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It is interesting—and frightening—that Joyce Carol Oates' story, "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" is based upon a true story. Because of this, we know that Connie's fate is sealed at the end of the tale—for Arnold is based upon a killer in the 1960s in Tuscon, Arizona. Having read an article in Life magazine about a...
...charismatic but insecure young man who had enticed and then killed several girls...
Oates' story was written. The relationship that forms between Connie and Arnold (as strange and unnatural as it is) causes Connie much more than just trouble. Three things that are extremely off about Arnold's behavior—that bring the worst kind of trouble to this fifteen year-old girl—begin with Arnold's sudden appearance at her home, uninvited and unknown. They have not spoken—though at the diner where she first sees him, Arnold "wags" a finger at her and eerily says:
Gonna get you, baby.
At the time, Connie had turned away; looking back once, she sees him still staring at her. Without any real encouragement from her, Arnold has come to her home.
The second form of trouble comes with his extensive knowledge of her and her family's whereabouts. He has been stalking her, for he knows many things he should have no way of knowing:
I took a special interest in you...and found out all about you like I know your parents and sister are somewheres and I know where and how long they're going to be gone, and I know who you were with last night...
Connie becomes frantic and fearful for she is alone at home—at Arnold's mercy. Her parents and sister will be gone for the afternoon and there is no way that she can make this strange man believe they will return any minute—he knows better. With all of his information, it is clear that Arnold's interest is perilous, for he has stalked her to her home, found out the house is empty and was obviously watching her for some time—even knowing where she was the night before. He also knows the name of Connie's aunt and what her sister has worn to the barbeque. He has seen them recently!
With each new bit of information he shares, Arnold is much like a spider, slowly weaving his web around Connie. Mesmerizingly, Arnold coerces her to come out of the house. First he promises he will not come in and take her out. Connie is frantic, sensing the danger, and she tries to resist—she threatens to call the police, but Arnold says his promise not to come in will "go away" if she does, and he will certainly enter the house then. When she locks the screen door, he tells her that nothing will keep him out.
...anyone can break through a screen door and glass and wood and iron or anything else if he needs to...
He alludes to setting the house on fire—
If the place got lit up with fire honey you'd come runnin' out into my arms, right into my arms an' safe at home...
The more Connie sees of Arnold the more she realizes that he is not what he appears to be. He infers that he will harm her eventually. And his final threat gives her a sense of complete helplessness:
...if you don't come out we're gonna wait till your people come home and then they're all going to get it.
This last announcement is the most serious "trouble" Arnold brings in threatening to kill Connie's family—it finally breaks her. After brief hysteria, suddenly she has a sense of "emptiness," and hopelessness. As if hypnotized by his "incantations" (though "kindly"), Connie opens the door, going to Arnold, and ultimately her own death.
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