Nightmare or Reality? Joyce Carol Oates creates an inquisitive plot that causes the reader to question events in the story, “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? ” She develops this story featuring a girl named Connie, who has an encounter with a boy at a restaurant that she doesn’t know. “He wagged a finger and laughed and said, “Gonna get you, baby,” and Connie turned away…” (Oates 210). Startled Connie only saw this boy once that night, but the story goes on, and a few days later he comes to her house where she learns that the boy’s name is “Arnold Friend. She is unaware how the boy knows anything about her, where she lives, and the fact that he knows all about her family and friends. In the short story, “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? ” Joyce Carol Oates creates significant details that some readers might miss, revealing that Connie is actually having a nightmare where Arnold Friend is an imaginary character. The day that Arnold Friend came to Connie’s house she had been left at home alone, while her family went to a barbecue at her aunt’s house. “Connie sat with her eyes closed in the sun, dreaming and dazed…” (Oates 211).
This is when Connie begins to fall asleep in the story as she is laying outside in a lawn chair. Joyce Carol Oates never directly states she is now dreaming but provides the reader with clues to suggest it. The story reads “when she opened her eyes she hardly knew where she was, the back yard ran off into weeds and a fence-like line of trees and behind it the sky was perfectly blue and still” (Oates 211). When a person is dreaming they can be in an unacquainted place and sometimes unaware of where they are. Connie is experiencing these happenings as she “wakes up” or begins the journey into her nightmare. The asbestos “ranch house” that was now three years old startled her- it looked small. She shook her head as if to get awake” (Oates 211). Oates included this in the story as a clue to readers that Connie is still asleep. The phrase “as if to get awake,” indicates that she shook her head, but it did not wake her up. Arnold Friend shows up at Connie’s house to convince her to come take a ride with him in his car. He seems nice at first, but she soon realizes how creepy and unusual this boy really is. She keeps telling him to leave and that she does not want to go for a ride, but that doesn’t stop Arnold from attempting to persuade her.
Connie refuses to step outside and stays in the house. While she is inside Joyce Carol Oates says, “The kitchen looked like a place she had never seen before, some room she had run inside but that wasn’t good enough, wasn’t going to help her. The kitchen window had never had a curtain... ” (216). This is another example that during a nightmare the place you live can look different and unfamiliar, and some things look a bit strange. This is what Connie is experiencing in the story as she examines her surroundings, and these details are information that proves she is dreaming. “Seen you that night and thought, that’s the one, yes sir.
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I never needed to look anymore” (Oates 217). This is a flashback in Connie’s nightmare where she is remembering the reality of seeing the boy in real life that triggered the nightmare she experiences in the story. The reader has to infer that things that frighten a person in their life have the ability to develop nightmares because we are worried or fearful, which makes it hard to forget them. Arnold threatens to come inside multiple times if she touches the telephone to call the police. Having a nightmare gives us the capability to create ways to keep the “bad guy” or in this case, Arnold, away from us.
Connie is able to stay safely inside away from him as long as she does not touch the phone. In reality Arnold Friend might come running inside regardless of if she touched the phone, and drag her out to the car. The very last sentence in the story says, “so much land that Connie had never seen before and did not recognize except to know that she was going to it” (Oates 219). This is the ending of the story right after Connie gave up and agreed to go with Arnold, and she is describing her view as she walks out the door and into his arms.
Joyce Carol Oates creates the idea that Connie does not recognize anything around her house, and she had never seen it before. This is an important detail the reader needs to catch in order to realize that Connie is in fact, in a dream. In conclusion, there are several details throughout this story to support the argument that Joyce Carol Oates develops her story portraying Connie experiencing a nightmare. To thoroughly understand this story I had to reread the vital parts that indicate she is in a dream. Analyzing the story gave me the advantage of nterpreting and discovering this information, because before I explored the text I did not believe it was about a girl having a nightmare. It is important for any reader to do the same, because the author never directly points out these possible aspects of the story. There are clues to indicate that Connie was also not in a nightmare, but I found more indications leading towards the fact that she was. One clue being that Oates never specifies Connie being fully awake or asleep. So the story is still a mystery in the idea that, is it a nightmare or reality?
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