All a young girl can ever think about is growing up. She wants to wear makeup, curl her hair, and have a boyfriend. All kids want to grow up too fast, but girl in particular have a certain mindset about wanting to be grown up, physically and mentally.
In the short story, “Where are you going, where have you been?” there are some strong themes that make very good points for teenagers today. One of the biggest themes I would like to discuss is fantasy versus reality. In the short story, there is a adolescent 15-year-old girl named Connie. She is the average 15-year-old girl, conceited and longing to be older. She spends too much time in the bathroom trying to perfect her look with beauty products and new hairstyles. Her mom constantly nags at her because she can’t understand y she can’t be like her other daughter, plain. Her sister is 24-year-old living at home and working as a secretary at her school. Connie’s only get away is when she rides out with her friends and hangout at the mall and a small diner where all the older kids hung out.
One particular night she was there she met a young boy by the name off Eddie. He offers her dinner so she tells her friends she will meet up with them later. While she is hanging out with Eddie she happens to glance around and make eye contact with an unknown person at the time. The stranger mouths to her, “Gonna get you, baby.
” The next day her parents go to a barbecue and she refuses to go so she is left at home alone. As she is sitting in her room daydreaming about the young boy she met the night before, she hears the gravel crunch in her driveway. She runs outside only to find the stranger in the gold convertible jalopy. This is the part where her fantasies turn to a reality. The stranger asks Connie to go on a ride with him, she glances over at his car and written in bold letters is,” ARNOLD FRIEND.” He then reveals to her that this is his name. The longer they stand there and talk the more uncomfortable connie becomes.
She then realizes that she no longer feels safe, she tells him she does not wish to go on a ride with him and she wants him to leave. Arnold tells her that he’s not leaving and that he won’t come in after her unless she tries to call the cops. Things begin to get even creepier when Arnold is able to tell her exactly where her family is and what they are doing at the barbecue. As this intense conversation goes on Connie becomes more and more nervous. Arnold tells her that if she tries to call the police he’ll come in after her, or if she waits any longer and her family shows up that they’ll “get it”. He begins to have an imaginary hold her she tries to lock the door but he tells her he’ll just break it down. Connie begins to come to a state in which she can’t tell what is fantasy and what is real.
She gets to point where she feels as if she has no other option and Arnold has such a hold on her that she ends up leaving with him. Connie believes she is just so miserable with her life that she fantasizes about boy and love all day, but when Arnold friend approaches her and tries to make her fantasies a reality she doesn’t know how to handle it. Connie is a young girl who should be enjoying life instead of focusing on boys. Arnold Friend is a character that is meant to be very sexualized. He is an older man, claiming to be 19-years-old, approaching a 15-year-old girl asking her to take a “ride” with him. Arnold is very sexualized due to the time period in which the story is set. During 1960s in america sexual morals were being questioned.
So I believe that Oates wrote this to address all sexual tension going on at the time. Women were degraded at the time and they struggled having any power over men. Connie represents women at that time and Arnold represents men at the time and the hold they had over women. Another hidden motif from this story comes right from Arnold’s name Arnold Friend can be broken down to Arch fiend, which means devil. Arnold friend is the devil.
A common saying is “temptation is the devil” Arnold is trying to tempt Connie to go with him on a “ride”. I believe many girls in the world today struggle with issues of fantasy. They hate their lives so much they begin to fantasize of things they wish they had. Kids want to grow up so fast and they think that they are ready for love, but when an Arnold Friend comes along they begin to wish they were young and careless again. This story goes to show what can happen to you when you try and do grown up things when you are still a child. Connie sneaks off to a diner where all the older kids hangout and catches the attention of the wrong person. This cost her major consequences.
She soon begins to realize the attention she once wish for caused her to attract some unwanted attention. This story is an eye-opener to the acts of sexual violence that did and still does affect the world. Girls are seduced and abducted everyday. Many become victims of rape and murder, or worse, both. This is a very sensitive subject but Oates writes this for awareness of these issues.
Oates writes this short story with many themes and underlying meanings. It is a very wonderful piece to analyze especially for the themes. Fantasy versus reality is a huge theme in this story and good point to analyze.