Final close reading of Where are you going where have you been

Final close reading of Where are you going where have you been

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Exploring “Where are You Going, Where Have You Been?” Hollywood gives us the false impression that evil is easy to decipher and that the bad guys are blatantly conspicuous. Real life is not so kind. The quote on quote, bad guys , can be anyone, and they certainly do not have to stand out physically, socially, or emotionally. American culture is undeniably guilty of placing entirely too much emphasis on outward appearance, which, in turn, leaves the American people susceptible to exploitation by someone who can trick the eye. For generations, Americans have been plagued by unrealistic cultural normative, brought about by various modes of popular culture. Youth are brainwashed by television, magazines, and movies; they often do not think twice about the psychological barring or implications of being told how to dress, what to look like, or what music to listen to, which often times lead to a loss of self and individuality. Joyce Carol Oates expresses the interdependent themes of appearance versus reality, a search for self, and a transforming American culture, with a feminist undertone, through deliberate literary devices and symbolism. While the entire story uses similar devices to express similar themes, the following explication will focus primarily on two short passages; the first beginning, "Shut up! You're crazy!," and ending with, “His whole face was a mask, she thought wildly, tanned down to his throat but then running out as if he had plastered make-up on his face but had forgotten about his throat,” and the second beginning with “That place where you come from ain’t there anymore,” and ending with, “Be nice to me, be sweet like you can because what else is there for a girl like you but to be sweet and pretty and give in?” The story’s most apparent, underlying theme is the ongoing conflict between appearance and reality. Connie, the main character of the story, is a beautiful, naïve fifteen year old, who holds too much importance in outward appearance. In a society that places so much emphasis on
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appearance, it is no surprise that Connie places so much faith and value on physical beauty. Everything about Connie-her clothing, her walk, her mouth, her laugh testifies to this idea. She is always "checking other people's faces to make sure her own was all right." Connie's identity stems from a strong belief in physical beauty- "she knew she was pretty and that was everything" -and she even thinks her mother prefers her to her plainer older sister solely because of her looks. Since Connie so values appearances, she holds others to these shallow standards and uses what she sees on the surface as her criteria by which to judge them. When Connie meets Arnold Friend, she is quickly deceived by his outward appearance. It is not until she realizes the shallowness of his outward appearance, much like a mask, does Connie realize the reality of the situation; Arnold Friend is an evil man and she is in grave danger. Connie describes Arnold’s smiling as, “awkward as if he were smiling from inside a
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This note was uploaded on 04/29/2008 for the course ENGL 102 taught by Professor Staff during the Spring '08 term at South Carolina.

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Final close reading of Where are you going where have you been

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