Professor NaiyerEnglish 101
May 10, 2018
Needs and Insecurities
Children without set boundaries or guidelines, develop insecurity. In life, a parent is a child’s key source of safety and if the parents’ behavior illustrates that they lack control, it unlocks the door for uncertainties. In the absence of parental authority and guidance, children are more likely to act on their impulses, which could lead to disturbing consequences. In the story, “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?”, by Joyce Oates, Connie is an attractive, dynamic, and defiant teenager who is naive and is in the self-absorbed stage of her adolescent years. She is emotionally complex with her thoughts and desires to grow up but feels that no one at home understands or cares enough about her to listen to her. Instead of facing her issues with her family, she turns her attention towards distractions that will help her escape her problems. Connie lives in two separate worlds, her home life and her life with her friends and boys. Lacking parental guidance and attention, Connie develops insecurities within herself, uses her beauty to attract boys to fill the void of love missing in her life, and uses music to create fantasy worlds of what romance and life should be like.
Connie has a troubled home life, her father is hardly home, and she feels her mother favors her sister, which causes her to feel insecure about herself. Her beauty is what gives her confidence, but it only increases the tension at home, “…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” (Oates 465). Her mother was constantly scolding Connie for this. Her sister June, who still lived at home, helped clean and cook around the house. June received praise from her mother and her mother’s sisters which causes Connie to resent her mother even further, “…Connie wished her mother was dead and she herself was dead and it was all over” (Oates 465). These insecurities transform her into another person when she leaves her home. She disguises her looks when leaving for the night, “She wore a pullover jersey blouse that looked one way when she was at home and another way when she was away from home. Everything about her had two sides to it” (Oates 466). She goes out a lot because it allows her to feel free and her mother won’t know anything about it. She still has a certain amount of child-like behavior but tries to be more adult by using her flirtatious ways and beauty to gain social acceptance. Connie acts mature and seeks attention and approval from others to feel better about her home life and inner self.
The influence of the music Connie listens to allows her to create a fantasy world about love and romance and escape from her problems at home: “They sat at the counter and crossed their legs at the ankles, their thin shoulders rigid with excitement, and listened to the music that made everything so good: the music was always in the background like music at a church service, it was something to depend on” (Oakes 466). Music allows Connie to feel free and she feels it helps her to understand the world outside of her troubled family. With her attention set on boys “…her mind slipped over onto thoughts of the boy she had been with the night before and how nice he had been, how sweet it always was…gentle, the way it was in movies and promised in songs…” (Oakes 468). Arnold Friend was able to use music to convince Connie to leave with him. The fantasies that she has created from the music make it hard for her to see Arnold Friend’s real motives. Elaine Showalter gives insight towards how Connie is blinded by her fantasies explaining, “…Connie’s ‘trashy daydreams’ are shaped by popular culture, and she sees her little world through the rosy lens of romantic films” (Showalter 505). This illustrates how Connie is brainwashed by how the world depicts love and causing her to believe that love is like the movies. As he said, “My sweet little blue-eyed girl,’ he said, in a half-sung sigh…” (Oakes 479), the music she heard in Arnold Friend’s voice had her feeling special. She felt the attention he gave her, and thought he may be a way to escape her home life. The images that she has created from listening to music made Connie believe that she can handle what Arnold Friend was offering to her. He was able to play on Connie’s insecurities because she is not receiving the love and affection she needs from home.
Connie searched for independence from her family, her sexual persona flourishes when she is outside of her home, and she has adapted a manner of walking, dressing, and laughing while in certain places. By making herself sexually appealing, she attempts to prove that she is a confident and mature young woman, however, despite her best efforts Connie lacks knowledge about adulthood. Connie has no real paragon in her home life to guide her moral compass. As a curious teenager, “Her mind was all filled with trashy daydreams” (Oates 465), and her parents are either too ignorant or negligent to give her their full attention. Connie never talks or opens up to them about aspects that interest her. The story proves that Connie’s parents provide no real guidance, nor do they enforce any discipline for her behavior. In fact, they are clueless to her sexual profligacy and misconduct, and she generally does as she pleases. The roles as parents is to guide their children through their lives, although her father, “was away at work most of the time…he didn’t bother talking much…” (Oates 465), and her mother “…kept picking at her until Connie wished her mother was dead and she herself was dead and it was all over” (Oates 465). The instability Connie feels with her parents makes her even more vulnerable to reckless behavior and naïve decision making. She does not possess a strong relationship with her parents, nor does she feel comfortable or close enough discussing her problems.
Connie viewed herself as mature enough to go through typical situations teenagers face by herself, however, wasn’t mature or experienced enough to know what is right or wrong. The only people she confided in for help or talk about her issues with were her friends, but they were also inexperienced teens trying to figure out life as well. In the absence of parental authority and guidance, children are likely to act on their impulses. The startling absence of guiding parental figures served as the reason for her dynamic character. She developed complex actions and thoughts and bottled up everything inside of her. She naively searched for attention elsewhere, in places and people she should have not been around. Forcing her to be faced with the cruel and hard reality of life that her bad decisions brought. Connie represented an average typical rebellious teenager who felt alone and lacked parental guidance on life thus turning her attention towards music, spending time with friends, flirting with boys, and testing boundaries.
Oates, Joyce Carol. “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” 1966. Perrine’s Story and
Structure. 14th ed. Ed. Thomas R. Arp and Greg Johnson. Boston:
Wadsworth, 2014. 465-479. Print.
Showalter, Elaine. “On ‘Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?”. Perrine’s Story and
Structure. 14th ed. Ed. Thomas R. Arp and Greg Johnson. Boston:
Wadsworth, 2014. 503-505. Print.