Miserable Life Suffering, Powerful Heart Proping | On Storytelling By Leslie Marmon Silko

Leslie Marmon Silko is a Native American writer raised in the tribe of Laguna Pueblo. During her childhood, she learnt Laguna legends and traditions from her family members and also got educated in the University of New Mexico before becoming a literature writer. She is a descent of both Anglo American and Mexican American, because of which she grew up on the edge of pueblo society and her family was not allowed to participate in ritual activities. As a result of being a short story writer, one of her most important works is called Storytelling that is composed of various legends and stories related to the traditional Indian culture. In this book, Silko intends to clarify the interrelationship between the stories she had heard and her sense of storytelling and language that had been given to her by the old folks, the people back home. (Barnes 1579) The audience in the author’s view is those who are fond of clarifying the relationship between the spoken and the written. The author also stresses “the key to understanding storytellers and storytelling at Laguna Pueblo is to realize that you grow up not just being aware of narrative and making a story or seeing a story in what happens to you and what goes on around you all the time, but just being appreciative and delighted in narrative exchanges”, so “it isn’t like there’s only one storyteller designated”. The reason why Silko writes these stories is to satisfy herself by translating the feeling, flavor or sense of a story into a literature version. However, during this process, she does not change the spirit, the mood or the tone of the story because she regards stories as living things with their own vitality. (Barnes 1581)

Against a backdrop of describing racism and revenge in Storytelling, Lullaby is one of its most famous story told from the perspective an old woman who recalling the tragic memories in her life. Arranged through the way of flashback, the story is elicited by a blanket of Ayah’s son, Jimmie who has died in the battlefield, then the occasion of weaving with Ayah’s mother and grandma and finally Ayah’s husband named Chato. Except for Jimmie, Ayah has another two children named Danny and Ella who are taken away from her by the whites. What is an added disaster to these poor couple is that Chato is chased from the work for his physical defect. Apart from a bit of payment and a blanket, they have nothing at all.

The story is named as Lullaby, but is not about the innocence of children. “On the contrary, this is a story about the horrors of adulthood, but it also reflects the ability to weave all of the events of one’s life into a story”. “Memory, too, serves as a blanket that warms Ayah and allows her to continue living despite the horrible conditions she faces”. (Salyer 16) In the view of Edith Blicksilver, “Lullaby describes the Anglo’s exploitation of the Indian and tragic consequences of forcing young children to choose between the old tribal reservation traditions and a materialistic, urban, sterile society so alien to their close-knit extended family culture.” “Silko is able to extricate her powerful feeling s for this individual from her sympathetic involvement with her as a victim of racial oppression”. This old Navaho woman witnesses the transitional period between old and new. In her natural traditional life, she may not have been liberated as an Indian woman based on the modern definitions, but she knew her worth. While faced with the totally fresh world, she shows her heroic fortitude.

Indian was once a matriarchal clan society. It is hard to describe Indian as a society formed with a certain civilization since the European colonists landed here, so it provides a good opportunity for those colonists to control the aborigines on their minds. The whites forbid the Indians to give birth. Children are hauled away from their parents to a special naturalized school where kids are not allowed to speak their mother tough but only English. They are trained there to be the slaves of the white in terms of changing their names, studying the Bible and western culture. It is impossible for them to meet their biological parents again. In the story Lullaby, to some extend, it is lucky for Ayah to have chances to meet her children for twice. However, it is just a self comfort or self deception that are forced to be formed in the Indian’s personality. They have no right to choose but adapt to what these new immigrants brings to them, like culture, wealth, development and also disease which causes a great reduction of Indian population. Seen from the above condition, we can say with certainty that Indian people should be feared. They have no power at all in all respect to fight against these invaders. However, I find a kind of fearlessness and powerful inner forces from this woman named Ayah. Her strength is not a superficial one, liking killing some whites or starting some activities for defiance, but her braveness and persistence in dealing with all the events happened in her life. She has done what she can do and also has a strong heart to accept the result.

Her fortitude will be illustrated from her responses to facing with a broken family and the death of her child and husband.

Ayah’s family was broken by the whites who force to bring her children away. The white doctors ask her to sign her name on the paper. She does it as what her husband tells her because only he understands what the whites are talking about. However, she cannot believe that it is a contract to send her children away to a place called Colorado where there are many sick and dying strangers. Without knowing the fact, she just wants them to go and sign the name. ”She took the pen from the man without looking at his face”. “She stared at the ground by their feet and waited for them to leave”. From her actions, we can tell she is really nervous and afraid to contact with white strangers because she dares not to face up to them. However, she feels something is wrong later when they stand still and point at her kids. Out of maternity, she ran with her two children up to the hills avoiding them being taken away. This action is a comparative one to those before. They stay there for a quite long time to wait for her husband to pick them up. She just tries to ensure that those white doctors have left so that her children can still be with her. Living with her own children for the rest of her life has already become a fantasy, but at least she fights for it for one time which leaves her one more afternoon to share the beautiful view of warm sun, blue sky and light cloud with kids. The kids are gone finally. She hates her husband Chato who tells her to sign the name. As the revenge, she does not lie down besides him for many years later. We can personally feel the pain when we are away from home for a long time. Actually parents’ is far more than what we have burdened, so it is easy for us to understand Ayah’s sadness and anger. Nevertheless, when her husband is ill and chased away from the farmland, she comes back to him. She feels that “for forty years she had smiled at him and cooked his food, but he remained a stranger”, but she still “walked back to find Chato” because they are a couple and they have nothing left but each other. It can’t be easy for her to keep living with this man who makes her lose kids, but she still chooses to accompany him. The reason why she can handle this is because she has a strong heart.
The second aspect is her reaction to the death of her first child, Jimmie, and her husband. The blanket belonged to Jimmie when he is alive is the clue of the whole story. Ayah seems to take it to anywhere she goes. When Chato tells her “Jimmie isn’t coming home anymore”, “she didn’t cry then, but she hurt inside with anger”. The pain that cannot be relieved is the most excruciating. Ayah mourns Jimmie for twice in the story. The first one happens when Chato breaks his leg and can’t get payment until he can work again. She thinks if Jimmie is here, he can do that for his father. The second time happens when the white doctors bring Danny and Ella away. She thinks if Jimmie is here, he can read the contract for her and kids will not be taken away. Since the children left her, she moves to the hill where they spend the last time together with the blanket Jimmie has sent her. She takes the blanket with her all the time from which we can tell that she actually mourns Jimmie in every minute. Her strong appearance makes us feel more of the pain she suffers.

Chato is so old that the rancher finds a new labor to replace him. They have to move out of the gray boxcar shack. She is old too. With the white hair and wrinkled face, she is not stopped by the owner of the bar when she enters for looking for Chato. Men in there are afraid of her which makes her satisfied. She finds him when they are walking along the pavement. Chato talks with her that the ranch cannot be managed well without him. He also called her wife with the name of his sister. He wears the old boots, shirts and clothes, which makes him covered in rags. She laughed at him. He stops his step to look at her. He is really old now. Ayah asks for a rest. They sit down with their backs against the rock. “She offered half of the blanket to him and they sat wrapped together”. “His eyes were closed now, and in the light from the stars and the moon, he looked young again”. She begins to sing lullaby for him, making everything turn to the original and the nature. At this time, I think Ayah may not think of other things. She has a man who has accompanied her during her span time, the blanket that strongly suffused with the love of his son and the beauty of nature she used to shared with Danny and Ella. She feels satisfied and happy for what she has had. That is what the worth of life, which cannot be taken away by anyone.

