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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How does "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been" reveal the transition from childhood to adulthood?

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I think that Oates' story reflects this transition at the very end.  One of the most stunning elements of the work is Connie's transformation.  Connie moves into the sad realm of adulthood when she understands that in order to save her family, she has to go with Arnold.  From the child who was so concerned with her social life or obsessing about her appearance, Connie becomes one who has understood the larger implications of her behavior and actions.  She becomes "an adult."  Yet, Oates twists this to show that her becoming an adult is only possible with her own death.  She must sacrifice for others, representative of her own maturation and something that had not been a part of her character prior.  When she realizes that she will not see her room again or that she will not see her mother again, it is the reminisces of a mature person, an older individual who has realized that life has passed her by and there is little potential for capturing what is long since lost.  Oates' characterization is one where adulthood for a young woman is met with brutal and savage realities, something that is deliberate in how Oates views young women and the modern setting.

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