Fifteen-year-old Connie exhibits the confusing, often superficial behavior typical of a teenage girl facing the difficult transition from girlhood to womanhood. She is rebellious, vain, self-centered, and deceitful. She is caught between her roles as a daughter, friend, sister, and object of sexual desire, uncertain of which one represents the real her; "Everything about her had two sides to it, one for home and one for anywhere that was not home." She is deeply romantic, as shown by her awareness of popular song lyrics, but she is interested more in the concept of having a boyfriend than the boyfriend himself. She sees the boys who exhibit interest in her primarily as conquests who "dissolved into a single face that was not even a face but an idea." All of these traits make her vulnerable to Arnold Friend's manipulation. At first she is flattered by his attentions, unable to realize that he is in fact a menacing force. Connie's superficiality leads her into a situation in which she becomes powerless over the forces to which she is naively attracted.
A more complex reading of Connie's character, one that includes a glimmer of hope for reaching beyond her own self-centeredness, can be found in an article by Joyce Carol Oates. In speaking of the ending to the story, Oates points out that Connie is "capable of an unexpected gesture of heroism" when she believes her compliance with Arnold will prevent him from harming her family....
(The entire section is 812 words.)
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Themes and Characters
The tale of an insecure, romantic teenage girl drawn into a situation of foreboding violence, "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" presents several themes that arise from the interaction of sharply drawn characters engaged in psychological manipulation.
Connie prides herself on being a skilled flirt who has never been in a situation she could not handle. She feels confident when Arnold Friend arrives at her door while she is alone in the house: "Who the hell do you think you are?" she asks. Mistaking him for the type of boy she frequently attracts, she thinks she recognizes him from the sound of his car's horn, from his clothing and appearance, and from the banter with which he attempts to lure her into his car. Both Arnold and Connie contribute to these erroneous first impressions. Arnold assumes the role of teenage Romeo although he is much older, and Connie accepts his facade because of her fondness for the "trashy daydreams" to which her mother accuses her of subscribing. Because the story is told from Connie's perspective (although she is not the narrator), readers see the gradual dismantling of these first impressions through her eyes. She concludes that Arnold's hair may be a wig, that his tan is the result of makeup, and that his boots "must have been stuffed with something so that he would seem taller." Though the veracity of these observations is never proven, they reveal Connie's realization that Arnold is not what he seems. His romantic...
(The entire section is 1311 words.)