The external environment sometimes may bring us various pressure, fearness or intranquility, which is out of our control. However, we can improve ourselves and try to face the difficulties with a strong inner power. Frustration, to some extend, is the fortune of life for it making us realize more of the value of what we have had.

Works Cited

Evans, Charlene Taylor. Women of Color: Mother-Daughter Relationships in  

     20th-Century Literature (1996): 172-87.

Blicksilver, Edith. Southwest Review (1979): 149-60

Salyer, Gregory. Leslie Marmon Silko. New York: Twayne, 1997

Everyday Use | Alice Walker

I will wait for her in the yard that Maggie and I made so clean and wavy yesterday afternoon. A yard like this is more comfortable than most people know. It is not just a yard. It is like an extended living room. When the hard clay is swept clean as a floor and the fine sand around the edges lined with tiny, irregular grooves, anyone can come and sit and look up into the elm tree and wait for the breezes that never come inside the house.

Maggie will be nervous until after her sister goes: she will stand hopelessly in corners, homely and ashamed of the burn scars down her arms and legs, eying her sister with a mixture of envy and awe. She thinks her sister has held life always in the palm of one hand, that “no” is a word the world never learned to say to her.

You’ve no doubt seen those TV shows where the child who has “made it” is confronted, as a surprise, by her own mother and father, tottering in weakly from backstage. (A pleasant surprise, of course: What would they do if parent and child came on the show only to curse out and insult each other?) On TV mother and child embrace and smile into each other’s faces. Sometimes the mother and father weep, the child wraps them in her arms and leans across the table to tell how she would not have made it without their help. I have seen these programs.

Sometimes I dream a dream in which Dee and I are suddenly brought together on a TV program of this sort. Out of a dark and soft.seated limousine I am ushered into a bright room filled with many people. There I meet a smiling, gray, sporty man like Johnny Carson who shakes my hand and tells me what a fine girl I have. Then we are on the stage and Dee is embracing me with tears in her eyes. She pins on my dress a large orchid, even though she has told me once that she thinks orchids are tacky flowers.

In real life I am a large, big.boned woman with rough, man.working hands. In the winter I wear flannel nightgowns to bed and overalls dur.ing the day. I can kill and clean a hog as mercilessly as a man. My fat keeps me hot in zero weather. I can work outside all day, breaking ice to get water for washing; I can eat pork liver cooked over the open fire minutes after it comes steaming from the hog. One winter I knocked a bull calf straight in the brain between the eyes with a sledge hammer and had the meat hung up to chill before nightfall. But of course all this does not show on television. I am the way my daughter would want me to be: a hundred pounds lighter, my skin like an uncooked barley pancake. My hair glistens in the hot bright lights. Johnny Carson has much to do to keep up with my quick and witty tongue.

But that is a mistake. I know even before I wake up. Who ever knew a Johnson with a quick tongue? Who can even imagine me looking a strange white man in the eye? It seems to me I have talked to them always with one foot raised in flight, with my head fumed in whichever way is farthest from them. Dee, though. She would always look anyone in the eye. Hesitation was no part of her nature.

“How do I look, Mama?” Maggie says, showing just enough of her thin body enveloped in pink skirt and red blouse for me to know she’s there, almost hidden by the door.

“Come out into the yard,” I say.

Have you ever seen a lame animal, perhaps a dog run over by some careless person rich enough to own a car, sidle up to someone who is ignorant enough to be kind to him? That is the way my Maggie walks. She has been like this, chin on chest, eyes on ground, feet in shuffle, ever since the fire that burned the other house to the ground.

Dee is lighter than Maggie, with nicer hair and a fuller figure. She’s a woman now, though sometimes I forget. How long ago was it that the other house burned? Ten, twelve years? Sometimes I can still hear the flames and feel Maggie’s arms sticking to me, her hair smoking and her dress falling off her in little black papery flakes. Her eyes seemed stretched open, blazed open by the flames reflected in them. And Dee. I see her standing off under the sweet gum tree she used to dig gum out of; a look of concentration on her face as she watched the last dingy gray board of the house fall in toward the red.hot brick chimney. Why don’t you do a dance around the ashes? I’d wanted to ask her. She had hated the house that much.

I used to think she hated Maggie, too. But that was before we raised money, the church and me, to send her to Augusta to school. She used to read to us without pity; forcing words, lies, other folks’ habits, whole lives upon us two, sitting trapped and ignorant underneath her voice. She washed us in a river of make.believe, burned us with a lot of knowledge we didn’t necessarily need to know. Pressed us to her with the serf’ ous way she read, to shove us away at just the moment, like dimwits, we seemed about to understand.

Dee wanted nice things. A yellow organdy dress to wear to her graduation from high school; black pumps to match a green suit she’d made from an old suit somebody gave me. She was determined to stare down any disaster in her efforts. Her eyelids would not flicker for minutes at a time. Often I fought off the temptation to shake her. At sixteen she had a style of her own: and knew what style was.

I never had an education myself. After second grade the school was closed down. Don’t ask my why: in 1927 colored asked fewer questions than they do now. Sometimes Maggie reads to me. She stumbles along good.naturedly but can’t see well. She knows she is not bright. Like good looks and money, quickness passes her by. She will marry John Thomas (who has mossy teeth in an earnest face) and then I’ll be free to sit here and I guess just sing church songs to myself. Although I never was a good singer. Never could carry a tune. I was always better at a man’s job. I used to love to milk till I was hooked in the side in ’49. Cows are soothing and slow and don’t bother you, unless you try to milk them the wrong way.
I have deliberately turned my back on the house. It is three rooms, just like the one that burned, except the roof is tin; they don’t make shingle roofs any more. There are no real windows, just some holes cut in the sides, like the portholes in a ship, but not round and not square, with rawhide holding the shutters up on the outside. This house is in a pasture, too, like the other one. No doubt when Dee sees it she will want to tear it down. She wrote me once that no matter where we “choose” to live, she will manage to come see us. But she will never bring her friends. Maggie and I thought about this and Maggie asked me, “Mama, when did Dee ever have any friends?”

She had a few. Furtive boys in pink shirts hanging about on washday after school. Nervous girls who never laughed. Impressed with her they worshiped the well.turned phrase, the cute shape, the scalding humor that erupted like bubbles in Iye. She read to them.

When she was courting Jimmy T she didn’t have much time to pay to us, but turned all her faultfinding power on him. He flew to marry a cheap city girl from a family of ignorant flashy people. She hardly had time to recompose herself.

When she comes I will meet there they are!

Maggie attempts to make a dash for the house, in her shuffling way, but I stay her with my hand. “Come back here, ” I say. And she stops and tries to dig a well in the sand with her toe.

