Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis
“Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” by Joyce Carol Oates
Card picked: A Five
From: Online at Celestial Timepiece via Paula Cappa’s blog
Thoughts: So, I was on a dusty soccer field last night at about a quarter to eight, one of six other ultimate disc players standing on the line and waiting for the pull, when one of my teammates pointed out the large, orange moon on the horizon, and I thought to myself, “I was supposed to read a Deal Me In story today…” Since I drew my cards on Saturday, I knew it was a good one too! How could I have forgotten? Well, it was due to an all-consuming bout of web design…
This morning, contrite, I read “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?”, a rather acclaimed story by Joyce Carol Oates. I remember a fellow Deal Me In reader reviewing this story earlier in the year and some discussion of ambiguity–and there is certainly some that going on.
I’m inclined, against my better judgement about such things, to give it a feminist reading. Connie is a pretty 15 year-old girl. Like most teenagers, she sort of hates her family, especially her goody-two-shoes older sister. She goes to the mall with her friends and occasionally goes to the burger joint across from the mall. She flirts with boys and has definitely discovered that they are interested in her. She likes rock music. And, honestly, it all seems pretty innocent. Which is why, when a bad-boy type shows up at her door while she’s home alone, I’m ready to say, “Ah, this is about a girl being punished for not realizing what she’s doing as she asserts her sexuality.” But Oates, in JCO fashion, veers left of even how frightening even *that* situation might be for Connie. Arnold Friend, the creepy bad-boy, has perfect knowledge of Connie’s situation, a sort of malleable face, and isn’t quite right. Is he meant to stand for everything bad that can happen to a young girl? The trick that Oates pulls off in this story (with a shout out to Short Story Magic Tricks) is that this escalation doesn’t take anything away from the unease of watching things play out between Connie and Arnold, but we’re also not in a straight-up home invasion horror movie either.
Previously: I like Joyce Carol Oates more every time I read something by her, and it’s an appreciation that I think has come with age. I’ll have to read one of her novels one of these days.