Connie's epiphany in "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" comes when she realizes that the adult world is not as promising and beautiful as she had imagined. At the beginning of the story, she goes to the drive-in restaurant where older kids hang out as if it were a temple:
"They went up through the maze of parked and cruising cars to the bright-lit, fly-infested restaurant, their faces pleased and expectant as if they were entering a sacred building that loomed up out of the night to give them what haven and blessing they yearned for."
The restaurant promises the opportunity to listen to music and gain attention from boys, and Connie basks in this attention, unaware that it could lead to anything but good times.
Her epiphany comes when Arnold Friend pulls up at her house when she is alone. She spends some time speaking to him and his friend in a flirtatious way until she realizes that Arnold is not what he appears. When she asks him how old he is, his smile disappears. Oates writes: "She could see then that he wasn't a kid, he was much older—thirty, maybe more. At this knowledge her heart began to pound faster." This is an epiphany for Connie because she knows that Arnold does not represent the carefree good times that she is used to having. Instead, he is bent on deception, and, as the story goes on, she realizes that he has even more horrific things in mind for her.
Connie has led a fairly shallow existence prior to the appearance of Arnold Friend--a life consumed with boys, clothes, and her own looks. Because she has so little sense of who she really is, Arnold is able to invade her and, essentially, take over her mind and her body. At one point, Connie stops being afraid of Arnold and realizes that she is "hollow" and empty. She goes on to think that her "pounding heart" is not her own and that her own body isn't either. This is the most self-insight Oates allows before Connie gets into Arnold's car and is driven away.