It is hard to see them clearly through the strong sun. But even the first glimpse of leg out of the car tells me it is Dee. Her feet were always neat.looking, as if God himself had shaped them with a certain style. From the other side of the car comes a short, stocky man. Hair is all over his head a foot long and hanging from his chin like a kinky mule tail. I hear Maggie suck in her breath. “Uhnnnh, ” is what it sounds like. Like when you see the wriggling end of a snake just in front of your foot on the road. “Uhnnnh.”

Dee next. A dress down to the ground, in this hot weather. A dress so loud it hurts my eyes. There are yellows and oranges enough to throw back the light of the sun. I feel my whole face warming from the heat waves it throws out. Earrings gold, too, and hanging down to her shoul.ders. Bracelets dangling and making noises when she moves her arm up to shake the folds of the dress out of her armpits. The dress is loose and flows, and as she walks closer, I like it. I hear Maggie go “Uhnnnh” again. It is her sister’s hair. It stands straight up like the wool on a sheep. It is black as night and around the edges are two long pigtails that rope about like small lizards disappearing behind her ears.

“Wa.su.zo.Tean.o!” she says, coming on in that gliding way the dress makes her move. The short stocky fellow with the hair to his navel is all grinning and he follows up with “Asalamalakim, my mother and sister!” He moves to hug Maggie but she falls back, right up against the back of my chair. I feel her trembling there and when I look up I see the perspiration falling off her chin.

“Don’t get up,” says Dee. Since I am stout it takes something of a push. You can see me trying to move a second or two before I make it. She turns, showing white heels through her sandals, and goes back to the car. Out she peeks next with a Polaroid. She stoops down quickly and lines up picture after picture of me sitting there in front of the house with Maggie cowering behind me. She never takes a shot without mak’ ing sure the house is included. When a cow comes nibbling around the edge of the yard she snaps it and me and Maggie and the house. Then she puts the Polaroid in the back seat of the car, and comes up and kisses me on the forehead.

Meanwhile Asalamalakim is going through motions with Maggie’s hand. Maggie’s hand is as limp as a fish, and probably as cold, despite the sweat, and she keeps trying to pull it back. It looks like Asalamalakim wants to shake hands but wants to do it fancy. Or maybe he don’t know how people shake hands. Anyhow, he soon gives up on Maggie.

“Well,” I say. “Dee.”

“No, Mama,” she says. “Not ‘Dee,’ Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo!”

“What happened to ‘Dee’?” I wanted to know.

“She’s dead,” Wangero said. “I couldn’t bear it any longer, being named after the people who oppress me.”

“You know as well as me you was named after your aunt Dicie,” I said. Dicie is my sister. She named Dee. We called her “Big Dee” after Dee was born.

“But who was she named after?” asked Wangero.

“I guess after Grandma Dee,” I said.

“And who was she named after?” asked Wangero.

“Her mother,” I said, and saw Wangero was getting tired. “That’s about as far back as I can trace it,” I said. Though, in fact, I probably could have carried it back beyond the Civil War through the branches.

“Well,” said Asalamalakim, “there you are.”

“Uhnnnh,” I heard Maggie say.

“There I was not,” I said, “before ‘Dicie’ cropped up in our family, so why should I try to trace it that far back?”

He just stood there grinning, looking down on me like somebody inspecting a Model A car. Every once in a while he and Wangero sent eye signals over my head.

“How do you pronounce this name?” I asked.

“You don’t have to call me by it if you don’t want to,” said Wangero.

“Why shouldn’t 1?” I asked. “If that’s what you want us to call you, we’ll call you.”

“I know it might sound awkward at first,” said Wangero.

“I’ll get used to it,” I said. “Ream it out again.”

Well, soon we got the name out of the way. Asalamalakim had a name twice as long and three times as hard. After I tripped over it two or three times he told me to just call him Hakim.a.barber. I wanted to ask him was he a barber, but I didn’t really think he was, so I didn’t ask.

“You must belong to those beef.cattle peoples down the road,” I said. They said “Asalamalakim” when they met you, too, but they didn’t shake hands. Always too busy: feeding the cattle, fixing the fences, putting up salt.lick shelters, throwing down hay. When the white folks poisoned some of the herd the men stayed up all night with rifles in their hands. I walked a mile and a half just to see the sight.

Hakim.a.barber said, “I accept some of their doctrines, but farming and raising cattle is not my style.” (They didn’t tell me, and I didn’t ask, whether Wangero (Dee) had really gone and married him.)
We sat down to eat and right away he said he didn’t eat collards and pork was unclean. Wangero, though, went on through the chitlins and com bread, the greens and everything else. She talked a blue streak over the sweet potatoes. Everything delighted her. Even the fact that we still used the benches her daddy made for the table when we couldn’t effort to buy chairs.

“Oh, Mama!” she cried. Then turned to Hakim.a.barber. “I never knew how lovely these benches are. You can feel the rump prints,” she said, running her hands underneath her and along the bench. Then she gave a sigh and her hand closed over Grandma Dee’s butter dish. “That’s it!” she said. “I knew there was something I wanted to ask you if I could have.” She jumped up from the table and went over in the corner where the churn stood, the milk in it crabber by now. She looked at the churn and looked at it.

“This churn top is what I need,” she said. “Didn’t Uncle Buddy whittle it out of a tree you all used to have?”

“Yes,” I said.

“Un huh,” she said happily. “And I want the dasher, too.”

“Uncle Buddy whittle that, too?” asked the barber.

Dee (Wangero) looked up at me.

“Aunt Dee’s first husband whittled the dash,” said Maggie so low you almost couldn’t hear her. “His name was Henry, but they called him Stash.”

“Maggie’s brain is like an elephant’s,” Wangero said, laughing. “I can use the chute top as a centerpiece for the alcove table,” she said, sliding a plate over the chute, “and I’ll think of something artistic to do with the dasher.”

When she finished wrapping the dasher the handle stuck out. I took it for a moment in my hands. You didn’t even have to look close to see where hands pushing the dasher up and down to make butter had left a kind of sink in the wood. In fact, there were a lot of small sinks; you could see where thumbs and fingers had sunk into the wood. It was beautiful light yellow wood, from a tree that grew in the yard where Big Dee and Stash had lived.

After dinner Dee (Wangero) went to the trunk at the foot of my bed and started rifling through it. Maggie hung back in the kitchen over the dishpan. Out came Wangero with two quilts. They had been pieced by Grandma Dee and then Big Dee and me had hung them on the quilt ftames on the ftont porch and quilted them. One was in the Lone Stat pattetn. The other was Walk Around the Mountain. In both of them were scraps of dresses Grandma Dee had wotn fifty and more years ago. Bits and pieces of Grandpa Jattell’s Paisley shirts. And one teeny faded blue piece, about the size of a penny matchbox, that was from Great Grandpa Ezra’s unifotm that he wore in the Civil War.

“Mama,” Wangro said sweet as a bird. “Can I have these old quilts?”

I heard something fall in the kitchen, and a minute later the kitchen door slammed.

“Why don’t you take one or two of the others?” I asked. “These old things was just done by me and Big Dee from some tops your grandma pieced before she died.”

“No,” said Wangero. “I don’t want those. They are stitched around the borders by machine.”
“That’ll make them last better,” I said.

