What conflicts are present in "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?"

Conflicts present in "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been" include an ongoing conflict between Connie and her mother about the way she lives her life. A second conflict arises between Connie and "Arnold Friend," who arrives at her house when she is home alone with the intention of abducting her.

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The protagonist , Connie, faces an internal conflict in this short story. As the story opens, she is a rebellious fifteen-year-old who believes that she is smarter than her parents and older sister. Connie sees herself as beautiful and believes that beauty is "everything." She uses beauty to try to...

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The protagonist, Connie, faces an internal conflict in this short story. As the story opens, she is a rebellious fifteen-year-old who believes that she is smarter than her parents and older sister. Connie sees herself as beautiful and believes that beauty is "everything." She uses beauty to try to attract boys, and eventually this leads her to Arnold Friend. After he conveys his plans for her, Connie is forced to face the realization that the world is not the fun and adventurous place she believed it to be, and she even has a moment of sadness in the realization that she will never see her mother again. Connie finds a real strength in the final paragraphs to face certain death in an effort to save her family from harm.

Her central conflict is with Arnold Friend himself. He arrives at Connie's house when he knows that she is alone, and he conveys his plans of malice toward her. Friend has qualities of Satan, from the way it seems as if his feet are actually hooves stuffed into his boots to the way he seems to know information about Connie and her family that no human would know. When Connie demands that he leave, Arnold Friend threatens to harm her family if she doesn't comply with his sinister plans. Connie sobs and screams until she is "empty" inside, and then she gives in and leaves with him.

Like most archetypal teenagers, Connie also faces conflict with her parents, particularly her mother. She hates the way her father "picks at" her mother, and when she watches them together, she "wishe[s] her mother was dead and she herself was dead and it was all over." Her mother tries to keep Connie's conceit in check, reminding her that she isn't as pretty as she thinks. Connie acknowledges that her mother was pretty once but "now her looks [are] gone." This establishes conflict in their mother/daughter conflict.

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One of the conflicts present in the story is that between the real world in which Connie lives and the daydream fantasy world she'd much prefer to inhabit.

On the whole, it's fair to say that the real world doesn't do Connie too many favors. For one thing, she's constantly at odds with her mother, who's forever criticizing her for every little thing. To make matters worse, Connie's mother always makes unflattering comparisons between Connie and her sister, June.

Given the situation she finds herself in, it should come as no surprise that Connie should spend a lot of her time having what her mother describes as “trashy daydreams.” Ironically, it's largely because of her mother's constant disparagement of her, her constantly putting her down, that Connie has these daydreams in the first place.

As she's unable to maintain an appropriate balance between the worlds of reality and fantasy, Connie finds herself vulnerable to the overtures of the inappropriately-named Arnold Friend. By getting into the car of this strange young man, Connie is putting as much distance as possible between herself and her home life, with all its challenges. For now, at least, the fantasy world that she often inhabits—and to which she often retreats—has taken over.

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The first conflict readers encounter in “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been” is between Connie and her mother and sister. Connie’s older sister, June, is described as “plain and chunky and steady.” She makes decisions that her mother approves of, and this is in stark contrast to Connie, who her mother considers to be focused on her “trashy daydreams.” The seriousness of this family conflict is summed up nicely as follows:

Connie’s mother kept picking at her until Connie wished her mother was dead and she herself was dead and it was all over.

As is the case with many teenage girls, Connie is going through a phase of experimentation and finding new ways to express herself. Many of her words and actions do not fit into her mother’s image of who her daughter should be, and this causes conflict.

Serious as this conflict may seem, Connie becomes embroiled in a far more serious conflict later on. Having attracted the attention of a lowlife “with shaggy black hair,” Connie is home alone one afternoon while the rest of her family has gone to a barbecue, which Connie chose not to attend. A car pulls up, and the man with the shaggy hair has arrived, together with another man. Connie becomes intimidated when she realizes that this “boy” knows a lot about her that she has not told him. With a shock, she realizes that he is not a boy, but an older man. She instructs him to leave. When he refuses, she realizes that she is in a dangerous situation and runs inside. The conflict escalates further when he threatens to hurt Connie’s family if she does not comply with their wishes.

Unlike in the conflicts with her mother, Connie surrenders in this instance. The conflict is “resolved” when she acquiesces to his demands and comes back outside to an unknown future.

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The most evident conflict in the Oates short story exists between Arnold Friend and Connie.  This does not start out as conflict.  Rather, it is one where her desire for attention and notoriety has been reciprocated by Arnold.  The conflict emerges when Arnold becomes so emboldened with his advance towards Connie.  His desire to have her come with him and, eventually, kidnapping her becomes the basis of the conflict.  He uses psychological and physical manipulation in his attempt.  From this, Connie recognizes that she does not want to go with him, but also grasps that she has little choice, as Arnold Friend threatens her family and leaves her with little choice.  Arnold demonstrates some slight conflict internally between his age and his desire to appear young, allowing him to get close enough to lure girls like Connie.  This conflict comes out in different points, such as when he speaks in different vernaculars of youth, but overall, he has little problem in being the person who stalks and victimizes Connie.

This development of Connie's character as one who cares for her family is one that is not present at the start of the story.  Connie is first shown to be in conflict with her parents and her sister.  Connie seems them as too traditional and unable to fully understand her own predicament and her need to be independent from them.  Connie's conflict with her sister is that she is too "plain," and unable to grasp the need to be "hip" and popular.  In the end, Connie's conflicts at the start of the story vastly contrast with her conflicts at the end of it.

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