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Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? | Discussion Questions 21 - 30


In "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" how do the sunglasses Arnold and Ellie wear affect Connie?

Arnold Friend and Ellie Oscar try to pass themselves off as teenage boys. They dress in a similar way to the boys Connie knows. Their appearance puts Connie at ease, and she accepts them as her peers. The mirrored sunglasses help the boys hide their ages and their motive in coming to her house. Connie is unable to read Arnold Friend as the sunglasses "made it impossible for her to see just what this boy was looking at." The sunglasses also have the effect of "mirror[ing] everything in miniature." Therefore, Connie sees herself as smaller than she actually is. The sunglasses help Arnold Friend, who is short, make himself seem taller. They also help him shrink Connie down to size so he can take advantage of her.

How does Connie's vanity affect her interactions in "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?"

Connie knows she is pretty, and to her looks are everything. Her vanity and her inability to go beyond it make her susceptible to any boy that gives her a compliment. For example, Eddie simply sits and pays attention to her; when he asks Connie to come with him, she happily follows in the belief she is being courted for her beauty. When Arnold Friend appears at her house, Connie at first asks him pointed questions and speaks sullenly. Arnold Friend then calls Connie cute, and she is flattered. With the simple compliment, her attitude changes. Because of it, she continues the conversation and engages with Arnold Friend further, putting herself into grave danger.

What is the meaning behind Arnold Friend's name in "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?"

Critics have various suggestions about the meaning behind Arnold Friend's name. His name sounds like "an old friend" and can be abbreviated as A. Friend. He comes to Connie's house and acts as if they are longtime friends, asking, "Don't you know I'm your friend?" He knows about her family and other aspects of her life. He talks to her casually and says he simply wants to spend time with her. Others read Arnold Friend's name as "arch fiend," or "an old fiend," the spelling of his name with the r's removed. Arnold Friend is the embodiment of evil, and his plan is to abduct Connie and rape and, probably, murder her. Either way the name exemplifies verbal irony, as Arnold Friend is nothing like a friend to Connie.

What is the meaning behind Ellie Oscar's name in "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?"

Critics see various possible meanings in the name of Ellie Oscar. Ellie is more typically a woman's name, while Oscar is a man's name. As Arnold Friend's sidekick, he is told multiple times to move because Connie is Arnold's date, and she will sit in his spot in the car. The odd combination of the name (both male and female) is similar to the odd description of Ellie Oscar's appearance, "the face of a forty-year-old baby." Both are opposites. Ellie can be short for Eliezer. In the Bible, Eliezer is the servant of Abraham. In Oates's story Ellie is ready to do anything his friend asks. The only words he says in the story involve his offer to go inside the house to "pull out the phone," showing his willingness to serve Arnold. Ellie's presence also suggests that he has helped Arnold to abduct and harm women before. He seems to have a weapon when Arnold tells him to "put that away."

What is the significance of the expression "Man the Flying Saucers" on Arnold Friend's car in "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?"

Arnold Friend has a number of writings on his car, including "Man the Flying Saucers." The narrator says this is "an expression kids had used the year before but didn't use this year." Connie looks at the words as if they should tell her something significant that she doesn't yet understand. The message she should get from the expression is that Arnold Friend is not anything like the persona he presents: he is not 18, not her friend, not even as tall as he pretends to be. He manufactures an identity to make himself appear as an attractive teenager in order to seduce her.

What causes Connie to become suspicious about Arnold Friend in "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?"

From the start Connie is unsure about Arnold Friend. However, she is intrigued by him and finds him interesting. He dresses like other teenage boys, and Connie likes his jeans, boots, and T-shirt. Moreover, Connie notices Arnold Friend is in good shape; "He looked as if he probably did hard work ... Even his neck looked muscular." Connie seems ready to go in the car with Arnold Friend, but he then calls her by her name even though she did not tell it to him. Arnold Friend goes on to share all the research he appears to have done on her. Connie then becomes uncomfortable, not understanding how he knows all the details about her life and noticing more about him that seems amiss.

Why does recognizing Arnold Friend as older than 18 affect Connie so deeply in "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?"

As the story goes on, Connie senses things do not add up with Arnold Friend: "But all these did not come together." However, when she recognizes Arnold Friend and Ellie Oscar are much older than she is, Connie shows real fear. She realizes that they have more power and knowledge than she does and that the way she behaves with other boys will not work with them; they are not the boys she can control at the drive-in. She feels dizzy and says, "Maybe you two better go away." Arnold Friend's compliments are no longer flattering. They are creepy, as is his attempts to act, talk, and dress like a teen.

How and why does Arnold Friend's voice change in "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" after Connie asks him to leave?

After Connie asks Arnold Friend to leave, his voice changes when he speaks to her. Now, instead of a teenage lilt, his voice is "the voice of the man on the radio now." As a response to Connie's rebuff, he becomes more forceful, losing his false youthful veneer. Instead, he speaks with the voice of "Bobby King," whose show they both enjoy and whose voice on the radio program has nearly put her into a trance earlier. Like the supernatural figure he represents, Arnold Friend seems able to take on aspects of human identities in order to pursue his demonic ends.

How is Connie's longing for her father's return in "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" an example of situational irony?

When Connie first hears Arnold Friend's car come up to the house, she thinks it is her father returning home. If her father returns, it will mean the end of her time alone, which she is enjoying. Therefore, she does not want him to return. When she sees it is a boy rather than her father, she is happy. Now, when this boy threatens her, Connie longs for her father to come home and protect her. These events are an example of situational irony: Connie expects something to happen a certain way, but it happens quite differently. Her emotion also shows situational irony because Connie says her father is interested only in working, eating, reading the newspaper, and sleeping. He does not engage with the family. Now when Connie needs help, she says her father will help her.

What does Connie's reaction to Arnold Friend's sexual talk reveal about her in "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?"

Connie is shocked by Arnold Friend's explicit sexual talk. She says to him, "Shut up! You're crazy!" Connie attempts to cover her ears "as if she'd heard something terrible, something not meant for her." Connie's heart pounds, and she is sweating. Her reaction shows that she is not nearly as experienced as she claims to be or as she thinks herself to be. The way Arnold Friend talks and acts and what he proposes doing with her shock her. In this scene Connie reverts to being an inexperienced 15-year-old, frightened and intimidated by a man who is quite possibly twice her age.

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