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A Psychological Analysis of Connie: Analyzing a teenager's psychology of her sexuality, insecurity, and understanding of the human world in "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" [First Para] Joyce Carol Oates was inspired to write Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? after reading an account in Life magazine of a charismatic but insecure young serial killer who had enticed and then killed several young girls in Tucson, Arizona, during the 1960s . Transformed into fiction, this story is an allegory of the moral choices made by a young woman in modern times. The word you in the title not only refers to the teenage girl Connie coming of sexual maturity in the story, but also all girls past and present coming of sexual maturity. Oates interest in adolescence, and especially the psychological and social pressured facing teenagers at the onset of adolescence, is evident in this story through the presentation of the story s central character, Connie. Therefore, in this paper the following thesis will be examined: Illustration of the youth world mainly represented by Connie in the story. [Plot, Setting and Tone everything from Connie s perspective] Connie, the central character in the story, is a typical teenage girl, whose mind was all filled with trashy daydreams. Like a normal teenager, Connie is insecure and likes attention from her pears. She thinks that people will accept her by basing their judgment on her looks, as well as appearance. By being aware of the fact that others consider her attractive, Connie is unafraid of flaunting herself. Presented ambiguously as Connie-at-home and Connie-with-her-friends, throughout the story, Connie goes back and forth between innocence and maturity, showing two different sides of her personality. At the same time, a story of innocence destroyed by evil
emerges. The passage that Connie goes through is made possible through the introduction of a doppelganger, Arnold Friend into her life. [Give a brief overview of the contents in the next 3 upcoming paras] Connie lives with her mother, her twenty-four year old sister, June and her father in the same house. However, her relationships with the members of her family have a worrisome dynamic. The normal day-to-day conversations between Connie and her family are quite disrupted, and she can t relate well with either of the feminine family members her mom or her sister June. Analyzing each of these relationships will give us a better understanding of the psychology that explains why Connie meets the ending that she does in the story. [Connie s relationship with her father] In reference to her father Connie says that Their father was away at work most of the time and when he came back home he wanted supper and he read the newspaper and after supper he went to bed , which clearly indicates a lack of conversation with the rest of the family, on his part. Connie also seemed as indifferent to her father s presence, as he was to hers. Her Observation that He didn t bother talking much to them clearly indicates he offers no guidance to Connie or her sister, and their mother is the one who must give her all to the difficulties associated with the family environment. This is her only reference to her father throughout the entire story, and it seems that far from being bothered by the absence of her father, Connie is perfectly content to never grow close to the her father. [Connie s Relationship with her Sister] Her relationship with her sister, June, also seems on the raw end. Through Connie s eyes, June was so plain and chunky and steady that Connie had to hear her praised all the time by her
mother and her mother s sisters . Furthermore, Connie's mother systematically compares Connie with her sister "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". What could possibly be explained away as a simple case of sibling rivalry is better diagnosed as another facet of Connie s fear of intimacy. Connie is afraid to be close to anyone, even her sister, and so she determinedly clings to the idea of her sister s faults so as not to see June as she truly is: a sister that Connie could love and be close to. [Connie s relationship with her mom] With her mother constantly praising June, and favoring June over her, resentment develops between Connie and her mother. Through Connie s eyes her mother: had been pretty once too, if you could believe those old snapshots in the album, but now her looks were gone and that was she was always after Connie. This indicates that Connie was always contemptuous towards her mother, because she thought that her mother was jealous of her beauty. Connie s mother often ridiculed Connie when Connie looked in the mirror by saying, Stop gawking at yourself, who you think you are? You think you are so pretty. However, the reader can easily make out from the conversations between Connie and her mother that her mother was probably not jealous of Connie but concerned and thought she would attract the wrong attention. But Connie even goes so far as wishing that her mother was dead, because she absolutely dreaded these awkward conversations with her mom. Though this may seem like a typical rebellious teenager s reaction to her mother, it truly hints at something deeper. Connie s fear of intimacy leads her to retreat emotionally even from the person she should be the closest to: her mother. Normally, the bond between mother and daughter is a sacred one.
However, with Connie and her mother, it is anything but, and this is entirely due to Connie s fear of intimacy. This fear, this defense that Connie has developed, is another reason that she ends up with Arnold Friend in the end. [Analysis of the end] Towards the end of the story, the question that the readers are led to ask is, how is it that Connie ventures out to an unknown journey with Arnold Friend, leaving the safety of her house behind. It is noteworthy, that in the story, Connie is been portrayed as someone who attracts a lot of attention from boys and runs off with strange men with no apparent reason. Therefore, the arrival of Arnold Friend in her life be anything but typical for her, despite the great difference in age. However, the readers shouldn t completely ignore the fact that Connie was suffering from some sort of psychological disorder that was affecting her self esteem. After all, it is not as though Connie does not realize that Arnold Friend is a dangerous man; she is immediately wary of his presence when he shows up in front of her house, the knowledge that he is much older than her puts her on her guard even more, and she repeatedly warns them that they should leave, eventually threatening to call the police. Then, however, Arnold Friend says something that may not seem especially important to him, but that means everything to Connie: I promise it won t last long and you ll like me the way .This is the epitome of
you get to like people you re close to. You will. It s all over for you here
all of Connie s psychological problems: insecurity, low self-esteem, fear of intimacy...she discovers all of these, although unconsciously, in this one statement from Arnold Friend. Connie realizes that she cannot like Arnold Friend, not only for the obvious reasons, but also because she is naturally incapable of doing so. She has never had people that she was truly close to
because she pushed them all away, and so she has nothing to go on as far as liking Arnold Friend in any sort of way. Due to her insecurity and low self-esteem, Connie is just gullible enough to believe that it really is all over for [her] here. She is willing to go with Arnold Friend not because she actually wants to, but because she thinks he is right; Connie has nothing keeping her, not her friends, her family, or any of the number of boys she has met, so why should she stay? Her situation is very much like the one described in Bob Dylan s song It s All Over Now, Baby Blue, which was the inspiration for Oates s story:
Leave your stepping stones behind, something calls for you. Forget the dead you've left, they will not follow you. The vagabond who's rapping at your door Is standing in the clothes that you once wore. Strike another match, go start anew And it's all over now, Baby Blue. (Dylan)
In conclusion, the character Connie in Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? whose various psychological problems have been discussed in this paper, meets the ending that she does in the story because her unstable identity provides her with a mentality that makes her a perfect victim for Arnold s sexual schemes, eventually led to her leaving with Arnold Friend. Unfamiliar with the logic and reasoning that comes from having a strong, centered identity, she becomes prone to Arnold s psychological manipulation, and thus a willing victim. The reader
doesn t know where Connie is going, but they do know where she has been, and that makes all the difference.
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