“She spoke sullenly, careful to show no interest or pleasure, and he spoke in a fas, bright monotone.”What is the meaning behind and the importance of this statment from Where Are You Going,...

“She spoke sullenly, careful to show no interest or pleasure, and he spoke in a fas, bright monotone.”

What is the meaning behind and the importance of this statment from Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?

Asked on by japi

1 Answer | Add Yours

booboosmoosh's profile pic

booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

In this story Connie is a adolescent girl who believes she knows all about the world in which she lives, and that her mother hasn't a clue.  Although her mother tries to teach her to behave herself, Connie plays the game of a daughter who listens and knows better than to behave poorly as other girls might, when in fact, she sneaks around behind her mother's back, hanging with an older crowd.

One day at the diner to which she sneaks, she catches the eye of a guy in a gold painted car.  While aware of him, she continues on her way with the boy she is hanging out with, and thinks no more about him.

Disturbingly, he is all too aware of her.  She doesn't know this until he shows up outside of her house one Sunday afternoon while her parents are away at a barbeque.  She remembers Arnold Friend (though he is anything but a friend!)  from that night, and toys a little with him, not quite flirting through the screen door, but not closing the door firmly in his face, locking the door and calling the police.  (Of course, the more he talks, the more threatening his words become, until there is an implied threat against her family as  well.)

The quote, “She spoke sullenly, careful to show no interest or pleasure, and he spoke in a fast, bright monotone,” describes the way they speak. At first she is a little cautious.  She does not act as if she is flattered by his attention, but does not act displeased either.  His voice says pretty things to her, but the monotone indicates that the words have no meaning to him: like a smile on his face that doesn't quite reach his eyes, he is simply going through the motions. Rather than being put at ease by what he says, Connie starts to become a little alarmed.

Connie realizes that Arnold is not what she had first thought: he is not a young man like the other boys she hangs out with.  The other guy in his car is not so young either, and Arnold's abrupt "barking" or yelling at his companion shows Connie that she is in a serious situation.

Arnold continues to talk to her and even as she tells him he must leave, it becomes apparent that he knows all about her, that her family is out, and that she is completely alone.  His monotonous conversation, and the repetition of the things he says to her, mesmerize her until she has been subdued like a charmed snake.

“She spoke sullenly, careful to show no interest or pleasure, and he spoke in a fast, bright monotone,” ultimately parallels the way they act with each other.  She takes no real action to attempt to shut him out, and he continues to work his way hypnotically into her mind, never backing down or letting up.  It is in this way that Connie truly starts to think and behave like a victim.

She becomes aware that she is caught up in a situation not only that she never imagined (for she truly knows nothing about the real world), but from which there is no escape; horrifyingly, to the reader, she just gives up and goes out the door to him.  The reader knows that she is certainly going to her death.

(This is loosely based on a true story.  See enotes.com link.)

We’ve answered 318,946 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question