Compare and contrast Connie of "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been" with Queenie of "A & P."Joyce Carol Oates - "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" John Updike - "A & P"

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

While there is not as much character development of Queenie in John Updike's "A & P" as there is of Connie of Joyce Carol Oates's "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been," both girls represent rather superficial teen-aged girls who become aware of their new sexuality.  Their behavior also exhibits a certain rebelliousness and egotism. In Oates's story, Connie is not concerned with the feelings of the boys who admire her, only perceiving them as vehicles for her "trashy daydreams."  With her friends, she enjoys ignoring the boys they encounter.  At home, in her self-centeredness, Connie dreams about the boys she has met

But all the boys fell back and dissolved into a single face that was not even a face, but an idea, a feeling, mixed up with the insistent pounding of the music and the humid night air of July.

Likewise, Updike's Queenie, in her swimsuit with the straps that have fallen off her shoulders, attracts the attention of Sammy who is smitten by them.  Sammy narrates that she takes no notice of him--"Not this queen."  When she lifts a folded dollar bill "out of the hollow at the center of her nubbled pink top," Sammy, nevertheless, thinks "that was so cute." 

When scolded for their lack of attire by Lengel, the store's manager, Queenie retorts that they "are decent."  Like Connie, Queenie ignores the disapproval of adults and operates in her own world.  She also ignores Sammy's chivalrous act of quitting his job because he feels that Lengel has insulted the girls with whom he is smitten, feeling "scrunchy inside."  In Connie's encounter with Arnold Friend, of course, the circumstances are completely different; Arnold turns Connie into the one who is manipulated--even terrorized.  She, then, is the one who feels "a wave of dizziness rise in her," and the consequences of her actions are far more dangerous than those of Sammy.

edcon eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The similarities between Queenie and Connie have mostly to do with their ages and newly discovered sex appeal. Queenie flaunts her sexuality by appearing in a grocery store in a bathing suit with the straps hanging off her shoulders. Sammy describes her creamy white shoulders and her walk as she is "putting a little deliberate extra action into it." She is aware that she is pushing the envelope of what is considered acceptable attire and behavior but isn't totally confident; when Lengel reproves her by saying "this isn't the beach," Sammy sees her blush, and her retort of "we are decent" lacks genuine defiance.

Connie, too, receives adult censure, though hers is from her mother who criticizes Connie's self-absorption in her looks: "Stop gawking at yourself. Who are you? You think you're so pretty?" But Connie, too, isn't totally at ease in her own skin, because when Arnold Friend bluntly tells her they are going to be lovers, she recoils and "put her hands up against her ears as if she'd heard something terrible, something not meant for her."

The differences between Queenie and Connie have to do with the outcome of their behaviors. Queenie's moment of asserting her sexuality is short-lived and results in no harm to her other than taking some mild criticism. However, Connie's flirtatious behavior in town unfortunately attracts the attention of a predator who means her real harm.  

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