“That’s not the point,” said Wangero. “These are all pieces of dresses Grandma used to wear. She did all this stitching by hand. Imagine!” She held the quilts securely in her atms, stroking them.

“Some of the pieces, like those lavender ones, come from old clothes her mother handed down to her,” I said, moving up to touch the quilts. Dee (Wangero) moved back just enough so that I couldn’t reach the quilts. They already belonged to her.

“Imagine!” she breathed again, clutching them closely to her bosom.

“The truth is,” I said, “I promised to give them quilts to Maggie, for when she matties John Thomas.”

She gasped like a bee had stung her.

“Maggie can’t appreciate these quilts!” she said. “She’d probably be backward enough to put them to everyday use.”

“I reckon she would,” I said. “God knows I been saving ’em for long enough with nobody using ’em. I hope she will!” I didn’t want to bring up how I had offered Dee (Wangero) a quilt when she went away to college. Then she had told they were old~fashioned, out of style.

“But they’re priceless!” she was saying now, furiously; for she has a temper. “Maggie would put them on the bed and in five years they’d be in rags. Less than that!”

“She can always make some more,” I said. “Maggie knows how to quilt.”

Dee (Wangero) looked at me with hatred. “You just will not under.stand. The point is these quilts, these quilts!”

“Well,” I said, stumped. “What would you do with them?”

“Hang them,” she said. As if that was the only thing you could do with quilts.

Maggie by now was standing in the door. I could almost hear the sound her feet made as they scraped over each other.

“She can have them, Mama,” she said, like somebody used to never winning anything, or having anything reserved for her. “I can ‘member Grandma Dee without the quilts.”

I looked at her hard. She had filled her bottom lip with checkerberry snuff and gave her face a kind of dopey, hangdog look. It was Grandma Dee and Big Dee who taught her how to quilt herself. She stood there with her scarred hands hidden in the folds of her skirt. She looked at her sister with something like fear but she wasn’t mad at her. This was Maggie’s portion. This was the way she knew God to work.

When I looked at her like that something hit me in the top of my head and ran down to the soles of my feet. Just like when I’m in church and the spirit of God touches me and I get happy and shout. I did some.thing I never done before: hugged Maggie to me, then dragged her on into the room, snatched the quilts out of Miss Wangero’s hands and dumped them into Maggie’s lap. Maggie just sat there on my bed with her mouth open.

“Take one or two of the others,” I said to Dee.

But she turned without a word and went out to Hakim~a~barber.

“You just don’t understand,” she said, as Maggie and I came out to the car.

“What don’t I understand?” I wanted to know.

“Your heritage,” she said, And then she turned to Maggie, kissed her, and said, “You ought to try to make something of yourself, too, Maggie. It’s really a new day for us. But from the way you and Mama still live you’d never know it.”

She put on some sunglasses that hid everything above the tip of her nose and chin.

Maggie smiled; maybe at the sunglasses. But a real smile, not scared. After we watched the car dust settle I asked Maggie to bring me a dip of snuff. And then the two of us sat there just enjoying, until it was time to go in the house and go to bed.

The Yellow Wallpaper | Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Gilman, Charlotte Perkins, 1860-1935.
Electronic Text Center, University of Virginia Library

________________________________________

The Yellow Wallpaper
By Charlotte Perkins Gilman

It is very seldom that mere ordinary people like John and myself secure ancestral halls for the summer.
A colonial mansion, a hereditary estate, I would say a haunted house, and reach the height of romantic felicity but that would be asking too much of fate!
Still I will proudly declare that there is something queer about it.
Else, why should it be let so cheaply? And why have stood so long untenanted?
John laughs at me, of course, but one expects that in marriage.
John is practical in the extreme. He has no patience with faith, an intense horror of superstition, and he scoffs openly at any talk of things not to be felt and seen and put down in figures.
John is a physician, and — perhaps (I would not say it to a living soul, of course, but this is dead paper and a great relief to my mind) perhaps that is one reason I do not get well faster.
You see he does not believe I am sick!
And what can one do?
If a physician of high standing, and one’s own husband, assures friends and relatives that there is really nothing the matter with one but temporary nervous depression — a slight hysterical tendency — what is one to do?
My brother is also a physician, and also of high standing, and he says the same thing.
So I take phosphates or phospites — whichever it is, and tonics, and journeys, and air, and exercise, and am absolutely forbidden to “work” until I am well again.
Personally, I disagree with their ideas.
Personally, I believe that congenial work, with excitement and change, would do me good.
But what is one to do?
I did write for a while in spite of them; but it does exhaust me a good deal — having to be so sly about it, or else meet with heavy opposition.
I sometimes fancy that in my condition if I had less opposition and more society and stimulus — but John says the very worst thing I can do is to think about my condition, and I confess it always makes me feel bad.
So I will let it alone and talk about the house.
The most beautiful place! It is quite alone, standing well back from the road, quite three miles from the village. It makes me think of English places that you read about, for there are hedges and walls and gates that lock, and lots of separate little houses for the gardeners and people.
There is a delicious garden! I never saw such a garden large and shady, full of box-bordered paths, and lined with long grape-covered arbors with seats under them.
There were greenhouses, too, but they are all broken now.
There was some legal trouble, I believe, something about the heirs and coheirs; anyhow, the place has been empty for years.
That spoils my ghostliness, I am afraid, but I don’t care — there is something strange about the house — I can feel it.
I even said so to John one moonlight evening, but he said what I felt was a draught, and shut the window.
I get unreasonably angry with John sometimes. I’m sure I never used to be so sensitive. I think it is due to this nervous condition.
But John says if I feel so, I shall neglect proper self-control; so I take pains to control myself — before him, at least, and that makes me very tired.
I don’t like our room a bit. I wanted one downstairs that opened on the piazza and had roses all over the window, and such pretty old-fashioned chintz hangings! but John would not hear of it.
He said there was only one window and not room for two beds, and no near room for him if he took another.
He is very careful and loving, and hardly lets me stir without special direction.
I have a schedule prescription for each hour in the day; he takes all care from me, and so I feel basely ungrateful not to value it more.
He said we came here solely on my account, that I was to have perfect rest and all the air I could get. “Your exercise depends on your strength, my dear,” said he, “and your food somewhat on your appetite; but air you can absorb all the time.” So we took the nursery at the top of the house.
It is a big, airy room, the whole floor nearly, with windows that look all ways, and air and sunshine galore. It was nursery first and then playroom and gymnasium, I should judge; for the windows are barred for little children, and there are rings and things in the walls.
The paint and paper look as if a boys’ school had used it. It is stripped off — the paper — in great patches all around the head of my bed, about as far as I can reach, and in a great place on the other side of the room low down. I never saw a worse paper in my life.
One of those sprawling flamboyant patterns committing every artistic sin.
It is dull enough to confuse the eye in following pronounced enough to constantly irritate and provoke study, and when you follow the lame uncertain curves for a little distance they suddenly commit suicide — plunge off at outrageous angles, destroy themselves in unheard of contradictions.
The color is repellent, almost revolting; a smouldering unclean yellow, strangely faded by the slow-turning sunlight.
It is a dull yet lurid orange in some places, a sickly sulphur tint in others.
No wonder the children hated it! I should hate it myself if I had to live in this room long.
There comes John, and I must put this away, — he hates to have me write a word.
________________________________________

