In this week's literary club, you will discuss Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? by Joyce Carol Oates. The discussion questions have been provided in advance to get you thinking while you read.
Describe the main character in Where Are Going, Where Have You Been?
Is she flat or round?
Is she representative or individual?
In the beginning, the family and town seem as ordinary people.
What makes the setting and the people at the beginning of the story seem so ordinary?
What kind of ordinary person does Connie seem to be? When do you notice the first hints of something extraordinary?
Is there an antagonist-protagonist relationship in this story? Why or why not?
What and how do you learn more about Connie? What and how do you learn about the treatment of Connie by her family?
How does Connie become an obsessive preoccupation with the stranger?
How does the plot slowly change and shift?
How does its meaning change or evolve as the central theme in the story?
What are some major stages?
What is the symbolic contrast between the stranger and the ordinary townspeople? Can Connie's action at the end of the story seem as a betrayal of her family?
What, for you, is the symbolic meaning of the way the story ends? Can the ending be read as a kind of warning? Why or why not?
Provide your answers to the following questions, and discuss them with other literary club members:
What is the conflict between June and Connie? How does it contribute to the plot?
How do you interpret the symbolic meaning of the stranger's name?
What could the symbol of the letter X? mean?
Like the writing of other women authors, Oats story is read by today's readers with a new awareness of traditional gender roles and women's issues. How does Connie action compare with young women today? How does the story compare to today's headlines concerning young women?
Welcome to BM! Since this story is one of my favorites, I am so thrilled to help!
The main character, Connie, in "Where Are Going, Where Have You Been?" is best described as the rebellious, stereotypical American teen girl. She is obsessed with fashion, hair, and external appearances; she is quite shallow and narcissistic as she worries merely about herself and looks: "She was fifteen and she had a quick, nervous giggling habit of craning her neck to glance into mirrors or checking other people's faces to make sure her own was all right."
Connie's arrogance is further depicted as "Connie would raise her eyebrows at these familiar old complaints and look right through her mother, into a shadowy vision of herself as she was right at that moment: she knew she was pretty and that was everything." Her lack of respect and rudeness toward her family, especially her mother and sister, is denoted with her attitude, "...Connie wished her mother was dead and she herself was dead and it was all over. "She makes me want to throw up sometimes," she complained to her friends. She had a high, breathless, amused voice that made everything she said sound a little forced, whether it was sincere or not."
She is also quite flirty with boys and a bit of a "tease." Her wild side is shown with "Everything about her had two sides to it, one for home and one for anywhere that was not home: her walk, which could be childlike and bobbing, or languid enough to make anyone think she was hearing music in her head; her mouth, which was pale and smirking most of the time, but bright and pink on these evenings out; her laugh, which was cynical and drawling at home-"Ha, ha, very funny,"-but highpitched and nervous anywhere else, like the jingling of the charms on her bracelet."
Since Connie is lured from her life of innocence and teenage games into realizing that flirting with men/boys can have dire consequences, this learning curve harshly proves that Connie is a round character. Her maturity occurs from the realization that Arnold's intentions are not innocent but sadist as "Connie felt a wave of dizziness rise in her at this sight and she stared at him as if waiting for something to change the shock of the moment, make it all right again. Ellie's lips kept shaping words, mumbling along with the words blasting in his ear."
As she is lured (and allegedly later victimized) by Arnold Friend, she changes from a selfish brat to more humbled as "Connie saw with shock that he wasn't a kid either-he had a fair, hairless face, cheeks reddened slightly as if the veins grew too close to the surface of his skin, the face of a forty-year-old ...
The main character, Connie, in "Where Are Going, Where Have You Been?" is clearly described and validated with textual evidence. 1870 words.