In "Where Are You going, Where Have You Been?" how does Oates' descriptive language depict how Connie's beauty becomes her nemesis?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

From the beginning of the narrative of Carol Oates's short story, it is apparent that Connie "knew she was pretty and that was everything" to her.  For, she does no housework or anything constructive; instead, Connie fills her mind with "trashy daydreams."  Distanced from her father who is gone much of the time, she feels an antipathy for her mother who "picks" at her often.

When Connie goes out, she pulls part of her long blond hair up on her head, puffing it out; the rest cascades down her back. She wears bracelets that jingle on her wrists, and she and her friends lean together, whispering and gigling. Key to understanding Connie's manner of dress is the way in which she wears her clothes:

She wore a pullover jersey blouse that looked one way when she was at home and another way when she was away from home.

In fact, everything is two-sided: her walk, her laugh, her voice, her manner in which she ignores them as she listens to the music in her head that directs her thoughts. Certainly, Connie pays close attention to herself and bathes "in a glow of slow-pulsed joy that seemed to rise mysteriouly out of the music" to which she listens.

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