In Joyce Carol Oates's "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" is Connie a typical teenage girl of her time and place?

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The short story "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" by Joyce Carol Oates tells of a fifteen-year-old girl named Connie who deceives her parents by telling them that she is going to movies in a nearby town while actually going to the drive-in to pick up boys and...

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The short story "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" by Joyce Carol Oates tells of a fifteen-year-old girl named Connie who deceives her parents by telling them that she is going to movies in a nearby town while actually going to the drive-in to pick up boys and make out. At one of her drive-in incursions, she attracts the attention of a man who calls himself Arnold Friend. He drives his convertible to Connie's parent's house when he knows she is alone and invites her for a ride. When she refuses, he threatens her family, and eventually she feels compelled to go with him. The story is based on actual murders of high school girls that took place in Arizona in the mid-1960s.

The story was first published in 1966. In some ways, Connie represents a typical suburban American teenage girl from this time period. For instance, her father is a remote figure who works most of the time and comes home only to rest. Connie looks down on her mother and her sister. Her room is a mess and smells of hair spray. She visits shopping plazas, movie theaters, and drive-ins with her friends, and when she is out, she acts differently than when she is at home. When she and her friends go to the drive-in, she lies to her mother about where she has been. These are all typical of things that teenage girls might have done in the 1960s.

However, Oates emphasizes that Connie is beautiful, and this causes her sometimes to act atypically compared to other teenage girls. For example, she constantly glances into mirrors to be sure her face is all right. She compares her appearance favorably with her mother, who used to be beautiful. She flirts with boys and often allows them to pick her up. She believes that her mother secretly likes her better than her sister because she is prettier. These characteristics are not typical of all teenage girls, but only those who assess the reactions of others and realize that they are attractive.

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The answer to this question is subjective: a reader could answer "yes" or "no" and defend that position. High school students reading this story today wouldn't have been alive in the 1960s, when the story takes place, so it is probably more appropriate to ask whether or not Connie could still be considered a typical teenage girl.

I think most readers would agree that Connie is a solid representation of a teenage girl. That is what helps give this piece of literature its longevity: the characters and the situations still strongly resonate with a modern-day audience. Connie might seem naive (especially based on the story's ending), but Connie is also an extremely real-feeling character. Connie is focused on her outward appearance, and this is still a focus of teens today. It's partly why selfies exist and why teenagers will take multiple selfies to capture their image just right. Connie also thinks that her family is a bit embarrassing. I'm quite certain that every teenager has thought that at one point or another. Connie is also exploring who she is. She is seeking independence from her family and trying on various personas in the same way that teenagers today do. It's why she acts one way at home and other ways depending on the location and social group. Oates writes,

She wore a pull-over jersey blouse that looked one way when she was at home and another way when she was away from home. Everything about her had two sides to it, one for home and one for anywhere that was not home: her walk, which could be childlike and bobbing, or languid enough to make anyone think she was hearing music in her head; her mouth, which was pale and smirking most of the time, but bright and pink on these evenings out; her laugh, which was cynical and drawling at home—"Ha, ha, very funny,"—but high pitched and nervous anywhere else, like the jingling of the charms on her bracelet.

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The character of Connie shows a mix of typical and unique characteristics. Joyce Carol Oates has carefully crafted an environment rich in period details as well as including some factors evoking the place. Connie seems typical, especially early in the story, for her boredom and desire for more excitement in her life. Her activities and tastes seen ordinary.

As the story progresses, however, we can see her as a little needy or too desirous of excitement, which leads her to be careless. The bland average situation is replaced by small, threatening elements as Arnold's character is revealed. Oates skillfully adds more such elements until the last few, scary pages. Connie is paralyzed with fear, where a more self-confident person would probably actively resist. Arnold had correctly assessed her as a likely victim and preys upon those atypical aspects of her personality.

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Joyce Carol Oates certainly intends for Connie to be perceived as a typical teenage girl for her place and time, but even though statistics of rebellion and youthful "storm and stress" are depressingly high, some may argue that this still does not represent the typical teenager. Be that as it may, Connie is depicted as a typical teenage girl who is battling for her place in the world as a young woman even though still a daughter, offspring, friend, sister, potential mate. She is depicted as walking the tightrope between girlhood and womanhood.

She is also depicted as typically having two identities, one for school and one for home, between which she feels torn and unsure. She is also depicted as being attracted to the concept of "boyfriend" instead of being fond of a particular boy whom she desires as a boyfriend. It is these last two points of inner divisiveness that, even though they are meant to be "typical," may be argued as that which sets her apart from typical.

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