We have been here two weeks, and I haven’t felt like writing before, since that first day.
I am sitting by the window now, up in this atrocious nursery, and there is nothing to hinder my writing as much as I please, save lack of strength.
John is away all day, and even some nights when his cases are serious.
I am glad my case is not serious!
But these nervous troubles are dreadfully depressing.
John does not know how much I really suffer. He knows there is no reason to suffer, and that satisfies him.
Of course it is only nervousness. It does weigh on me so not to do my duty in any way!
I meant to be such a help to John, such a real rest and comfort, and here I am a comparative burden already!
Nobody would believe what an effort it is to do what little I am able, — to dress and entertain, and order things.
It is fortunate Mary is so good with the baby. Such a dear baby!
And yet I cannot be with him, it makes me so nervous.
I suppose John never was nervous in his life. He laughs at me so about this wall-paper!
At first he meant to repaper the room, but afterwards he said that I was letting it get the better of me, and that nothing was worse for a nervous patient than to give way to such fancies.
He said that after the wall-paper was changed it would be the heavy bedstead, and then the barred windows, and then that gate at the head of the stairs, and so on.
“You know the place is doing you good,” he said, “and really, dear, I don’t care to renovate the house just for a three months’ rental.”
“Then do let us go downstairs,” I said, “there are such pretty rooms there.”
Then he took me in his arms and called me a blessed little goose, and said he would go down to the cellar, if I wished, and have it whitewashed into the bargain.
But he is right enough about the beds and windows and things.
It is an airy and comfortable room as any one need wish, and, of course, I would not be so silly as to make him uncomfortable just for a whim.
I’m really getting quite fond of the big room, all but that horrid paper.
Out of one window I can see the garden, those mysterious deepshaded arbors, the riotous old fashioned flowers, and bushes and gnarly trees.
Out of another I get a lovely view of the bay and a little private wharf belonging to the estate. There is a beautiful shaded lane that runs down there from the house. I always fancy I see people walking in these numerous paths and arbors, but John has cautioned me not to g ve way to fancy in the least. He says that with my imaginative power and habit of story-making, a nervous weakness like mine is sure to lead to all manner of excited fancies, and that I ought to use my will and good sense to check the tendency. So I try.
I think sometimes that if I were only well enough to write a little it would relieve the press of ideas and rest me.
But I find I get pretty tired when I try.
It is so discouraging not to have any advice and companionship about my work. When I get really well, John says we will ask Cousin Henry and Julia down for a long visit; but he says he would as soon put fireworks in my pillow case as to let me have those stimulating people about now.
I wish I could get well faster.
But I must not think about that. This paper looks to me as if it knew what a vicious influence it had!
There is a recurrent spot where the pattern lolls like a broken neck and two bulbous eyes stare at you upside down.
I get positively angry with the impertinence of it and the everlastingness. Up and down and sideways they crawl, and those absurd, unblinking eyes are everywhere. There is one place where two breaths didn’t match, and the eyes go all up and down the line, one a little higher than the other.
I never saw so much expression in an inanimate thing before, and we all know how much expression they have! I used to lie awake as a child and get more entertainment and terror out of blank walls and plain furniture than most children could find in a toy-store.
I remember what a kindly wink the knobs of our big, old bureau used to have, and there was one chair that always seemed like a strong friend
I used to feel that if any of the other thing’ looked too fierce I could always hop into that chair and be safe.
The furniture in this room is no worse than inharmonious, however, for we had to bring it all from downstairs. I suppose when this was used as a playroom they had to take the nursery things out, and no wonder! I never saw such ravages as the children have made here.
The wall-paper, as I said before, is torn off in spots, and it sticketh closer than a brother — they must have had perseverance as well as hatred.
Then the floor is scratched and gouged and splintered, the plaster itself is dug out here and there, and this great heavy bed which is all we found in the room, looks as if it had been through the wars.
But I don’t mind it a bit — only the paper.
There comes John’s sister. Such a dear girl as she is, and so careful of me! I must not let her find me writing.
She is a perfect and enthusiastic housekeeper, and hopes for no better profession. I verily believe she thinks it is the writing which made me sick!
But I can write when she is out, and see her a long way off from these windows.
There is one that commands the road, a lovely shaded winding road, and one that just looks off over the country. A lovely country, too, full of great elms and velvet meadows.
This wall-paper has a kind of sub-pattern in a different shade, a particularly irritating one, for you can only see it in certain lights, and not clearly then.
But in the places where it isn’t faded and where the sun is just so I can see a strange, provoking, formless sort of figure, that seems to skulk about behind that silly and conspicuous front design.
There’s sister on the stairs!
________________________________________

