views Connie and women as no more than intimate objects. Arnold told her, although, likely, she won’t like it at first, she will love him in the end once he is done. Men view sex and pleasure above everything else thinking it’s the only way to a women’s heart. They believe they are entitled to do whatever they want both sexually and mentally to women because of superiority. This makes men think that women need to be submissive and allow it because they’re inferior compared to them. As a result, women feel brainwashed into the idea that if they allow themselves to be used and give into these sexual advances they will bond and fall in love in the end.

In the short story “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” by Joyce Carol Oates she proves the society we have built based on the superiority of gender. She builds on the idea of men controlling women throughout every event that occurs. 


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