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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Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? Characters

The main characters in "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" are Connie, Arnold Friend, June, and Ellie Oscar.

  • Connie is a self-centered fifteen-year-old girl who is coerced and abducted by the manipulative Arnold Friend.
  • Arnold Friend is an older man who wears a wig and tight jeans in order to look younger. He first sees Connie at a drive-in restaurant and later comes to her house to threaten her.
  • June is Connie's older, more straight-laced sister to whom their mother compares Connie.
  • Ellie Oscar is Arnold's accomplice, a red-haired boy who offers to tear out Connie's phone for Arnold.


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Last Updated on September 5, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 746


“Connie” is a diminutive form of “Constance,” a name which evokes notions of faithfulness, responsibility, and loyalty. In some ways, Connie eventually lives up to the meaning of her name, faithfully saving the lives of her family in an act of self-sacrifice. However, at the beginning of the story she is a superficial fifteen-year-old whose greatest concerns in life are her personal appearance and the attention of boys. She prides herself on her looks, noting that her long, blonde hair draws the eye of admirers, and she is sure to use “bright and pink” lips on her evenings away from home. Her looks create a tension between herself and her mother, whom Connie feels resents her because her own good looks have faded. Connie also feels superior to her “plain” sister June, who has settled into a life of secretarial work at Connie’s school.

Connie is still trying to fully determine her own sense of self early in the story; it is noted that she has “two sides” to everything she does—one character for her home life and another for her public outings with friends. Thus, Connie deceives those around her to manipulate her own environment. In the end, however, Connie finds herself on the receiving end of deception when she is manipulated into believing that Arnold Friend is just another admirer and failing to see his evil intentions. Connie’s self-sacrifice is perhaps the only completely selfless thing she has done, and her family will never realize that they are safe only because Connie accepted her own abduction.

Arnold Friend

Arnold Friend perhaps represents the embodiment of evil in this story more than an actual man. Indeed, removing the letter “r” from both his first and last names results in “An Old Fiend.” His hair resembles a wig, his teeth are large, and he wears a “mask” of make-up. Arnold Friend isn’t physically imposing; Connie notes that he is only an inch or so taller than she is. Yet his demeanor is unsettling. He knows things about Connie and her friends that no stranger would know. He seems to be able to glimpse visions of her family as they simultaneously and distantly enjoy a barbeque. And Arnold Friend tells Connie that she knows that this “is [her] day set aside for a ride” with him. He seems able to predict Connie’s actions and to have access to her unspoken thoughts, and eventually Connie realizes that “the way he was dressed,” initially pleasing to her, has deceived her into believing this man is simply another one of her admirers. Arnold Friend never physically forces Connie into leaving with him; instead, he manipulates her by threatening her family and then coaxing her outside. The evil within Arnold Friend is not immediately apparent to Connie, reinforcing the idea that appearances can be dangerously deceptive.

Connie’s Parents

Connie’s parents remain unnamed. Her father is almost invisible in the story, much as he seems to be in Connie’s life. After all, it is the father of a friend who drives Connie and her friends to the shopping plaza. Connie’s own father merely works, eats, reads the paper, and goes to bed. Her mother complains to others about Connie in tones of disapproval, disdainfully comparing Connie to her sister, June. Because of their distant and dismissive parenting, Connie is fairly isolated within her own family, and this leads her to look elsewhere for approval.


June is Connie’s plainer and more responsible older sister. While the month of June typically symbolizes love and new life, June’s character does not embody such qualities; she is twenty-four...

(This entire section contains 746 words.)

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with no romantic prospects on the horizon. She maintains her mother’s favor and works as the secretary at Connie’s school. She submits to the desires and expectations of her mother, and by accompanying her parents to the family barbeque, she escapes the threat of Arnold Friend, unlike her sister. June’s conservative and complacent character makes her a foil for her sister. Although she is the duller sibling, she is safe, because she isn’t a desirable target for Arnold Friend.

Ellie Oscar

Ellie is Arnold Friend’s companion, riding along with him in his gold car when Friend goes to Connie’s house. Ellie remains inside the car, constantly manipulating a transistor radio and listening to music. His personality is difficult to discern, and he sits “in a kind of daze.” Connie finds Ellie “kinda strange.”