Well, the Fourth of July is over! The people are all gone and I am tired out. John thought it might do me good to see a little company, so we just had mother and Nellie and the children down for a week.
Of course I didn’t do a thing. Jennie sees to everything now.
But it tired me all the same.
John says if I don’t pick up faster he shall send me to Weir Mitchell in the fall.
But I don’t want to go there at all. I had a friend who was in his hands once, and she says he is just like John and my brother, only more so!
Besides, it is such an undertaking to go so far.
I don’t feel as if it was worth while to turn my hand over for anything, and I’m getting dreadfully fretful and querulous.
I cry at nothing, and cry most of the time.
Of course I don’t when John is here, or anybody else, but when I am alone.
And I am alone a good deal just now. John is kept in town very often by serious cases, and Jennie is good and lets me alone when I want her to.
So I walk a little in the garden or down that lovely lane, sit on the porch under the roses, and lie down up here a good deal.
I’m getting really fond of the room in spite of the wall-paper. Perhaps because of the wall-paper.
It dwells in my mind so!
I lie here on this great immovable bed — it is nailed down, I believe — and follow that pattern about by the hour. It is as good as gymnastics, I assure you. I start, we’ll say, at the bottom, down in the corner over there where it has not been touched, and I determine for the thousandth time that I will follow that pointless pattern to some sort of a conclusion.
I know a little of the principle of design, and I know this thing was not arranged on any laws of I radiation, or alternation, or repetition, or symmetry, or anything else that I ever heard of.
It is repeated, of course, by the breadths, but not otherwise.
Looked at in one way each breadth stands alone, the bloated curves and flourishes — a kind of “debased Romanesque” with delirium tremens — go waddling up and down in isolated columns of fatuity.
But, on the other hand, they connect diagonally, and the sprawling outlines run off in great slanting waves of optic horror, like a lot of wallowing seaweeds in full chase.
The whole thing goes horizontally, too, at least it seems so, and I exhaust myself in trying to distinguish the order of its going in that direction.
They have used a horizontal breadth for a frieze, and that adds wonderfully to the confusion.
There is one end of the room where it is almost intact, and there, when the crosslights fade and the low sun shines directly upon it, I can almost fancy radiation after all, — the interminable grotesques seem to form around a common centre and rush off in headlong plunges of equal distraction.
It makes me tired to follow it. I will take a nap I guess.
I don’t know why I should write this.
I don’t want to.
I don’t feel able.
And I know John would think it absurd. But must say what I feel and think in some way — it is such a relief!
But the effort is getting to be greater than the relief.
Half the time now I am awfully lazy, and lie down ever so much.
John says I mustn’t lose my strength, and has me take cod liver oil and lots of tonics and things, to say nothing of ale and wine and rare meat.
Dear John! He loves me very dearly, and hates to have me sick. I tried to have a real earnest reasonable talk with him the other day, and tell him how I wish he would let me go and make a visit to Cousin Henry and Julia.
But he said I wasn’t able to go, nor able to stand it after I got there; and I did not make out a very good case for myself, for I was crying before I had finished.
It is getting to be a great effort for me to think straight. Just this nervous weakness I suppose.
And dear John gathered me up in his arms, and just carried me upstairs and laid me on the bed, and sat by me and read to me till it tired my head.
He said I was his darling and his comfort and all he had, and that I must take care of myself for his sake, and keep well.
He says no one but myself can help me out of it, that I must use my will and self-control and not let any silly fancies run away with me.
There’s one comfort, the baby is well and happy, and does not have to occupy this nursery with the horrid wall-paper.
If we had not used it, that blessed child would have! What a fortunate escape! Why, I wouldn’t have a child of mine, an impressionable little thing, live in such a room for worlds.
I never thought of it before, but it is lucky that John kept me here after all, I can stand it so much easier than a baby, you see.
Of course I never mention it to them any more — I am too wise, — but I keep watch of it all the same.
There are things in that paper that nobody knows but me, or ever will.
Behind that outside pattern the dim shapes get clearer every day.
It is always the same shape, only very numerous.
And it is like a woman stooping down and creeping about behind that pattern. I don’t like it a bit. I wonder — I begin to think — I wish John would take me away from here!
It is so hard to talk with John about my case, because he is so wise, and because he loves me so.
But I tried it last night.
It was moonlight. The moon shines in all around just as the sun does.
I hate to see it sometimes, it creeps so slowly, and always comes in by one window or another.
John was asleep and I hated to waken him, so I kept still and watched the moonlight on that undulating wall-paper till I felt creepy.
The faint figure behind seemed to shake the pattern, just as if she wanted to get out.
I got up softly and went to feel and see if the paper did move, and when I came back John was awake.
“What is it, little girl?” he said. “Don’t go walking about like that — you’ll get cold.”
I thought it was a good time to talk, so I told him that I really was not gaining here, and that I wished he would take me away.
“Why darling!” said he, “our lease will be up in three weeks, and I can’t see how to leave before.
“The repairs are not done at home, and I cannot possibly leave town just now. Of course if you were in any danger, I could and would, but you really are better, dear, whether you can see it or not. I am a doctor, dear, and I know. You are gaining flesh and color, your appetite is better, I feel really much easier about you.”
“I don’t weigh a bit more,” said I, “nor as much; and my appetite may be better in the evening when you are here, but it is worse in the morning when you are away!”
“Bless her little heart!” said he with a big hug, “she shall be as sick as she pleases! But now let’s improve the shining hours by going to sleep, and talk about it in the morning!”
“And you won’t go away?” I asked gloomily.
“Why, how can I, dear? It is only three weeks more and then we will take a nice little trip of a few days while Jennie is getting the house ready. Really dear you are better! ”
“Better in body perhaps — ” I began, and stopped short, for he sat up straight and looked at me with such a stern, reproachful look that I could not say another word.
“My darling,” said he, “I beg of you, for my sake and for our child’s sake, as well as for your own, that you will never for one instant let that idea enter your mind! There is nothing so dangerous, so fascinating, to a temperament like yours. It is a false and foolish fancy. Can you not trust me as a physician when I tell you so?”
So of course I said no more on that score, and we went to sleep before long. He thought I was asleep first, but I wasn’t, and lay there for hours trying to decide whether that front pattern and the back pattern really did move together or separately.
________________________________________

On a pattern like this, by daylight, there is a lack of sequence, a defiance of law, that is a constant irritant to a normal mind.
The color is hideous enough, and unreliable enough, and infuriating enough, but the pattern is torturing.
You think you have mastered it, but just as you get well underway in following, it turns a back somersault and there you are. It slaps you in the face, knocks you down, and tramples upon you. It is like a bad dream.
The outside pattern is a florid arabesque, reminding one of a fungus. If you can imagine a toadstool in joints, an interminable string of toadstools, budding and sprouting in endless convolutions — why, that is something like it.
That is, sometimes!
There is one marked peculiarity about this paper, a thing nobody seems to notice but myself and that is that it changes as the light changes.
When the sun shoots in through the east window — I always watch for that first long, straight ray — it changes so quickly that I never can quite believe it.
That is why I watch it always.
By moonlight — the moon shines in all night when there is a moon — I wouldn’t know it was the same paper.
At night in any kind of light, in twilight, candle light, lamplight, and worst of all by moonlight, it becomes bars! The outside pattern I mean, and the woman behind it is as plain as can be.
I didn’t realize for a long time what the thing was that showed behind, that dim sub-pattern, but l now I am quite sure it is a woman.
By daylight she is subdued, quiet. I fancy it is the pattern that keeps her so still. It is so puzzling. It keeps me quiet by the hour.
I lie down ever so much now. John says it is good for me, and to sleep all I can.
Indeed he started the habit by making me lie down for an hour after each meal.
It is a very bad habit I am convinced, for you see I don’t sleep.
And that cultivates deceit, for I don’t tell them I’m awake — O no!
The fact is I am getting a little afraid of John.
He seems very queer sometimes, and even Jennie has an inexplicable look.
It strikes me occasionally, just as a scientific hypothesis, — that perhaps it is the paper!
I have watched John when he did not know I was looking, and come into the room suddenly on the most innocent excuses, and I’ve caught him several times looking at the paper! And Jennie too. I caught Jennie with her hand on it once.

She didn’t know I was in the room, and when I asked her in a quiet, a very quiet voice, with the most restrained manner possible, what she was doing with the paper — she turned around as if she had been caught stealing, and looked quite angry — asked me why I should frighten her so!
Then she said that the paper stained everything it touched, that she had found yellow smooches on all my clothes and John’s, and she wished we would be more careful!
Did not that sound innocent? But I know she was studying that pattern, and I am determined that nobody shall find it out but myself!
________________________________________

Life is very much more exciting now than it used to be. You see I have something more to expect, to look forward to, to watch. I really do eat better, and am more quiet than I was.
John is so pleased to see me improve! He laughed a little the other day, and said I seemed to be flourishing in spite of my wall-paper.
I turned it off with a laugh. I had no intention of telling him it was because of the wall-paper — he would make fun of me. He might even want to take me away.
I don’t want to leave now until I have found it out. There is a week more, and I think that will be enough.
________________________________________

