The story revolves around a teenager, Connie, who at 15, just seems like any other teenager at the time, or even today – slightly rebellious and sleepwalking through life, uncaring about her family and does not have an inkling of what to do with her life just yet. She and her friends frequented malls not just to hang out but also engage in sexual experiments with boys they hardly know since these are encouraged by the movies they watch and songs they listen to. The bulk of the story happened when on one hot Sunday afternoon, Connie was left alone at home and visited by two boys, none of whom she knew. One of them she recognized from the mall only the night before. She talked to the driver only through her screen door, but as the conversation lengthened, it increasingly became both dreamlike and suspicious. The driver claimed he is Arnold Friend and his friend is Ellie. Connie thought it was odd that Arnold’s manner of speaking or language seems too old, or outdated. He was also donning a standing 1950s dress of jeans as well as a small shirt.
It was already apparent that he was uncomfortable with his boots and he appeared to be in a wig. Connie perceived him as really older than he said he was. Still, when he invited her for a ride, Connie felt mesmerized and then compelled, because she felt dizzied by his words and knowledge about her intimate life that no stranger should or could know of at the time. She felt controlled and forced to open the door to him. While the book did not describe in detail what happened to Connie, it could be surmised that it was not good. Based on the book, she opened the door to a land she has never seen or been before but knew that she had no choice but to go to it. Even though she tried to place a call to her mother, Arnold threatened to hurt her family if she did not get out immediately.
I felt it hard to understand whether the author thought just because Connie was listening to mass culture music and has a load of angst, she is already a bad teenager. Mass culture, especially music is always going to appeal to teenagers and does not make them stereotypically rebellious, I also did not like how the story ended, because the author left everything to the imagination and interpretation. Even though this can be considered a sign of good writing, it feels like a loose end that should have been tightening to deliver a better message. I also especially disliked the fact that Oates was implying that it was dangerous for young people to explore their sexuality. Still, I like that the author claimed that wrong exploration could lead to a violent end of either one’s life or innocence without being vulgar about it. I liked that the author implied that young people could certainly have their thoughts and actions, but they are still very young and therefore, open to being seduced by the wrong people, dangerous ideas, and harmful behaviors. I liked the idea that even though young people considered themselves grown up, they still call out or call for their parents when they are in deep trouble. Concerning this, I enjoyed that no matter their rebellious streak, young people threatened with their family will still strive to protect their family. My favorite line was the last, which read, “so much land that Connie had never seen before and did not recognize except to know that she was going to it” (Oates, “Where are you going? Where have you been?”). It was a bit creepy because as a reader, it was obvious that Connie was going into something bad, but the line was beautifully written to describe the tension felt by the teenager in trouble.
Oates, Joyce Carol. Joyce Carol Oates on Bob Dylan. University of San Francisco. 1972. Web. 22 Feb.2011. <http://usf.usfca.edu/fac-staff/~southerr/ondylan.html>
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