What clues of psychoanalytic criticism can be found in the short story,"Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?"

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Oates gives many psychoanalytic clues regarding the relationship between Connie and her parents.   The psychoanalyst would seize upon the chasm between Connie and her parents.  Oates' depiction of this gulf between child and parents is what ends enabling her victimization to Arnold Friend.  The parental setting where conversation and communication is limited or even absent is what allows parents to drop off their children in shopping malls or drive- ins, allowing them to become susceptible to the Arnold Friends of the world.  The absent relationship between parents and child is what drives Connie to believe that she can be "independent" or pretend to be in control of situations.  Critics have recognized this and the psychoanalyst seeking to understand Connie would recognize this, as well:

Connie's father plays a small role in her life, but by paralleling repeated phrases, Oates suggests that this is precisely the problem. Because he does not 'bother talking much' to his family, he can hardly ask the crucial parental questions, 'Where are you going?' or 'Where have you been?'

This "moral indifference" is what handicaps the parent/ child relationship and contributes to what ends up undoing Connie.  The psychoanalyst would also point to the fact that Connie's acting to protect her family from Arnold Friend when he threatens her by threatening harm to them is actually an instance of the child flipping their role.  The child is the force that protects the parents, who have left their child alone to the devices of the Arnold Friends of the world.

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