I’m feeling ever so much better! I don’t sleep much at night, for it is so interesting to watch developments; but I sleep a good deal in the daytime.
In the daytime it is tiresome and perplexing.
There are always new shoots on the fungus, and new shades of yellow all over it. I cannot keep count of them, though I have tried conscientiously.
It is the strangest yellow, that wall-paper! It makes me think of all the yellow things I ever saw — not beautiful ones like buttercups, but old foul, bad yellow things.
But there is something else about that paper — the smell! I noticed it the moment we came into the room, but with so much air and sun it was not bad. Now we have had a week of fog and rain, and whether the windows are open or not, the smell is here.
It creeps all over the house.
I find it hovering in the dining-room, skulking in the parlor, hiding in the hall, lying in wait for me on the stairs.
It gets into my hair.
Even when I go to ride, if I turn my head suddenly and surprise it — there is that smell!
Such a peculiar odor, too! I have spent hours in trying to analyze it, to find what it smelled like.
It is not bad — at first, and very gentle, but quite the subtlest, most enduring odor I ever met.
In this damp weather it is awful, I wake up in the night and find it hanging over me.
It used to disturb me at first. I thought seriously of burning the house — to reach the smell.
But now I am used to it. The only thing I can think of that it is like is the color of the paper! A yellow smell.
There is a very funny mark on this wall, low down, near the mopboard. A streak that runs round the room. It goes behind every piece of furniture, except the bed, a long, straight, even smooch, as if it had been rubbed over and over.
I wonder how it was done and who did it, and what they did it for. Round and round and round — round and round and round — it makes me dizzy!
________________________________________

I really have discovered something at last.
Through watching so much at night, when it changes so, I have finally found out.
The front pattern does move — and no wonder! The woman behind shakes it!
Sometimes I think there are a great many women behind, and sometimes only one, and she crawls around fast, and her crawling shakes it all over.
Then in the very bright spots she keeps still, and in the very shady spots she just takes hold of the bars and shakes them hard.
And she is all the time trying to climb through. But nobody could climb through that pattern — it strangles so; I think that is why it has so many heads.
They get through, and then the pattern strangles them off and turns them upside down, and makes their eyes white!
If those heads were covered or taken off it would not be half so bad.
________________________________________

I think that woman gets out in the daytime!
And I’ll tell you why — privately — I’ve seen her!
I can see her out of every one of my windows!
It is the same woman, I know, for she is always creeping, and most women do not creep by daylight.
I see her on that long road under the trees, creeping along, and when a carriage comes she hides under the blackberry vines.
I don’t blame her a bit. It must be very humiliating to be caught creeping by daylight!
I always lock the door when I creep by daylight. I can’t do it at night, for I know John would suspect something at once.
And John is so queer now, that I don’t want to irritate him. I wish he would take another room! Besides, I don’t want anybody to get that woman out at night but myself.
I often wonder if I could see her out of all the windows at once.
But, turn as fast as I can, I can only see out of one at one time.
And though I always see her, she may be able to creep faster than I can turn!
I have watched her sometimes away off in the open country, creeping as fast as a cloud shadow in a high wind.
________________________________________

If only that top pattern could be gotten off from the under one! I mean to try it, little by little.
I have found out another funny thing, but I shan’t tell it this time! It does not do to trust people too much.
There are only two more days to get this paper off, and I believe John is beginning to notice. I don’t like the look in his eyes.
And I heard him ask Jennie a lot of professional questions about me. She had a very good report to give.
She said I slept a good deal in the daytime.
John knows I don’t sleep very well at night, for all I’m so quiet!
He asked me all sorts of questions, too, and pretended to be very loving and kind.
As if I couldn’t see through him!
Still, I don’t wonder he acts so, sleeping under this paper for three months.
It only interests me, but I feel sure John and Jennie are secretly affected by it.
________________________________________

Hurrah! This is the last day, but it is enough. John to stay in town over night, and won’t be out until this evening.
Jennie wanted to sleep with me — the sly thing! but I told her I should undoubtedly rest better for a night all alone.
That was clever, for really I wasn’t alone a bit! As soon as it was moonlight and that poor thing began to crawl and shake the pattern, I got up and ran to help her.
I pulled and she shook, I shook and she pulled, and before morning we had peeled off yards of that paper.
A strip about as high as my head and half around the room.
And then when the sun came and that awful pattern began to laugh at me, I declared I would finish it to-day!
We go away to-morrow, and they are moving all my furniture down again to leave things as they were before.
Jennie looked at the wall in amazement, but I told her merrily that I did it out of pure spite at the vicious thing.
She laughed and said she wouldn’t mind doing it herself, but I must not get tired.
How she betrayed herself that time!
But I am here, and no person touches this but me, — not alive !
She tried to get me out of the room — it was too patent! But I said it was so quiet and empty and clean now that I believed I would lie down again and sleep all I could; and not to wake me even for dinner — I would call when I woke.
So now she is gone, and the servants are gone, and the things are gone, and there is nothing left but that great bedstead nailed down, with the canvas mattress we found on it.
We shall sleep downstairs to-night, and take the boat home to-morrow.
I quite enjoy the room, now it is bare again.
How those children did tear about here!
This bedstead is fairly gnawed!
But I must get to work.
I have locked the door and thrown the key down into the front path.
I don’t want to go out, and I don’t want to have anybody come in, till John comes.
I want to astonish him.
I’ve got a rope up here that even Jennie did not find. If that woman does get out, and tries to get away, I can tie her!
But I forgot I could not reach far without anything to stand on!
This bed will not move!
I tried to lift and push it until I was lame, and then I got so angry I bit off a little piece at one corner — but it hurt my teeth.
Then I peeled off all the paper I could reach standing on the floor. It sticks horribly and the pattern just enjoys it! All those strangled heads and bulbous eyes and waddling fungus growths just shriek with derision!
I am getting angry enough to do something desperate. To jump out of the window would be admirable exercise, but the bars are too strong even to try.
Besides I wouldn’t do it. Of course not. I know well enough that a step like that is improper and might be misconstrued.
I don’t like to look out of the windows even — there are so many of those creeping women, and they creep so fast.
I wonder if they all come out of that wall-paper as I did?
But I am securely fastened now by my well hidden rope — you don’t get me out in the road there!
I suppose I shall have to get back behind the pattern when it comes night, and that is hard!
It is so pleasant to be out in this great room and creep around as I please!
I don’t want to go outside. I won’t, even if Jennie asks me to.
For outside you have to creep on the ground, and everything is green instead of yellow.
But here I can creep smoothly on the floor, and my shoulder just fits in that long smooch around the wall, so I cannot lose my way.
Why there’s John at the door!
It is no use, young man, you can’t open it!
How he does call and pound!
Now he’s crying for an axe.
It would be a shame to break down that beautiful door!
“John dear!” said I in the gentlest voice, “the key is down by the front steps, under a plantain leaf! ”
That silenced him for a few moments.
Then he said very quietly indeed, “Open the door, my darling!”
“I can’t,” said I. “The key is down by the front door under a plantain leaf!”
And then I said it again, several times, very gently and slowly, and said it so often that he had to go and see, and he got it of course, and came in. He stopped short by the door.
“What is the matter?” he cried. “For God’s sake, what are you doing!”
I kept on creeping just the same, but I looked at him over my shoulder.
“I’ve got out at last,” said I, “in spite of you and Jane. And I’ve pulled off most of the paper, so you can’t put me back! ”
Now why should that man have fainted? But he did, and right across my path by the wall, so that I had to creep over him every time!

A Psychoanalysis of “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?”

