english responses

See the supplemental information in Canvas for both selections. This response is submitted as an attachment, not a discussion entry.

With “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” we see foreshadowing again with Arnold’s appearance: “His teeth were big and white. He grinned so broadly his eyes became slits and she saw how thick the lashes were, thick and black as if painted with a black tarlike material. . . . His whole face was a mask, she thought wildly, tanned down to his throat but then running out as if he had plastered makeup on his face but had forgotten about his throat.” This develops the theme: Things are not as they appear.

“One of his boots was at a strange angle, as if his foot wasn’t in it. It pointed out to the left, bent at the ankle.” This tells us his shoes do not fit; they are not his own shoes. Maybe he is not human (has hooves – a devil?), etc. This lends support to a supernatural interpretation.

Another interpretation focuses on archetypes, myths, even fairy tales. In this scenario, Arnold is the wolf, and Connie is Little Red Riding Hood (or even one of the little pigs). The description of Arnold as an animal supports such an interpretation: “the nose long and hawklike, sniffing as if she were a treat he was going to gobble up…”

Finally, perhaps the simplest (and maybe most accurate) interpretation is that Arnold is a cunning sexual predator.

Regardless of the interpretation, Arnold is the antagonist in this initiation story – the story of Connie leaving childhood and entering adulthood by sacrificing herself in order to save her family.

Likewise, “Neutral Tones” uses strong images to share the story someone remembering the end of a relationship. Elie Wiesel said that the opposite of love is not hate, but indifference, and we see that in this poem. There is no passion, so everything is neutral: gray, ash, etc. The sun is even white because it has no “fire” left.

Like “Where…” we see animal imagery, specifically bird imagery. Consider when we see birds circling.

Now, using specific examples, please answer the following questions in a paragraph per question (1, 2, 3, etc. – about nine paragraphs total).

1. Why do you believe Oates uses animal/supernatural comparisons in “Where…” ? In other words, what is the author trying to show us or make us think of with her word choices? Feel free to use the examples provided or add your own.

2. Explain how the house functions as metaphor in “Where…”: “The place where you came from ain’t there any more, and where you had in mind to go is cancelled out. The place you are now – inside your daddy’s house – is nothing but a cardboard box I can knock down any time. You know that and always did know it.”

3. Why is it significant that she is “moving out into the sunlight” into the “vast reaches of land on all sides of him – so much land that Connie had never seen before and did not recognize except to know that she was going to it.” What does this mean?

4. What is it about Connie that makes Arnold Friend target her as he does? How has her culture shaped her to attract such a person?

5. How does he lure her out of her house? Is she acting heroically at this point, is she powerless, or does something else motivate her to open the door? What evidence supports either point of view (both of which have been suggested by Oates and critics)? Since no sane person would really open that door, how does this consideration prompt allegorical readings of the story?

6. So, what happens to Connie? Why do you think Oates left the ending ambiguous?

7. “Neutral Tones” relies on bird imagery, but the poem also depends on color – or lack of color. Why do you believe the poet chooses to use neutral tones for this poem? Instead of using a yellow sun, why is the sun white, for example? Why does the poet choose to describe the sun that way? Do you find his choices effective or confusing? Why?

8. Identify and explain several examples of death imagery in “Neutral Tones.” Why do you believe the poet included those images? Whatdo they add to the poem?