To Be or Not to Be

        Deciphering between dreams and reality can sometimes be quite difficult. At times our dreams feel as though they are part of our real lives. In Joyce Carol Oates story “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” the main character Connie finds herself in such a condition. The entire conflict that Connie gets herself into makes sense, indicating itself as real. But, this story goes well beyond a tale about a young girl who gets raped. The true reading lies behind the separation of reality and imagination. Oates attempts to make the reader feel the same as Connie does. Just like a dream, the story is unclear and ambiguous. Oates stresses that our subconscious makes imaginary situations come to life. Each of the characters and events in the story appeared to be real, yet Connie’s vulnerable subconscious allowed her mind to wander, developing her own reality into a convincingly real nightmare.      

        The difference between imagination and reality is key to understanding the story. When read straight through, the story appears to be about a young girl that makes wrong decisions and finds herself in a hostile situation. Once one takes a closer look, they begin to question the reality of the situation Connie finds herself in. The beginning of the story describes a common Saturday for Connie and her friends. All of what occurred that night appeared normal. The following day, once her family had left the house for a barbeque, Connie goes outside and sits in the sun closing her eyes to relax. As soon as she reopens her eyes, Oates proceeds with the story, but with a new twist:

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…and when she opened her eyes she hardly knew where she was, the backyard ran off into weeds and a fence line of trees and behind it the sky was perfectly blue and still. The asbestos ‘ranch house’ that was now three years old startled her-it looked small. She shook her head as if to get awake. (Oates 368)

Oates attempts to make it appear as though Connie had dazed off for just a short while. But, the significance behind what truly happened is only discovered later in the story. Though there are many ways to interpret what Oates ...

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