Where Are You, Where Have You Been by Joyce Carol Oates is created around the life of a teenage girl (Connie).She chooses a peculiar path to identify herself in the teenage life. Her exploration turns out fatal. The author goes through Connies journey from where she is when the reader first meets her. The reader discovers the consequences she has to deal with when external forces become greater than her power.
The use of fantasy versus reality approach of Connies perception of life helps the reader identify with Connie. The reader walks with Connie as she embarks on dangerous ventures and therefore the reader is not inclined to judging Connie. The reader seeks to accompany Connie in her search for fun and autonomy.
Where Are You, Where Have You Been by Joyce Carol Oates is a story of a fifteen-year teenager named Connie. Connie is beautiful and in her search for identity, she opts to use her beauty. She flirts with boys and men to command attention for herself. Connie is presented being preoccupied with daydreams and boys. She rebels against the societal expectations of her to be a nice daughter, sister or girl in her community.
In the course of her discovery journey, Connie meets Arnold Friend, an older man who pretends to be a teenager. The most important thing in Connies life is her beauty and attention from boys. Connies pre-occupation with her beauty gets a comment from her mother, Stop gawking at yourself, who are you? You think you are so pretty(DiYanni,896). Her mother keeps on praising her sister June, to make Connie feel bad and probably re-examine her course of actions. To get away from the conflicts at home Connie chooses to listen to music, daydream about boys and frequently hang out with her friends mostly at the mall.
One day Connie and her friends visit the drive-in restaurant. As usual, Connie flirts with Eddie, and they end up leaving together. Outside they meet Arnold Friend, who tells her he will get her. Connie makes herself vulnerable to people like Friend when she flirts and leaves with Eddie. Later Arnold Friend follows her to her house when there is no one in her house but her. He manipulates and terrorizes her leaving her with no choice than to leave with him. Later all of Connies attempts to save herself are fruitless. She is full of fear and is compelled to leave with him regardless of his sexual violence and that his company is dangerous.
The search for independence
Connie finds it more pleasant to find her identity through her sexual attractiveness. She rebels against her family particularly her mother and sister who constitute the only version of the world she is aware of. Rejecting her world creates the need for her to find a new world for herself. For Connie, she flirts with boys and attempts to create a sexual image as the newly independent world she has been looking for. She has always been safe in her ventures(DiYanni, 952). Connie would go into the alley for some hours and later returned to her familiar family. She appears to be in control of her world until she meets
Arnold Friend who shows up in pretense. From here things turn sour. Arnold Friend handles Connie with the real maturity that Connie lives within her fantasy world. Arnold Friend tells her Im your lover. You dont know what that is but you will and The place where you came from arent there anymore, and where you had in mind to go is canceled out.He hits Connie with a reality she hasnt explored previously. Connie is brought in touch with challenges of uncertainty, confusions, and fears that sustain the fantasy world of a teenager. Her search takes on to a dead end.
Fantasy versus reality
Connie is presented at the very beginnings a two-sided person. She wants to show herself as a mature woman with experience dealing with men. It turns out to be a performance when she meets Arnold Friend. Her fantasy world appears to be true but momentarily. Her dressing, hairstyle, and overall behavior present her as a mature woman. She manages to command attention from boys. Connie is also lost in the fantasy of love and romance in the songs she listens to and the pop culture she identifies with. The fantasy is different from the reality of adulthood sexuality that is to be presented by people like Arnold Friend. The interaction between Connie and Arnold Friend changes Connies perception of the world.
The role of music
Music is the road connecting Connies worlds. She escapes from the harsh reality of her life by listening to music for example when she falls out with her family. Connie draws her ideas of life e.g. romance and sexuality from the songs. She finds happiness when she is with boys based on the romantic fantasies derived from the songs rather than from the boys. She is seen being into music when Arnold shows up in her house. Music is therapy for Connie(DiYanni, 964). When she interacts with Arnold, she opts for the fantasy world of her music and romance rather than the reality of adult sexuality.
Analysis of the text
A teenager world is full of fantasy and the view to the world is egocentric and selfish- as presented by Connie. She chooses a peculiar path to command for attention and independence in her world. A teenager has no experience on how to explore life. However, a teenager shuts out the only people who would offer to help. Therefore, in most cases their attempts to gain autonomy result were self-destruction. These typical stages are presented in Connies life. When she is awakened to the reality of life, it is overwhelming for her that it causes her dizziness. The dizziness is symbolic presenting Connies desire to go back to her fantasy world.
Joyce Carol Oates has effectively created the character, Connie, by offering to the reader Connies world view from her (Connie) perspective the author successfully shows the typical life of a teenager. The reader is given a different perspective of an adolescents journey to identity. The exploration of Connies life presents the reader with the illusion world of a teenager. The author explores the role that fantasy can play in the life of a teenager. In most cases a teenager makes erroneous decisions.
Many times people are fast to blame them because it does not make sense how a person as old as 15 years would take a seemingly stupid and illogical action. Joyce Carol Oates helps us explore the context of the teenagers frame of thought. For example, Connie uses the ideas she hears from pop songs to construct a perception of romance and sexuality. Based upon the created perception Connie builds confidence to flirt and meet boys in privacy for as long as hours despite that she doesnt even know them. She either is unaware that it might not be safe for her or she chooses to overlook the safety idea in self-deception that she can control her world. The reality comes out harsh on her when she meets Friend, and she finds herself too vulnerable and unable to protect herself. She is compelled to leave with him.
DiYanni, Robert. Literature. Boston: McGraw-Hill, 2004. Print.
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