Where are you going? Where have you been? is a revealing short story about the psychological terror a young girl experiences when the wonders of her fantasy world collide with the horrors of the real world. Connie is caught in the beginnings of her personal development-breaking free of her mother’s definition of what she should be and exploring the limits of the rules of sexuality and self identity. To put it plainly, Connie is rebelling, which is psychologically risky yet exciting and would likely have gone on until she figured out who she was/what she wanted to be. The shocking aspect of this story is that Joyce Carol Oates shows us an “option” of what that exploration might lead to that is so abhorent and undeserved that it almost seems unreal and disconnected much like what Connie must feel when Arnold shows up at her door. It doesn’t seem possible that just by skirting the rules and lying to her parents about her whereabouts, hanging out with boys could lead her to this eventual fate yet that is the very thing that allows Arnold to know who she is and create a fantasy about her. Because had she, in fact, been home studying all those days or even been with the family on the picnic, none of this would have happened to her. On a fairly thin story line, Oates creates a realistic window into a personal crisis that is told time and time again-why didn’t she run, why didn’t she fight, why didn’t she just do what she should habe been doing all along?
My initial reaction to this story was “that’s what you get for being so supeficial and focused on boys” until I had a conversation in the car with my mom. We talked about “victims” and where we draw the line on personal responsibility and excuses. Through that conversation we both agreed that when a “victim” has something done to them by a second party that they are always a victim in the true sense of the word. Regardless of my judgement of their worth to society or their lifestyle choices, no one should be victimized at another’s hand. I reversed the actual title of this story for my title because I think this is the order Connie should’ve been thinking in. She forgets who she is, what she can do, partly because she has lived such a non-purposeful, non-individualized life. She is so focused on image and always being with other people that when posed with a situation like this, she becomes catatonic. She regrets her good looks and feels that much more alone when the car pulls up and she has to deal with the situation alone. People’s true self is tested in the worst situations and I think the way she handles this situation demonstrates the experience a real victim of abduction and rape likely succombs to-that they are powerless and worthless and somehow they got themselves into this situation. Truly horrifying.