Where are you going, Where have you been?

Joyce Oates and the Character of Connie

Joyce Oates, the author of "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" creates a cast of characters to round out the plot. Connie, an attractive rebellious teen who attracted negative attention from a manipulative outsider, is one of the main characters seen throughout.

The Emphasis on Physical Image

The most underlying aspect of Connie's character, it seems, is that she places much too much emphasis on her physical image. She grew up in a culture that placed such a high priority on appearances, so it's no wonder that she placed much too much trust and value in physical beauty. This essay will elaborate the character change of Connie and what caused the alterations.

Connie's Insecurity and Obsession with Beauty

"Connie portrayed a character of checking people’s face just to be sure that she was better. She had a giggling habit that made her nervous every time she came across people. This made her crane her neck to glance into the mirrors." (Oates 233).

Everything Connie thought about was her mouth, her walk, and the way she laughed. Out of the belief of physical beauty, Connie believed that her physical made her mother despise her plainer older sister. Connie had trouble in a home because her father was never seen in the house and she still felt that her sister was being favored by the mother, which resulted in her insecurity.

The Conflict at Home

The only thing that used to make her feel safe was her beauty, which appeared opposite at home because it brought tension in the house. This made her mother rebuke her while the sister was praised because she used to cook and clean the house. This action caused Connie to resent her mother to a point she wished the mom could disappear. "Connie wished her, and her mother died so that it would be over," (Oates 233). As a result, Connie decided to leave home and transformed into another person. "She was seen wearing a pull-over jersey blouse that had a two-sided look which displayed when she was at home and away," (Oates 234).

Connie's Desire for Change

To show off her maturity, Connie decided to sneak from home and went to the movies and later ventured to the restaurant where older kids hang out. Connie believed that when she spent time with older people, her mature setting will begin to show. The desire to change also made her adopt the lifestyle of an older woman by dating more mature boys. The notion of maturity as well as staying at home contradicted and eradicated her appearance in front of Arnold. She also liked spending most of her time at the drive-in because her mother won't be able to know anything about her. Most of the time, she used her flirtatious beauty and ways to gain social acceptance with her peers. One thing that catalyzed the change of Connie was music because it created a fantasy world of romance, love, and escape from her problems at home.

The Influence of Arnold

Music was the only thing that made Connie feel her freedom as well as assisting her to understand the world outside. Arnold, a boy who was attracted by Connie's beauty, was another character that catalyzed her escape. "Her mind diverted over onto the thoughts of the boy where they even spent the night together," (Oates 235). The double life of Connie between her family and her fantasies from the insecurities she had were taken away by Arnold because he gave her the love she was not receiving from home. Arnold tricked Connie by offering a better place where she could do what she wanted. Eventually, Connie realized that Arnold was not the person she thought she met. For instance, she describes him as "he had an awkward smile like someone from inside a mask," (Oates 370).

Connie's Struggle for Identity

In spite of Arnold's outside appearance, Connie notes that he looked like he had forgotten his neck. Arnold, in this case, deceives Connie's world. Her inner struggle of identity is also seen when she tried to escape from Arnold. Her emotional stability makes her loose herself thus making Arnold take over her life ultimately. Even on the most basic level, Connie is unable to make decisions for herself. In an almost cruel sense, Connie is asked to put her hand on her heart to show that he is in total control. In this situation, Connie could not think for herself because she was unable to access her emotions.


Connie, who was the main character, is seen to change to someone she is not all because of her physical beauty. The essay elaborates that the frustrations she went through in her home provoked her to adjust to someone she is not. The beginning of the article shows that the treatment she got from her mother and the lack of seeing her father was the first catalyst that made her want to change her identity. Her two-sided world is seen from the clothes she war while on the streets. Arnold, who was attracted to her, also contributed to her running away from home because he connected with the love for music Connie had.

Work Cited

Oates, Joyce C. "Where are You Going, Where Have You Been?" Retellings. Ed. M B. Clarke and a G. Clarke. New York: McGraw Hil, 2004. 200-397.

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