illustration of a young girl, Connie, reflected in the sunglasses of a man, Arnold Friend

Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?

by Joyce Carol Oates
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Why does Connie leave with Arnold Friend?

Connie leaves with Arnold Friend because she fears that he poses a credible threat to her family and she ultimately chooses to sacrifice herself to save them from harm.

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Connie's primary motivation for leaving with Arnold Friend is to spare her family from harm.

This decision shows a transformation in Connie's character. When the story opens, she is in constant conflict with her mother and sister in particular and desperately wants to be different than "plain" and boring June....

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Connie's primary motivation for leaving with Arnold Friend is to spare her family from harm.

This decision shows a transformation in Connie's character. When the story opens, she is in constant conflict with her mother and sister in particular and desperately wants to be different than "plain" and boring June. Connie even flippantly wishes her mother was dead so that she would no longer have to endure her endless criticisms.

Yet when Arnold Friend presents a real threat to her family, Connie finds that she is willing to do anything to protect them. At first, she wants to escape, especially after Arnold Friend calls Connie his "lover" and adds that she doesn't "know what that is yet but [she] will." Connie calls him crazy and threatens to call the police, but Arnold Friend prevents her from doing so by delivering an ominous threat:

Like I said, you come out here nice like a lady and give me your hand, and nobody else gets hurt, I mean, your nice old bald-headed daddy and your mummy and your sister in her high heels. Because listen: why bring them in this?

Connie's voice is reduced to a whisper because it appears that Arnold Friend possesses some kind of supernatural powers or is, at the least, a stalker and therefore presents a real threat to the safety of her family. Arnold Friend tells her that life is "all over" for Connie at her house and again emphasizes that there will be "trouble" for her family if she doesn't do as instructed.

Overwhelmed, Connie begins to disconnect from her body as she steps toward Arnold Friend and the fate that awaits her. He acknowledges her strength, asserting that Connie is better than her family because "not a one of them" would have sacrificed themselves for her.

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