Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? Characters

  • Connie, a self-centered fifteen-year-old girl who falls prey to the manipulative Arnold Friend.
  • Arnold Friend, 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.
  • Ellie Oscar, Arnold's accomplice, a red-haired boy who offers to tear out Connie's phone for Arnold.
  • Connie's mother, a trusting woman who doesn't question Connie's stories about where she's going and where she's been.
  • June, Connie's older, straight-laced sister.


(Short Stories for Students)

Fifteen-year-old Connie exhibits the confusing, often superficial behavior typical of a teenage girl facing the difficult transition from girlhood to womanhood. She is rebellious, vain, self-centered, and deceitful. She is caught between her roles as a daughter, friend, sister, and object of sexual desire, uncertain of which one represents the real her; "Everything about her had two sides to it, one for home and one for anywhere that was not home." She is deeply romantic, as shown by her awareness of popular song lyrics, but she is interested more in the concept of having a boyfriend than the boyfriend himself. She sees the boys who exhibit interest in her primarily as conquests who "dissolved into a single face that was not even a face but an idea." All of these traits make her vulnerable to Arnold Friend's manipulation. At first she is flattered by his attentions, unable to realize that he is in fact a menacing force. Connie's superficiality leads her into a situation in which she becomes powerless over the forces to which she is naively attracted.

A more complex reading of Connie's character, one that includes a glimmer of hope for reaching beyond her own self-centeredness, can be found in an article by Joyce Carol Oates. In speaking of the ending to the story, Oates points out that Connie is "capable of an unexpected gesture of heroism" when she believes her compliance with Arnold will prevent him from harming her family.

Connie's Mother
Connie's mother frequently nags her youngest daughter and often makes comparisons between her and June, her well-behaved oldest daughter. However, she also feels a closeness with Connie that makes them "sometimes, over coffee ... almost friends." Connie's mother "had been pretty once too," and therefore may prefer Connie (or so her daughter believes) to the more matronly looking June. The mother is uneasy with her daughter's behavior, most likely because she realizes that Connie's actions and...

(The entire section is 812 words.)