What can Connie symbolize in "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?"Joyce Carol Oates's "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?"

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Inspired to write her short story "Where Are You Going? Where Have You Been?" after reading an account in Life magazine of a strangely influential young man who lured and then killed several girls in Tucson, Arizona, in the early 1960s, Joyce Carol Oates's character of Connie represents the naive, superficial, and self-centered pretty teen-aged girl with Romantic illusions, caught between childhood and adulthood.  (Some critics even go so far as to say that she represents Eve, or spiritually unenlightened humanity.)  As the selfish, naive, and pretty teen, Connie is a fusion of the materialistic and symbolic world in her duality:

Everything about her had two sides to it, one for home and one for anywhere that was not home:  her walk that could be childlike and bobbing or languid enough to make anyone think she was hearing music in her head....

Unconcerned about the other members of her family, Connie is consumed with her "trashy daydreams"; when she is with her friends, she talks in an exaggerated manner, high and breathless,

which made everything she said sound a little forced whether it was sincere or not.

But, the boys who pay attention to Connie, whom she enjoys ignoring, fade from a face to "an idea." Her complacency in her beauty leads the naive Connie to lose touch with reality because "[S]he knew she was pretty and that was everything." In her delight with the materialistic world in which beauty is so highly valued, Connie also creates a symbolic world in which music "made everything so good."  It is this symbolic world that Arnold Friend, himself a preternatural character, invades.  And, he invades it because in her duality, Connie has allowed illusion in the form of music to enter and make her susceptible to evil.

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