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The evocation of Bob Dylan by Joyce Carol Oates is purposeful, adding wealth to the setting of the story, especially the period in which it occurs. When Oates wrote in the 1960s, ‘Where You Going, Where Have You Been’, there was a social revolution. American women claimed their rights and independence from men and claimed their sexuality in a manner that they had never done before. Adolescence and the challenges and anxieties endured by plenty of adolescent girls as they managed to lose their sexual sincerity and then became adult women were a commonly discussed topic. Feeling devalued in their families and intimate relationships, women challenged the position that sex and gender attempted to play in their existences.
An element that was presented in this story was fantasy versus reality. While Connie performs hard to portray the image of being a seasoned mature woman with men, her interaction with Arnold demonstrates that this is just a production. Through her garments, hairstyle, and general demeanor, she has formed an appealing adult demeanor and gets the attention she wants from men. However, Connie is misleading her ability to control boys attention with her willingness to have them sexually pursue her. The romance and the cravings of love is obvious in music that she listens to and representations of pop culture that encircle her are very different from adult sexuality in real life. Even though Connie is trying to get to the grips with sexuality, including when she goes with Eddie into the alley, she is afraid of becoming an adult. Arnold involuntarily takes her into adulthood, however this heinous act symbolizes a shift within Connie herself: leaving childlike fairy tales to an adult woman reality.
Arnold himself, who never really drops into one classification or the other, obscured the moral lines. His body image makes him appear to be both human and less than human, and Oates don’t ever make it clear whether he is fantasy or actuality. He may just be an odd man, he might be the devil, or he can be a nightmare that Connie from hanging out in the sun for long time. In either case, whether such a perception is fantasy or actuality, whether Arnold is human or inner demon, the negative impact of the encounter and the engagement between Arnold and Connie will alter the way she sees the world.
Another element to this story is the search for independence. Connie’s family disputes and attempts to make herself physically attractive is a component of her quest for independence. As nothing more than a teenager, in her childhood she is dependent on the adults for care and discipline as well as to make her social life possible. For instance, her father’s friend drives her and her close friend to the cinema. While Connie frequently struggles with her family, especially her mother and sister, they are the only livelihood she really understands. Her attempts on trying to create a sexy side for herself and attracting boys at the local diner serve as her attempt to understand new areas as well as a new side of herself. Furthermore, her adventures were always cradled in security until Arnold Friend shows up. She might go to an alley with a guy for several hours, but she will sooner or later be taken home to her family’s familiarity no regardless of what happens there.
The search for independence by Connie has a devastating result. Once Arnold shows up and communicates with her as she tries to pretend to be the grown woman, he yanks her out of her teenage years journey and tossed her solidly in the real world from which nobody will retrieve her. The details that Arnold tells Connie portrays the reality of the search she embarked as a teenager seeking independence. He says, for instance, ‘I’m your lover. You don’t know what that is but you will” and “The place where you came from ain’t there anymore, and where you had in mind to go is cancelled out.” A weird and ambiguous character, Arnold represents all the misunderstandings, concerns and anxieties that overshadow the mission for independence of any immature teenager. The particular instance with Connie, her quest concludes on a gloomy, unsettling note in the story. Her manhunt may keep going, however all indications point to an end that is more irreversible.
A semi-element that can be seen in this story is Arnold’s flashy car seen as a symbol representing a hidden future that Connie couldn’t see of top. The showy gold car of Arnold , written on the sides of his dated buzzwords, is an extension of Arnold himself: excessive and not completely accurate. The car gives her first clues that something about Arnold might be way off the mark or hazardous. She starts to complain that the car’s color is so bright that it upsets her eyes, and she’s baffled by the front fender’s expression ‘Man the flying saucers,’ an expression her classmates used to use but that’s been out of style. This reaffirms Connie’s feeling that Arnold doesn’t have something quite sincere; he asserts to be just the same age as she is, but he isn’t totally convincing. Not only was the car itself quite off-putting, but Arnold introduces it as the vehicle carrying Connie into her new way of life. Once the true, destructive nature of Arnold passes through, the car becomes a signifier of all that is dark about his character and unsettling.
This story has also presented a couple of motifs which is a recurring element that has symbolic significance in a story. Two major motifs that can be seen were dizziness and music. Dizziness overpowers Connie when she realizes that Arnold can overpower her and will completely destroy her. At first, the appearance of Arnold causes Connie to feel very conflicted between eagerness and fear. However, as the scenario moves forward, she is dominated by fear. As Arnold lies to Connie about his age, her heart and soul starts to thump, and she feels ‘a wave of dizziness rise’ when she sees that Ellie is also a grown adult. Dizziness once again overwhelms her when Arnold becomes frustrated with her opposition. She realizes she’s over her head and she’s made more vulnerable by conclusion. She acknowledges that he lied to her and that his intentions aren’t exactly good, but she likely won’t do anything about it. Dizziness is her response to fallback and enables Arnold to take on her even more.
Music works as Connie’s tunnel to her fantasy world from the actual world. By listening to music and fantasizing about guys, Connie loves running away from her life and absorbs her ideas about romance predominantly from radio songs. The bliss she finds with men is ingrained not in the boys themselves, but in these sexual fantasies. Even before Arnold appears in her house, she demonstrates again in the tunes she listens to, and it takes a minute for her to recognize that it’s the same songs that emerges from Arnold’s car. She finds herself captivated by Arnold even before Connie discovered this resemblance. Connie’s music soothes her and the realization that she and Arnold listen to the same songs diminishes her guard just a tad bit. Connie gathered from her favorite song her concept of romance, and her interaction with Arnold uncovers that her music’s romance is far more desirable than the actuality of adult sexuality and flirtation.
To summarize, Oates examines this miniature social unrest: Connie, a young girl from a young women’s country, has to face her own concerns and insecurities as she starts to move into adulthood. She is aggressively divided from her life and family, and Arnold Friend was by no means a knight in shining armor. But in this story, the sense of sweeping, drastic change taking place in America in the 1960s is clearly apparent, from the details of the period to Connie’s psychological torment of what lay ahead.
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