April 11, 2018
The Occurrence of Human Trafficking
In Joyce Carol Oates, Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?, Oates gives us insight on human trafficking, particularly during the 1960’s in America. This is done through the main character, Connie, who is an example of someone that is struggling to find her true identity. She presents the unpredictable often perplexing behavior associated with a young girl making the change to womanhood. With lyrics of popular songs, Connie uses them to help others know how she wants people to actually see her, but this is what makes her vulnerable. However, human trafficking still presents itself in today’s society, as a classic case that take people against their will and target them mostly because of their vulnerability. In this paper, I will discuss how the fragile identity of the young adolescent, Connie in Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? does indeed demonstrate the sin of human trafficking in the world.
The story starts in the American suburbs, in 1960 with your average fifteen-year-old girl named Connie. She ends up searching for an identity that fits her. She challenges her parents, but mostly doesn’t get along with her mom, she gets easily annoyed by her sister, likes listening to music and watching movies, and she spends a lot of time hanging out with her friends and meeting new boys. One, night, at a drive-in restaurant with her friends, in the parking lot, Connie encounters a mysterious boy in a gold jalopy. A few days later, her parents and sister leave for a family barbeque. Leaving Connie alone, she hears a car pull up and sees the gold jalopy with red sloppy paint parked in the driveway. The mysterious boy from the diner appears, who introduces himself as Arnold Friend and is joined by his friend. Connie never told him her name, however Arnold says:
“But I know what it is. I know your name and all about you, lots of things. I took special interest in you, such a pretty girl, and found out all about you like I know your parents and sister are gone somewheres and I know where and how long they’re going to be gone, and I know who you were with last night, and your best girl friend’s name is Betty right?” (Oates 511).
This is when she starts to see the warning signs because of him already knowing too much about her when she doesn’t even know him. It is as if he has been stalking her and watching her like he chose her to be his prey. He starts asking Connie to come with him for a ride. In which, he threatens that if she does not join him, he will harm her family. She notices in his appearance that he seems to have his boots stuffed to make him as if he was taller and wearing a wig when he puts his sunglasses on his head. Connie then realizes that Arnold is a threat and realizes that he is not eighteen like he says he is. Therefore, Connie ends up asking him, “Hey, how old are you?” (Oates 512). She notices here that he is not a kid, and he is much older—like maybe thirty or more. It becomes clear Arnold is pretending to be someone who he isn’t, like he is wearing a mask because he wanted to be younger to lure Connie out if she thought he was the same age as her. So, she moves away from the screen door and tells him to leave. This is when he becomes more hostile, as well as telling her she is his, but she just doesn’t know it at the moment when he says “I’ll hold you so tight you won’t think you have to try to get away or pretend anything because you’ll know you can’t And I’ll come inside you where it’s all secret and you’ll give in to me and you’ll love me” (Oates 513). He is basically telling her that he is going to rape her and thinks that she will love it. Arnold wants to hold her so tight, so she can’t get away because he wants to hold her against her will. After feeling uneasy when there are more threats and strange statements by him, she attempts to race to the phone to call the police. With her fear she ends up freezing and not being able to move and make the call. You can see in this moment, as she is faced with harm she cries out for her mother. As Arnold orders her, Connie places the phone back down and slowly tries to come to terms and accept her fate that she has to join him in order to save her family. The last thing Arnold says to her in that moment when Connie goes to him is, “My sweet little blue-eyed girl” (Oates 517). Arnold says this in a half-sung sigh as if he is referring to a song because Connie eyes aren’t actually blue. This seems to be saying that she will no longer be the little girl she is once she leaves with him. Which leaves her wondering what her future holds as she is being promised good things. However, she is really being forced against her will and will be an enslaved victim and he may kill her once he’s done with her.
