The story Where are you going, where have you been? tells about a young girl named Connie. She lives with her parents and older sister, and their relationship is hardly ideal. Connie is constantly in dreams about what to argue with her mother about. She likes to go out with her friends and sometimes breaks the rules and communicates, and spends time with the boys. However, one evening considerably changed her life.
One day, Connie was left alone at home when her family went to a barbecue. Suddenly, a car with two men, whom the girl saw for the first time, drove up to the house. Later, Connie remembers that she met one of them during her hangouts. From the very beginning, the young man, whose name was Arnold Friend, arouses suspicion with his strange behavior, which may seem maniacal.
Arnold invites the girl to go for a ride with them, but she refuses. As a result, a simple conversation turns into threats that cause fear in Connie. She tries to intimidate the intruder that she would call the police, but Arnold assures her that he will break into the house if she does so. In the end, it all comes down to the fact that the girl herself does not notice how overwhelmed with fear she begins to follow a stranger. The peculiarity of the story is that the reader can only guess what happened next since the author leaves the end of the story open.
Connie is presented as a typical teenage girl character of 1966 in Where are you going, where have you been?. As any young person of that period, she likes to spend time with her friends, flirt with the opposite sex, and live without worries. In addition, she also considers herself a pretty enough girl and does not hide it. Connie can be called a stubborn girl with maximalists features. She cannot tolerate constant reproaches from her mother and does not tolerate life in her own home, constantly dreaming of escaping from it.
The main character, as already mentioned, has many typical features in behavior for a fifteen-year-old girl living in the 60s. She is easy-going, carefree, and she does not care about household chores; she does not want to take on any responsibility and rests and dreams constantly. If people compare Connie with modern teenagers, she is inferior to them in many ways and therefore seems outdated. Now, young people do not spend their time listening to songs on the radio. They also meet with friends but already imagine themselves more independent from everyone.
Serious situations, especially those that can lead to fatal or traumatic consequences, are presented as the most difficult for a person. Many cannot think clearly and intelligently and cannot focus on how to get out of them. Perhaps this is exactly what happened to the main character of the work. There is no denying that her actions were thoughtless and stupid from the very beginning. Being alone at home, a young girl should not have started any interaction with a person she did not know at all.
The emergence of such behavior and the situation in which Connie found herself were foreshadowed by many circumstances. So, the girl most likely suffered from a lack of attention, which encouraged her to numerous acquaintances and parties with friends. This also influenced her decision to ignore the car that drove up to the house instead of starting a conversation with an adult stranger. Furthermore, the fact that the young girl was at home alone and did not have the opportunity to protect herself with someone else’s help had a significant role. Thus, she did not have many opportunities and circumstances to avoid this terrible and terrible situation.
It is worth noting that in stressful situations, a person can react in only three ways. Among them, direct struggle, flight, or stupor stand out. If the danger is such that people can cope with it physically, they fight; if there is no such possibility, they are saved by running away from the place of the conflict that has arisen. In the absence of these two possibilities and the understanding that people can no longer do anything, they fall into a stupor and freeze. The fact is that most of the dangers that a person encounters are social and psychological, and that is why fading becomes the most common reaction for many.
The age of the young heroine of the story was also of great importance. Due to her inexperience and youth, she could not take any other action except to call the police at the first opportunity. The author describes that “the kitchen looked like a place she had never seen before, some room she had run inside, but that was not good enough, was not going to help her” (Oates 7). However, the girl could not pull herself together and fulfill the planned plan due to an overabundance of various emotions, intense fear, and stress.
One of the ways to prevent this situation could be the correct training of a young girl on how to behave in situations that put her life in danger. Even though people avoid such situations for obvious reasons, it is possible to train behavior in them with the help of ordinary conversations between parents and children. It is essential to explain and ensure that children, even teenagers, understand what communication with a stranger can turn into. Gaining and improving the ability to cope with dangerous situations can play a crucial role in salvation.
The final scene has a particular pressure and tension, forcing the reader to experience a lot of emotions. At first, Connie firmly tries to resist the adult man who is so desperate to lure her out of the house. The apogee is reached at the moment when the girl’s emotions go through the roof and spill out of her when she decides to run and call the police. However, after that, she seems to lose any opportunity to feel and fight as “she was hollow with what had been fear but what was now just an emptiness” (Oates 9). At this moment, something happens that cannot be understood and imagined.
The actions and words of the heroine of the story at the end cause intense bewilderment and misunderstanding in me. Like a doll, she begins to succumb to all the instructions of an adult man and goes out to him. It seemed as if she was then watching herself accepting the inevitable horrible end. She describes that “she watched herself push the door slowly open as if she were back safe somewhere in the other doorway” (Oates 9). After that, the reader is left confused, as the author leaves them to reflect on what happened next. I have never experienced such a reaction to the ending of a literary work. It is not often that there are works that leave the reader at a loss and at the same time with a great interest in the continuation of the story.
Oates, Joyce. Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? Rutgers University Press, 1994.