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Characterization in “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” is a short story written by Joyce Oates, and was published in 1993. The story features a fifteen year old girl named Connie, who is considered a self-absorbed individual. She is known to crave maturity and independence, but when maturity and independence greets her in a mysterious form, she quickly realizes that she is not ready for true independence. One of the central ideas of this story is that while the young want to lose the restrictions that come with youth, and are still naive to the dangers of independence, however when they are granted with independence, people wish to revert back to when they were assisted by others. Oates uses a third-person narrative to emphasize something(change). (the universality of Connie’s experience??) At the beginning of the short story, Oates describes Connie as a self-centered teenage girl with nervous habits such as constantly checking the mirror for her appearance, which suggests her self-esteem is low. She is described as someone who enjoys the attentions of males, music, and socializing at the burger-joint in town. She resents her family, particularly her mother, for constantly belittling her for her interests and her constant comparison to her older sister, June. Connie enjoys the adoration of men, but nothing in the text indicates a sexual attraction from the boys she gets the attention from. Though it is not explicitly said in the text, Connie craves complete independence from her family, as well to be a mature woman instead of a young and vulnerable child. When character Arnold Friend arrives on her driveway, Connie immediately focuses on her appearance and whether she looks good enough for a visitor, rather than who the visitor was and why they made an unexpected appearance at her house. When Arnold confronts her, Connie immediately decides to speak in a “sullen” voice, so that she can specifically not appear to seem interested in his arrival at her doorstep, as an attempt to seem collected and mature for the situation. When Arnold Friends begins to list of information about her, her family, and the kids around town, Connie becomes wary of him, and pleads with him to leave her. As she begins to become more panicked, she realizes she starts to not recognize her very own house. As she finally succumbs to Friends’ request to join him, she recalls her family and thinks how she will never see them again, which shows that Connie was not ready to give up her child-like innocence yet, but yet does the most mature thing a person can do: Sacrifice themselves to save their family. Connie’s experience as a teenager who attempts to appear more mature than she actually is a common life-experience for all people, and though most people may not have had the same experience as her, people can still sympathize with her character. The juxtaposition of the characterization of Connie at the beginning of story and Connie’s decision at the end show her character development throughout the story. This makes Connie’s final decision to sacrifice herself for her family stronger, and leaves the reader with more sympathy for her choices throughout the story. Connie’s relatability is what drives the story and allows it to become universal rather than simply personal.
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