Discuss the journeys of Connie and Edie from innocence to experience  in “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” and “How I Met My Husband."

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Indeed, I think that the primary similarity between both protagonists being young girls who are forced to learn about the world is where the parallels end.  Both stories represent young women as their protagonists, but they go in entirely different directions.  There is an air of lightness to Munro's story.  Edie flits between challenging emotional situations, with somehow everything working out for her. Her love for Chris is never returned in a lasting manner, but she does date the mailman for two years, the very person who was supposed to carry her letter from Chris.  They end up marrying, and somehow, things work out for Edie as she is shown to be happy, her voice authenticated through storytelling.  This makes sense because Edie is shown to be relatively at ease with her world and the people in it.  There is little in way of friction and tension, for Edie seems quite happy defining herself within this world and being able to emerge into experience through it.

This is not the case for Connie.  She cannot help but define herself against the world in which she is immersed.  Connie rejects the values of her parents, who, at best, are unable to effectively communicate with their daughter if they are not outright apathetic towards her.  Her sister is a role model of what not to be for Connie, a protagonist who seeks validation from the outside world and the forces within it.  Her emergence into experience is not a happy one as she recognizes that she is the victim of Arnold Friend.  While things were "supposed to work out" for Connie, a girl who is depicted in constant friction with her world.  In the end, she becomes a victim to Arnold Friend, incapable of escaping and sacrificing herself for the good of her family's well being.  In this, Connie has gained experience in a world that is "unfamiliar" to her, one where death and pain in both physical and emotional terms result.

Both stories feature a diametric experience for women.  With Munro's story featuring a relatively happy ending.  Examine the title for evidence of this as Edie is able to claim with certainty that she "met her husband."  The fact her voice as both youth and adult confirms her movement from innocence to experience in a powerfully redemptive and hopeful manner.  This is not the same with Oates' story, whose fundamental questions remain unanswered.  Few, if anyone, can ask Connie "where" she is going and "where" she has been for her voice has become silenced.  In this aspect, a state of greater despair is evident, as the movement from innocence to experience is marked with greater struggle and ultimate pain.

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