Character Development In Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been
Joyce Carol Oates was born in New York on June 16, 1938. She grew up with her parents and two younger children on a New York suburban farm. She is a person who loves reading when she was a child even though she had a hard time with her childhood. The first novel she wrote was rejected because it involved drug addicts when she was in high school. She tried to study and win a scholarship related to the English major that she wants to study at Syracuse University. In 1960, she enrolled at the University of Wisconsin and completed her Master’s degree in less than 2 years. Oates is also known as a great American novelist of our time. She won many important literary awards and was nominated twice for the Nobel Prize for literature. She has published several novels, short stories, essays, and many other works with many different styles and inspirations: ‘We Were the Mulvaneys’ (1996), ‘The Falls’ (2004), ‘The Gravedigger’s Daughter’ (2007), The story “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” (1966) and more.
Joyce Carol Oates has brought us to a very honest world of the short story ‘Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been’ full of horrors and worries. The author described many subtle emotions in the 1960s of the American countryside. The young woman has a clean soul affected and her personality changes over time in a chaotic, insecure society. Oates showed us the life of a girl without a reputation in the family. A teenage girl named Connie, who is beautiful, self-contained, inexperienced, disagrees with everyone including her family. An unexpected situation is coming when Connie refuses to go with her family to the picnic until she has flirted with a guy named Arnold Friend at a restaurant. Arnold wants to take Connie out, but she refuses. After that, the situation becomes even more dramatic when Arnold angrily asks Connie to go with him to get it otherwise he will hurt her family. The story ends when Connie agrees to follow Arnold as a great act by enduring and sacrificing for her family so that they won’t be hurt, but she does not know that decision will change her become a different person.
In the story, Connie hangs out with a close friend in the middle of the night. They were transported to a shopping mall to buy things. Instead of going into the store to buy things, both of them decided to go to a nearby fast-food restaurant. Connie and her friends sat near the cash register and met a boy named Eddie, who sat in front of them with a stool. Eddie feels Connie cute and starts flirting with her. Then, Connie accepted the invitation to go to the car with the boy and let her best friend stay alone in the restaurant. At that moment, another boy driving a yellow convertible with black hair looked at Connie and said: ‘Gonna get you, baby.’ This is a moment of the first two meetings at a restaurant and this shaggy black-haired boy will be one of the most influential people in Connie’s decision later. Another day, Connie refused to participate when the family went out to a picnic. Soon after, Connie saw a yellow convertible stopping across the street and honking loudly. She felt very scared because the whole family went away. Near the door, she realized that it was the boy she met at the restaurant the night before. The boy introduced himself as Arnold Friend and his friend, Ellie. Arnold invited her to join him, but Connie refused. Then Connie realized that Arnold’s words became more violent, threatening her: ‘You don’t want to get hurt,’ Arnold Friend went on. ‘Now, get up, honey. Get up all by yourself.’ () Finally, Connie feels helpless and accepts Arnold’s invitation because it is the only option she can make to help her family safe.
Joyce Carol Oates described in some common about a bad relationship between Connie and her family. Her mother always treated her coldly and said things that should not be said to her daughter ‘Stop gawking at yourself, who are you? You think you’re so pretty?’ () This is like a boss yelling at an employee. Connie has to endure the pressure from her own family when everyone in the house is unhappy about her doing: ‘Why don’t you keep your room clean like your sister? How’ve you got your hair fixed—what the hell stinks? Hair spray? You don’t see your sister using that junk.’ () The simple reason is that Connie’s mother feels Connie is a burden like a parasite, not worrying about helping her family as her sister.
The author also has used some simple, easy-to-understand words that are metaphorical about the life of a girl who has always been hated by people and intended to think badly. In the story, we can recognize the words implicitly, the tone seems serious because Oates shows us a view from Connie. Every time Connie is scolded by her mother, she always has a negative thought: ‘wished her mother was dead and she herself was dead.’ A person was always forced to the end and they were forced to rebel. Connie even told her friends that she didn’t like her family, especially her mother. However, even though her mother always treated her badly, Connie still suffered her sacrifice to protect her mother, her family from harm when Arnold threatened her family. Of course, this is also true in our lives when a family member does not work or help the family.
After reading all the short stories ‘Where are you going, Where have you been?’ We feel like we are in a fairytale world, where there is only the presence of love or fighting between Angels and Demons. When Connie represents the devil by being lazy and refusing to clean up her room. Meanwhile, the younger sister named June is considered an angel by her mother because she always works useful for her family. Most people know that Lucifer was an angel and I believe Connie is also an angel in some way when she endured following Arnold in exchange for family safety. Other readers saw it as a literal story, and then a symbolic story about the serious problem of rape and violence against women in today’s society. The story can be overlaid on many different morals or lessons and can be used to help highlight a symbolic point in literature.
Joyce Carol Oates explained her main purpose and attracted readers through the situations of an unfortunate girl without love from her mother. The character development of Connie and her way of fighting is like a weak woman who accepts all bad words from men or others. The author has shown us that Connie’s last lesson is to follow Arnold as a bad ending. This greatly affected thousands of women suffering from terrible rape. She wants everyone to understand the great action of the girl at the end of the story. An action calls for people to stand up so that the world can know the suffering of women during hard times. This short story was written for many reasons and Oates succeeded in conveying her inspiration in the work ‘Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?’ Overall, I felt Connie was a miserable girl in the family and that changed Connie’s decision in a negative direction at the end of the story. If I were Connie, I would do the same. This is probably also a life lesson about the importance of family and parents in the lives of their children. Parents should advise children in the right way.
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