Literary Analysis Of “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been” Essay Examples

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Family, Parents, Literature, Mother, Women, Friendship, People, Children

Pages: 5

Words: 1375

Published: 2020/11/18

Imagine staring at the picture of a desert, grand and splendid with all its sand that seems to stretch even farther than what the eyes can see. Photos tell a story, and these stories are produced from a person’s interpretations of every nuance of the picture. These stories may vary according to the ideas of the person looking. Stories, that is, written stories, on the other hand, come alive through their characters. The way they talk and think, and how they act on their ideas make stories tangible and transform them into something that can be seen, heard, and felt. What were once just thoughts of the writers were given a breath of life when they were put into words. The characters give these stories justice and turn them into a reality that can then be enjoyed by an audience. Truly, without the actors in the stories, a story will simply remain ideas translated into words.
In the short story “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been,” Connie was the character that stood out. She was described as a young girl who was ever conscious of the way she looks and uses the way how other people look as her indication if she looks okay or not. Her habit of always checking herself in the mirror tells that she is a person absorbed in her own world. She gives more weight to the way she looks and easily dismisses her mother’s criticisms. This is also the same attitude that she extends to her sister and father, the characters whose thoughts were not heard but were given identities based on Connie’s description. This makes Connie’s character an integral part of the story. She was the voice that gave life to her father and sister’s characters, her father a silent man who always has his head down and rarely talks except when asking for supper, and her sister who was plain and chunky. As she is the only voice that can be heard, the way she made her father and sister appeared are all based on her bias. It was apparent that her relationship with them were not good, and this can be attributed to her always isolating herself.
Connie’s mother was the other voice that can be heard in the story. She provides a contradiction and a sense of clarification as to what is really going on in the story. Her constant nagging and criticism of Connie’s attitude shows that she does not approve of how she is handling herself. She confirms that Connie is vain and self-centered, always looking at the mirror and thinking that she is beautiful. She also expresses her discontent at Connie always isolating herself even when an opportunity comes for them to be together, such as when Connie chose to stay at home alone rather than join her family to her aunt’s barbecue party. Through her voice, the other side of Connie is made known, that she is lazy and does not help much in the house. Her room is always messy, and when Arnold Friend came, she sees that there are dishes that she is supposed to wash in the sink and she is aware that the table would be sticky. She is always mad at her mother’s incessant criticisms but deep inside she knows that she is all what her mother is harping on. She is also careful about not always lying to her mother as she finds it “cruel to fool her so much.” She also knows and acknowledges that her mother loves her and that she loves her back, but are just awkward at expressing it. In her words, she and her mother are just “keeping up a pretense of exasperation.”
The awkwardness to display emotions to a parent is characteristic of someone going through a period of adolescence. Connie, as she evolves into an adolescent, is struggling at finding her sense of identity. She has a lot on her mind and mostly keeps them to herself in fear that she wouldn’t be understood, as evident in her mother’s constant nagging. She finds more comfort with her friend, who is also probably going through the same stage. Together they are exploring a world new to them, something that they are doing in secrecy as that is what makes it exciting. Her friend’s father would drop them to a shopping plaza so they could walk around, check out stores, eat, or watch a movie, things that parents expect that people their would do, but they would go to a restaurant where older kids usually hang out. Their desire to be where older people are shows that they are curious, a characteristic inherent to people pf all age. However, where there is caution in the case of most adults, adolescents like them are more into testing their limits. They are always excited, always expectant of something that they have yet to experience, as when during one summer night, they went to the same restaurant where older kids hang out, “their faces pleased and expectant” and “their thin shoulders rigid with excitement.” That night both she and her friend went out with different boys.
Connie is aware of what she is doing, and is only in it for the experience. She hangs out with boys but are not really interested in them as they all “fall back and dissolve into a single face which is not even a face but an idea.” She likes getting attention from boys because she believes she is not getting it from her parents. She always finds faults at everything her parents do, and finds it unfair that her mother always favors her older sister than her. Like most adolescents, she retaliates by challenging authority. She uses actions, oftentimes rude, in order to express herself, such as when she rolls her eyes to tell her mother about her idea of going to her aunt’s barbecue.
These various display of characteristics common to growing children are what make Connie a distinct representation of a real human being. Her attitude towards her family, especially to her mother,to her friend and the boys that they are meeting, are all consistent with the attitude that children her age always exhibit. It is a sign of growth, and for her to experience them the same way real people are experiencing them humanizes her. On the other hand, the several instances when she finds herself in a different place, such as that time when she is alone and she opens her eyes to an unfamiliar place, when in fact she is just looking at their three-year old house, and that time when she hears the phone roaring when she tried to call her mother, all suggest that she is just a figment of an imagination.
However, her somewhat extraordinary experiences of finding herself in a strange place instead of what she is supposed to be familiar about such as their house, can also be interpreted as her confusion about everything that is going on in her life. Connie presents several contradictions, such as her two different personalities that she displays when she’s with her friend and when she is at home. There is also the detail in the way she fixes her hair, which she fixes with one side pulled up on her head like young girls tie their hair in pony tail, while the other half down on her back the way most young women do. Connie feels seems like she is in a llimbo, torn between acting a child, which she still is, and acting like an adolescent which she can also be categorized as well.
This situation where Connie is currently in is the same middle ground that the title is implying. Where are you going talks about her journey to adolescence, and later on to adulthood, while where have you been refers to the childhood that she is about to leave behind. As she embarks on the journey, she feels the fear and instinctively calls her mother the way she attempted to call her through the phone when she felt threatened by Arnold Friend’s presence. She left herself vulnerable when she decided to stay home alone, far from the protective arms of her family, the only person that she can truly rely on in that period in her life. She is to learn a lesson the hard way, and that is suggested by her decision to open the door and go to Arnold Friend’s open arms.
Arnold Friend, on the other hand, the other character that played a crucial role in the story, represents the danger that threatens the vulnerability of a person growing up. He is a complex person, driving a car painted in gold that is too bright that it hurts the eyes of a person looking. The gold represents promises of good things, but is contradicted by the smashed rear fender. His face looks white but his neck is brown, as if he is wearing a mask to conceal his real identity, which is that he is older and is out to take advantage of Connie’s naivete through promises of sexual pleasures. He appears to be wearing a wig, a boots bigger than his actual body size, and dark sunglasses that conceal his eyes, all consistent of his intention to hide his real personality. His name and who he says he is presents a contadiction, saying that he is Arnold Friend but threatens to harm Connie’s family. Arnold is the perfect representation of the dangerous world that is out waiting for growing up kids like Connie. If children distance themselves from their family, they leave themselves open to negative influences which threatens to cut their links to their families, as indicated by Ellie’s threat to cut the phone line. Arnold Friend and Ellie highlights the importance of parental guidance, something that Connie should have sought in order to protect herself from becoming a target of people of highly questionable characters.
The story is gold mine of lessons that people of all ages can learn from. The characters, all with different characteristics that set them apart from each other provided the contrasts needed in order to highlight the good and the bad. Their actions, choices, and words spoken made the story alive and real.

Work Cited

Oates, Joyce Carol. “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been.” 1996.

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Literary Analysis Of “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been” Essay Examples. Free Essay Examples - Published Nov 18, 2020. Accessed June 17, 2024.

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