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The Search for Identity in Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?

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In the short story Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? Identity plays a major role in showing the lives of the characters and diving deep into who they are as people. Particularly with Connie and Arnold Friend, the idea of identity is very applicable to them as characters and their struggles to find their own identities and how they can each relate and differ from one another.

Connie’s strive to find her own identity is clearly shown in the short story. As she searches for her own independence as any 15 year old would be starting to do, she finds herself in arguments with her mom over responsibilities. As a teenager, she is dependent on the adults in her life for care and discipline as well as for enabling her social life. Her friend’s father, for example, drives her and her friend to the movie theater. Although Connie often fights against her family, particularly her mother and sister, they bring her the only life she really knows. She experiments with making herself look sexy and enticing boys in the local diner show her trying to move forward in exploring who she is as a person. However, until Arnold Friend arrives, her explorations have always seemed without too much worry and overall safety. She may go into an alley with a boy for a few hours, but no matter what happens there, she will eventually be driven back home to the comfort of her family.

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When Arnold Friend arrives and interacts with her as the grown woman she is trying to be, he takes her out of her comfort zone and places her into an adult world which she cannot be rescued from. The things Arnold says to Connie accurately represent the search she has undertaken as a teenager trying to be more grown up. For example, he says, “I’m your lover. You don’t know what that is but you will” and “The place where you came from ain’t there anymore, and where you had in mind to go is cancelled out.” Arnold is a strange character who comes along with all the confusions, doubts, and fears that are found in any young man’s seek for independence. In Connie’s case, her search concludes in the story on a dark note. Her search may continue, but all signs point to a more complete end.

Arnold Friend and Connie seem to have some in common with their struggles for identity and with Connie, independence that comes with that. Arnold Friend behind his walls of coming off as an arrogant young man who is seeking to attract Connie, is doing so out of lots of fear of himself and even though he comes off as very confident and with a strong identity, his act is interacting with Connie is merely him doing the same as Connie and searching for his own identity and who he wants to be seen as, as well as who he wants to be for himself. Connie and Arnold Friend, even thought Arnold may be some older, have much in relation to each other in their searches for freedom, maturity, identity, and independence, which are all very normal things for young men and women to be searching for. Their interactions with each other bring the story forward in ways of helping them get a little bit of a better understanding of who they are as people and where they want to be as people in the future.

Connie and Arnold Friend are two young men and women on the search for identity and independence and as teenagers their interactions with each other are steps forward in their journeys as teenagers to find their own identities. This had been a huge theme in Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? It helps shape the story into what it really is. Two teenagers breaking away from their families to discover who they really are as individuals away from many things they had been comfortable with and used to for almost all their lives.

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