illustration of a young girl, Connie, reflected in the sunglasses of a man, Arnold Friend

Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?

by Joyce Carol Oates
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Identify and describe the central conflict in "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" Consider what each character may represent.

The central conflict in "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" is the external conflict between Connie and Arnold Friend in which Friend uses Connie's insecurities and naivety to his advantage.

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There are multiple conflicts that exist in this story. Some of those conflicts are external, and some of those conflicts are internal conflicts; however, the central conflict is the conflict between Connie and Arnold Friend that leads into the climax of the story.

Connie's family leaves her at home alone,...

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There are multiple conflicts that exist in this story. Some of those conflicts are external, and some of those conflicts are internal conflicts; however, the central conflict is the conflict between Connie and Arnold Friend that leads into the climax of the story.

Connie's family leaves her at home alone, and that is just fine with Connie. Readers can see from the story's introduction that Connie is in conflict with her family. Connie suspects that her mother likes Connie's sister more than her, and that leads Connie to have some insecurities about herself. This is perhaps why she acts differently at home than she does in public. It is perhaps why she is so flirty with boys. She's trying to fill some kind of internal void. That is a massive internal conflict, and it is what Friend uses to his advantage.

Friend uses Connie's insecurities to manipulate her both emotionally and mentally. Connie's naivety and insecurities don't alert her to the danger that she is in until it is too late. She is at first curious about him, but she quickly moves into being terrified of him and what he will do to her and/or her family. Connie understands that her standoff with Friend could potentially be a life and death conflict for her or a family member, and Connie chooses to go with Friend to save her family.

Generally, the central conflict of a story is the conflict that gets resolved by the story's end. Connie's insecurities and conflict with her family are not resolved; however, her standoff against Friend is resolved. The sad part is that the resolution doesn't work in Connie's favor.

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