Friday, October 3, 2014

Where are You Going: Music

What really stirred me up in Oates' story "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" was her use of music as a symbol for Connie, and her youth. The 60's were a time, when as we all know, music in popular culture was in a huge surge. Bands like the Beatles (and other British Invasion bands) and others were all over televisions, radio stations, etc. Consumerist media was at a new-time high, and music was right up at the top of that pyramid. So, it only makes sense that a young girl in the 60's, as any young person, would gravitate toward music. Listening to music can be relaxing, fun, insightful, and it allows someone young to relate with others, whether it be a musician or not. The lyrics of these songs resonate with people, making them feel less alone, even so much as to help guide them to find their true self.

Connie loves music. We can see evidence of this early into the story, when Oates writes "[we] listened to the music that made everything so good: the music was always in the background, like music at a church service; it was something to depend upon" (3124). Here she is saying that the music, to Connie, essentially validates something as being either cool, or unacceptable. The music, to Connie, demonstrates how much music means to her. She relates music to happier thoughts and feelings.

The one thing that most stuck with me in this story, overall, was Oates' depiction of taking advantage of someone's weaknesses. With Arnold Friend, there is just this intense exploitation of Connie's character through the music she loves. When he confronts her at her house, he makes use of music a couple of times to try and persuade her out. The first was his friend, Ellie, playing the same radio station as her. Arnold makes a comment when Connie notices the radio is playing Bobby King, "I listen to him all the time. I think he's great" (3126). He tries to gain her trust by using one thing that means so much to her. Since Connie listens to the radio often, as learns many of her ideas and fantasies around boys, this is an especially sensitive area for Arnold to attack. It also does a great job of vividly showing how susceptible we as people are to harm, just based on being manipulated. Connie knows that Arnold is threatening, but his use of music, at the time, seems to calm her, to make the situation seem more like a fantasy than real life. To Connie, real life means being around her mother, being talked down to, disrespected. Her fantasies instead leave her in a world where she is happy, she is free. Yet, that innocence is what led to Arnold gaining such a control over her.

Overall, I absolutely loved reading this story again, and I could talk about it forever. I hope everyone else enjoyed it also!

1 comment:

  1. I got really into this story, I can't say I "enjoyed" it as we've been having a lot of stories dealing with rape, attacks, and terrible things happening to everyday people, especially women. But I digress (and I know you don't mean enjoy as in HAHA THIS IS HILARIOUS) I'm just starting to notice a depressing pattern.
    You make a great point about the music of the time "validating" what is and isn't acceptable and cool. The music of the 60's brought in a completely new culture, one that much of the time scared the older generation. It was fast, loud, and talked of things they didn't want their children hearing. It's easy to think it sounds cool when you listen to The Rolling Stones or The Doors, but only a few years after this was written, Brian Jones died, Hendrix, Joplin, and Jim Morrison all died before reaching 30. In a lot of ways, their parents were right, the world wasn't a place of peace loving hippies and The Beatles didn't save the world - the world was and is a scary place. This poor girl is in many ways going to live the life she thought she wanted, the one she listened to. She'll travel around, never knowing exactly where she is or where she's going; there will be "free love" and most likely plenty of drugs. Obviously not everyone at the time was so diabolical and cruel as Arnold, and not every young girl lived a life so terrible. But you're right, "real life" however dull it may seem to a daydreaming 15 year old, is called real life for a reason, and some things are better left in songs.