In the short story Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? by Joyce Carol Oates (1966), there are many indicators that Connie may have committed suicide. Oates wrote this story about the Bob Dylan song Its All Over Now, Baby Blue, which deals with a similar story line. Oats begins by letting the reader know how unhappy Connies home life is. She then gives many clear signs of Connies depression, and several hints of suicidal thoughts. Drawn by the urgent insisting pounding of the music(590), Connie finally gives into the strong hold death has over her and commits suicide.
Throughout the story, Connie is very unsatisfied with her home life. Jealousy makes Connie angry with her sister, because their mother places June on a pedestal. Her mother also hurt her by constantly expressing her disappointment in Connie. By continually comparing Connie with her sister, who can do no wrong, the mother proceeds to push her daughter over the edge. Connie is upset with her father because he pays no attention to her.
He didnt bother talking much to them, but around his bent head Connies mother kept picking at her until Connie wished her mother was dead and she herself was dead and it was all over (580). This clearly depicts the feelings that Connie has towards her mother and father, and is the first clue that she is contemplating suicide.
The suicidal implications continue as the story progresses. Connie changes into a completely different person when she is out with her girlfriends; Everything about her had two sides to it(580). This is a clear sign of insecurity in teenagers. The idea of suicide finally manifests itself while she is with Eddie, the boy she met at the drive-in restaurant. While the story doesnt specifically say suicide is what is on her mind, a representation of death is used in the form of Arnold Friend. But all the boys fell back and dissolved into a single face that wasnt even a face, but an idea. A feeling, mixed up with the urgent insistent pounding of music and the humid night air of July (581). This quote implies that the person, who she saw in the drive-in restaurant, was an idea of suicide.
The one thing that appears to help Connie feel better is the music, it was something to depend on(582). Arnold Friend used the music to draw her in. He also used her insecurities against her, implying that he could fill
in the emotional gaps that her parents left. At first she fights the temptation, but she gives in on a Sunday when none of them bothered with church(582).
The actual suicide takes place when Connies family goes to a cook out. Connie tells them she is going to stay home alone, to separate her self from them so she can take her own life. And Connie paid close attention herself, bathed in a glow of slow-pulsed joy that seemed to rise mysteriously out of the music itself and lay languidly about the airless little room, breathed in and breathed out with each gentle rise and fall of her chest(582). Arnold even mentions how she had washed her hair just for him. As Connie begins to die, she reaches an euphoric state, often associated with people while they are dying. She notices her pulse is slowing, her breath fading. This is when Arnold Friend returns to claim his prize.
When Arnold first pulls in her driveway, Connie whispered, Christ. Christ, wondering how bad she looked(582). The reference to Christ could be a realization of what she has done (a cry for help), while her fear of how she looks represents her fear of being caught. While Connie and Arnold are exchanging words, she has to keep chasing flies away from the
door(585), which is another sign of death. The conversation they have is like the transition stage as Connie goes from this world, to the next.
Arnold began by showing Connie the smashed left rear fender with words of blame scrawled over it. This was probably the accident that took Arnolds life. After refusing to go for a ride because she had things to do, Arnold only laughed because he knew that she would eventually have no choice. This is your day set aside for a ride with me and you know it(584). He also knew everything about her, her family, everyone in the neighborhood, and even the musicians on the radio, as only someone omniscient would know.
Connie was beginning to piece together who Arnold really was. The pale skin around his eyes, propping himself up as if he never intended to move again, his lashes were thick and black like they had been painted on, pale bluish chest, his boot twisted at a strange angle, etc. Waves of dizziness began to wash over her as she began to fade, but she could always feel the music. Then her heart began pumping, making her sweat all over as if trying to hold on to life.
At first, Connie only hears the music from her own radio. As her time approaches, the music from her radio and the boys blend together(583)
drawing her even further from this world. Dont you know who I am?(589) he asked her. The kitchen begins to spin, she doesnt know what room shes in, and she cant even dial the phone for help. Its all over for you here,(589) he said as she began to see a pinpoint of light through her delirium (the light that people claim to see as they die?).
Arnold had to pursuade Connie to give in at the end, when she began to have second thoughts about dying. She even watched herself walk out the door from within her body on the kitchen floor. Arnold and his music finally managed to pull her through to the other side.