Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? Characters
by Joyce Carol Oates

Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? book cover
Start Your Free Trial

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.



“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.

Download Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? Study Guide

Subscribe Now

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...

(The entire section is 746 words.)