What techniques does Oates employ to make connie an individual three dimensional character?Joyce Carol Oates is author. Is she a typical teenage girl of her time and place.

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Since Joyce Carol Oates was inspired to write "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been" after reading of the deaths of teenage girls who were seduced and raped by a young man in Tuscon, Arizona in the 1960s, her depiction of Connie is based on real teens.  She included this story in a collection with the title of this story and subtitled itStories of Young America.  In this collection, Oates examines the psychological and social turmoil that arises during adolescence. As teens are in this transition from childhood to adulthood, there is an keen awareness of their changing bodies that Oates describes with Connie:

She knew she was pretty, and that was everything....And Connie paid close attention herself, bathed ina glow of slow-pulse joy that seemed to rise mysteriously out of the music itself and lay languidly about the airless little room....

Self-centered and superficial, Connie is concerned with her own desires and disconnects herself from her family.  She goes out with friends, but leaves them at the movies while she flirts with boys.  When her mother asks her how the movie was, she lies, "So-so."  She arises on Sunday almost at noon and tells her sister and mother that she "is not interested" in attending a family get-together because she would rather wash her hair and luxuriate in own her beauty by lying in the sun and entertain her "trashy daydreams."

There is a duality to Connie that Oates describes,

She wore a pullover jersey blouse that looked one way when she was at home and another way when she was away from home.  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,  her mouth which was pale and smirking most of the time,...her laugh which was cynical and drawling at home...but high-pitched and nervous anywhere else, like the jingling of the charms on her bracelet.

It is only at the end of the story, that Connie reveals a third dimension.  As Arnold Friend describes luridly what he plans to do to her, Connie's "heart was almost too big now for her chest and its pumping made sweat break out all over her." Confronted with the terror of a life-threatening situation Connie finally realizes the security that her mother represents:  "She cried for her mother."  After this childlike response, Connie's feels a "pinpoint of light" in her mind that brings her the moment of truth:  She is not going to see her family again and they will be harmed if she does not go with Arnold Friend.  At this point, Connie completes the transition to adulthood.





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