Symbolism and Manipulation in Carol Oates` Works
Symbolism and Manipulation in Carol Oates` Works

Symbolism and Manipulation in Carol Oates` Works

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  • Pages: 4 (1613 words)
  • Published: November 17, 2021
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Where are you going, where have you been is a short, factious story of Joyce Oates, the story is inspired by the story of a serial killer, Charles Schmidt. It revolves around two main characters, Arnold Friend and Connie. Connie is a fifteen year old girl and is the protagonist. She is a sexually alluring and attractive young woman who like many teenagers is fanatically obsessed with her appearances. Her personality is perilously shaped by external influences. The author deals with certain cultural and societal elements in the text. Oates reconnoiters the idea that although Connie comes from a good family, is educated and well cared for, she is vulnerable of becoming a victim of circumstances. Oates shows the contrast between rigid parental expectations on a child’s moral behavior and those depicted in movies and songs by exploring the influence of the society and peers on teenager’s actions. The simplicity with which Connie is decoyed from her home depicts how easily innocence can be corrupted, and young teenager led astray.

Connie, the protagonist of the story is brought out as young, naïve, and beautifulfootnoteRef:1. Just like other adolescents, Connie, endures the rituals of her age; she visits and has fun in malls, hamburger shops, cinemas and flirts with schoolmatesfootnoteRef:2. She believes in romantic love as defined by culture, however, she is inexperienced as far as relationships are concerned. Arnold friend, a pale, light skinned wig haired with an ironical young-old look is an

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other major actor in the story and a dangerous figure. Although his character is not fully clarified, he poses a demonic figure, and a lethal character geared towards exploring the vulnerability of Connie and eventually leading her astray, the result of which is a narrative charged with an ambiguous ending and suspense which fictionally illustrates the dynamics of fear and manipulation. 1: (Oates 2016) 2: (João n.d.)

Strategies of manipulation

The events that elicits conies manipulation takes plane on a Sunday morning, Connie’s sisters and parents’ leave home to take part in in a barbecue that is organized by their aunt, leaving Connie alone. The narrator states, “None of them bothered with church’’endnoteRef:1. Although this statement may seem superfluous, it later acquires a symbolic meaning. It may be referencing an organized ritual of a religious nature; Connie’s coming of age also constitutes a rite, a prelude to seduction games in a her teenage years, which might conclude with undesired sexual experience or even a mortal sacrifice. 1: João, de, Mancelos. n.d. “The Dynamics of Coercion and Fear in “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?”,“Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?”,.” ubibliorum.ubi 1-5.
Oates, Joyce Carol. 2016. “WHERE ARE YOU GOING, WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?” sparknotes 1-2.

Oates, presents Arnold’s car as a symbol of power, affluence and masculinity in the American culture. The car is described as “an opened jalopy, painted in a bright gold that caught the sunlight obliquely”footnoteRef:3. Arnolds parks the car in front of Connie’s house. Connie wasn’t expecting the visits and on seeing the car reacts with anxiety. “Her heart started pounding wit

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her fingers snatching her hair, checking it, she whispered, Christ, Christ, wondering about her bad luck. Connie, at this stage doesn’t remember having seen the vehicle before, outside a restaurant which is frequently visited by high school students. Arnold then laughs, wags a finger and says “Gonna get you baby”footnoteRef:4. This gesture is an indication of the narrative’s conclusion. 3: (João n.d.) 4: (João n.d.)

Arnold introduces himself in an unusual way; “I am Arnold friend and that is my actual name I will be your friend, honey”footnoteRef:5. Arnold is also accompanied by his friend, Ellie Oscar, who is all this time in the car Arnold’s surname ‘friend’ is suspicious. Its use is meant to assure Connie that he is her friend. This is the first hint that shows the ambiguity and oddity of the communication situation. Later on, other such hints follow, they include; both Arnold and the ominously silent Ellie, are in mirror glasses that prevent Connie from seeing and inferring their facial expression. Connie is, however sharp and in spite of Arnold’s calm tone, relaxed look and seductive strategies, she notices the irrationality of the situation and becomes hesitant. To overcome Connie’s hesitancy, Arnold informs her of his age by lying that he is about her age. The lady gets suspicious as Arnold has lines around his mouth corners and also because his figure indicates that he is older and could be at least eighteen years. More, so by observing Ellie, it’s obvious that Connie is with no doubt that he is an adult and is shocked. Oates narrates; “he had slightly reddened cheeks, and a hairless face and his veins were as if they were too close to the surface of the skin, the face of a forty your old baby”footnoteRef:6. On detecting this Connie becomes tentative, and when Arnold contends that she should join him for a car ride, Connie declines and commands them to leavefootnoteRef:7. The author deliberately omits dialogue tags in the conversation between the two so as to allow the reader to focus on the tension in the conversation. On realizing that Connie may be aware of his intent, Arnold deserts his seduction strategy and recourse’s to intimidation through obscure threats, He substantiates that he is aware of the whereabouts of Connie’s family, emphasizing subtly on the girl’s concomitant and isolation susceptibility. 5: (Oates 2016) 6: (João n.d.) 7: (João n.d.)

At this stage it can be argued that the absenteeism of Connie’s parents play a determining factor in the narrative role. Because her mother is absent, and her father doesn’t bother to talk much with his family, Connie has no one to resort to, to ask whether or not she should gofootnoteRef:8.Eventually on realizing that there was nobody to help her, she enters into a spiral of terror. She is in a state of fear and as the author describes it, she stared at Arnold, having a wave of fear and dizziness rising inside her. Arnold Realizes of Connie’s defenselessness, and takes advantage of it. He does this by resorting to a brandishing anger strategy where he uses authoritarian speech to scare and

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