Joyce Carol Oates dedicated this story to Bob Dylan because of his song “It’s All Over Now Baby Blue”, in which Oates found “very beautiful, very disturbing” (Oates). This illustrates how she was very interested in a portrait of America and maybe why she related this story to human trafficking. Also, many aspects of this song are mirrored into the story, like Arnold himself. For example, “The vagabond who’s rapping at your door/Is standing in the clothes that you once wore/Strike another match, go start anew/And it’s all over now, Baby Blue” (Dylan). It seems to be Arnold who uses song lyrics throughout the story to seduce and lure Connie. Therefore, the music he uses she likes and makes her unable to see past his true nature where Connie cannot escape because it is too late at that point. Observing the story’s events allows the readers to see Connie transition from being a flirt to becoming a victim. Oates set the setting in the suburbs where everyone is familiar with everything, so it makes such a harmless setting with absurd violence that is suggested in the story. When the resolution ends with Connie leaving with Arnold, it leaves an unusual aspect because we never actually know Connie’s fate, so violence is suggested but is not actually shown. We assume that with her being forced to go with him and how the events played out that he is a trafficker taking on his next victim. Which he chooses to be Connie, when Arnold says, “Seen you that night and thought, that’s the one, yes sir. I never needed to look any more” (Oates 515). He leaves these statements that hint at rape. This leads to Connie thinking that she’ll never see her family again due to Arnold’s manipulation and control tactics. He uses force, threats, lies, and promises of a loving relationship. While retaining control tactics, such as emotional abuse. Arnold Friend has diabolical characteristics that most certainly represent those of a human trafficker.
In Society today, human trafficking within the world today is still present and happens among most adolescents. This includes criminalization under protocols. For example, it happens for a range of purposes, not just sexual purposes. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime stated other reasons, “Such as poverty, political conditions, war, and social and cultural practices. Although sexual purposes are the main reason it does occur. Some of the common factors are local conditions that make populations want to migrate in search of better conditions: poverty, oppression, lack of human rights, lack of social or economic opportunity, dangers from conflict or instability and similar conditions” (Addressing the Root Causes). Human trafficking has been a remaining issue for children, women and men who are victimized. It does not happen to only children. Trafficking usually takes place with or without the involvement of organized crime groups. According to Zimmerman, the United Nations defines trafficking in persons as:
“the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation” (Zimmerman).
This shows how people take advantage of others and they become victimized because they use their vulnerability and force them into doing things, usually by threatening them. Today, human trafficking happens all around the world in every country. Most of the traffickers are male who pursue women as victims of trafficking. Human trafficking being accessible makes it much more difficult to convict and is easier to exploit individuals. Traffickers give constant threats to victims, and they are exposed to fear and psychological abuse, so they have constant high levels of emotional distress. Also, they continuously remind them that they no longer have control over their lives, so they make them believe that they are helpless and need to rely on their trafficker. This issue is a big issue and has been happening for many years now. There are ways to try and combat human trafficking with many people being exploited. Heffern of the Renewal Forum states we can begin to combat this by,”Raising public awareness of the existence of slavery in the global economy by, for example, listing products or services derived from forced labor; Pressing for national laws and local statutes that make human trafficking a separate and distinct crime; Reducing demand for commercial sex by increasing liabilities for those who purchase sex; Enforcing existing national prohibitions against slavery and human trafficking through increased reliance on transnational investigational work and data collection and sharing” (Heffern).
This is a major conflict in the world and what Heffner is trying to say is that it needs to be brought into awareness. It has become worse over the past years and there are some solutions that can be used to prevent trafficking from happening, ways where it can finally be resolved.
In the short story, Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? by Joyce Carol Oates, faces the fact that human trafficking is a big factor that occurs between the characters Connie and Arnold Friend. Arnold takes advantage of Connie’s newfound sexuality in her transition from a young girl to adulthood because of her vulnerability at the time. In Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? Connie realizes there is nothing more she can do when she must leave with Arnold, so no harm will come to her family. However, she goes with him not knowing what will happen to her or what her future will hold. Only that Arnold wants something from her and that is for him to take advantage of her. Human trafficking was a world problem in the 1960’s, like the setting in the story, as much as it is in today’s society. Today people are working to resolve this situation for good. Traffickers use false fears to torment their victims over different scenarios. Eventually, the victims come to believe that it is their fault that they are the reason they are in these types of situations because they think were foolish enough to be tricked by their trafficker in the first place. The dangers of human trafficking are obvious. Therefore, it is important for us to bring awareness and act against trafficking. Everyone can work towards to change it by taking a few notes from Heffern on how to combat trafficking. Being aware of this socio-political issue is key and to not avoid it because it affects us all.
Heffern, M. ABC’s of Human Trafficking Who it Affects and What Now? Renewal Forum. 2013. http://renewalforum.org/abcs-of-human-trafficking-who-it-affects-and-what-now/
Oates, Joyce Carol. Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?. 1966.
Weitzer, Ronald. Sex Trafficking and the Sex Industry: The Need for Evidence-Based Theory and Legislatio. Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology. 2011. http://scholarlycommons.law.northwestern.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=7413;context=jclc
Zimmerman, Cathy. Human trafficking and exploitation: A global health concern. US National Library of Medicine. 2017. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5699819/