Response on Carol Joyce Oates’s “Where Are You Going? Where Have You Been?”
In reading this short story, I was struck by its wonderful and hidden power of pulling me to a young teenager’s unconscious life. It withdrew me to Connie’s unconscious mind which bursts out in her daydream while she is alone at home. I recognized that it is about Connie’s daydream through some illogical and weird things found in her acquaintance with Arnold Friend who comes to her house.
The beginning part of the story reveals her conscious life which is embodied in her daily contact with others. This part, however, is very effectual to grasp Connie’s unconscious life especially to figure out what happens to her at one non is only her daydream. It starts from her pride in her beauty and her uneasiness toward her mother’s attitude, who, in her opinion, is cynical to her because her mother’s beauty has faded due to her old age. Connie’s lousy relationship with her mother makes her wish that she and her mother are dead so all her problems disappear. “She makes me want to throw up sometimes” (p. 226) Her bad feeling at home, stimulates her to have totally different attitude and appearance while she is out with her friends. I see it as a split personality. “Everything about her had two sides to it, one for home and one for anywhere that was not at home” (p. 227). Her split personality thus reflects her real life and her dream. Her house with her know-everything mother, her plain and steady sister June and busy father is the conscious life that she has to face, while having fun with her friends is her hidden or dream life.
All Connie’s suppressed feeling and desire in fact are revealed in her day dream. Her glance at a boy with shaggy black hair while she is out with Eddie easily brings her to her dream. The boy turns into Arnold Friend who comes to her house to ask her out. Her pride in her beauty is manifested through Arnold’s praise (Arnold’s last words “My sweet little blue-eyed girl” is in fact Connie’s wish of having blue eyes instead of her brown eyes.) Arnold’s knowing of everything, including her family, shows that Connie wishes someone to understand her. Arnold’s seduction to come out of her house and go with her reflects her hidden desire to leave her house, but her insistence of being inside may reveal her inward struggle. The dead woman in her dream seems like referring to her mother. In her conscious life, she sometimes wishes her mother dead and that comes true in her dream. Her death opens a way for her to leave the house. At once her mother is dead, she just needs a little effort to move out because her father is not a big deal for her. this is seen through Arnold’s words “This place you are now inside your daddy’s house is nothing but a cardboard box I can knock down anytime.” (p. 228). Her final decision to come out of her house is her ultimate unconscious mind.
I found this story really interesting since its illogical and weird parts actually can appear in one’s dream. A dream which usually reveals one’s unconscious mind opens any impossible things to happen. Arnold’s knowing of everything, his saying that he is eighteen even though his appearance is a thirty-year-old man, Ellie’s forty-year-old face are weird things and Connie’s willing to go with them regardless their weirdness shows that everything can happen in one’s unconscious mind.
Yogya, May 2003