The short story entitled “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” by Joyce Carol Oates touched off a heated discussion when it was published in 1966. Critics have applied various literary theories and approaches to this fascinating and perplexing story. There are multiple interpretations of this story from different perspective. Feminist critics argue that Oates writes Connie as a young woman who suffers the same experience with other women in a patriarchal society. Some critics explore the literal reasons behind the story which usually come down to the cultural or social issue such as violence and rape that the author wants to address. Psychological analysis probes Connie’s mind to seek the psychological reasons leading her to her final decision. While all these interpretations have made their own points, they also have flaws in their arguments. Fresh readings are always in need to provide a broader and deeper way to understand this story.

Psychoanalytic criticism usually is to analyze and evaluate a literary work with the application of a certain psychological principle which is established by theorists such as Sigmund Freud and Jacques Lacan. With the help of this approach, this paper will examine the story to see how author presents a battle among id, ego and superego through Connie’s struggle in making decision to choose between ordinary family life and adventure with a stranger. The superego is presented by Connie’s sister and her mother while Arnold Friend plays the part of id. The analysis will mainly focus on the interaction between Connie and other people, the role that Arnold Friend plays in the story and symbolic meaning of music in the story. Alternative interpretations also will be discussed for comparison and weakness will be pointed out and refuted.

The story begins with an introduction of Connie and her family life. “Her name was Connie”. “She was fifteen”. And like any other normal girls, she cares her appearance and want other’s acceptance which she can hardly get from her family. Her mother always condemns her and praises her sister. Her father just simply ignores them in daily life. Connie never feels close to any of her family members, and she prefers life out of home with her friend to a cinema, shopping mall and their favorite place, a drive-in restaurant where she feel free. In his article of psychological analysis of Connie, Clifford J.

Kurkowski sees the isolation and alienation that Connie get from her family and confidence and feelings of taking control that she get when she is out as the psychological basis which cause her to choose leave in the end. However, he limits his view to social acceptance while something deeper remains unnoticed. Connie hates home not only because of her relationship with her family but also pressure she feels. June, her sister, represents the perfect image or good model that the society requires. Her mother becomes an “executor” who binds her by criticizing her bad behavior and recommending the good behavior. They then together represent the “superego” of Connie that follows rules and restricts the bad desire. The drive-in restaurant is where “id” of Connie breaks the constraints of “superego” to seek satisfaction. However, the sensible part, the “ego” of Connie, is still in control at that time until it loses control in the battle against “id”.

The “id” of Connie which reflects her true desire for sex and excitement is represented by Arnold Friend. He shows up when other family members are out, and there is no supervision and protection for Connie who is vulnerable to hurt and temptation. He appears to be very charming and appealing with his shining car, glaring sunglasses and bright jalopy. The fact that Arnold knows everything about her without a proper reason, somehow, suggests that he is more than someone who offers cares and acceptance as Clifford J. Kurkowski argues in his article. And Arnold Friend tempts Connie later in the story by uttering the truth of her deepest desire in an order tone. The confrontation between Connie and Arnold suggests the battle between the “ego” and “id”. The conversation that Arnold offers invitations and Connie refuses him records the fight between the “ego” and “id” for control. Bess Rhode’s interpretation that this story criticizes and emphasizes the violence and rape towards women can hardly hold water. In the process, there is no physical violence involved. All struggles stay on the psychological level. Connie feels more and more powerless in the process till she totally surrenders to the temptation of “id”. She once resists when she realize that it’s dangerous to blindly follows the temptation and desires. However, her resistance is useless since Arnold claims “This 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”. It seems to be the only reasonable choice for her to go with him. At that point, Connie’s “ego” totally loses its position to “id”.

Music is something throughout the story and plays a significant role in the process of confrontations. Patrick Paul Christle offers a detailed analysis of songs involved in the story as evidence that music strengthens the feminism theme. Since there is no direct use of lyrics in the text, this analysis appears to be farfetched. Music here is more like a bridge or the door between “ego” and “id”. Connie feels free wherever there is music. In the drive-in restaurant, she listens to the music when she enjoys attention and freedom. In home alone, she listens to Bob Dylan when her family is out and there is no restriction. Clifford J. Kurkowski also states that music “captures Connie by reminding her that once it stops playing she re-enters society.” It’s music that blurs the boundary between rationality and desire and allows her go self-indulgence. When she confronts Arnold Friend, there are several times that Connie notices that he uses lyrics and feel him more persuasive then. Again, music shows as a guide that leads her to instinctual impulses.

The story of “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” tells how a girl fails to resist temptation of her desire and lead to self-ruin. The author depicts the struggle of her “ego”, the sensational part, against her “id” represented by Arnold Friend with “superego” absent. There are several rounds of confrontation in which “ego” and “id” trying to gain control. However, Connie surrenders herself to her desire at the end. An unfortunate future then doomed for her since the author suggests in the end of the story that she is going to some place that she “had never seen before and did not recognize except to know that she was going to it”.

Work Cited
Rhodes, Bess. Killing Two Birds with One Stone: Oates’ Figurative and literal Reason behind “Where Are You Going, Where have You Been?” Watermarks
Kurkowski, Clifford J. “A Psychological Analysis of Connie: A Feminist Viewpoint of “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” Footlights, n.d. Web. 21 April 2011..

Identity Seeking by Storytelling | Storyteller

Identity Seeking by Storytelling

Storyteller by Leslie Silko is a collection of work of different genres including photographs, poems, stories, interviews and mythology. It is “a unique showcase for Silko’s work” (Salyer). “Storyteller”, the short story bearing the same name with the book, is one of Silko’s finest work. It tells a story of a Native Amerian girl takes her revenge killing the white storeman who murdered her parents and becoming a storyteller in the end. However, as an outstanding piece of work of Native American literature, it is much more than a dark tale of revenge.

Multiple interpretations by critics have been aroused. Jim Ruppert reads the story as an identity seeking process of the main character who “loses the boundaries between objective reality and the story and between the present flow of the story and ideas of the past and future”. Nevertheless, Linda L. Danielson tries to interpret the story from a feminist point of view while extending narrative of the central character to the maintenance of cultural integrity “in opposition to the pressure of white culture”. She believes that Silko is “warning non-Indian readers to beware of the limits of their cultural system”. Similarly, Gregory Salyer also perceives the story highlighting “the bland uniformity of white culture”. Moreover, he argues that losing boundaries between ice and sky symbolizes “the loss of identity” of both individual and Native American culture as a whole. Emphasis of the story has been laid on the importance of “telling the difference”.

Given the cultural background and the text itself, “Storyteller” presents the reality of Native American culture struggling to maintain identity and independence as white culture encroaches. Silko leads readers to see the danger of uniformity of cultures and efforts Native Americans make to seek identity, to regain voice and to keep cultural integrity. This paper discusses how the theme is presented by examining the significance of storytelling in Native American culture, the symbolic meaning of ice, sky and sun and different reaction of characters.

The first thing needed in understanding the story deeply and comprehensively is reading the story in Native American cultural context. In Pueblo culture, storytelling is something predominant. It lies “at the heart of the Pueblo people” (Silko). Differing with definition in western culture, storytelling is “this constant process working on many different levels” (Silko). And the story must be told, as Silko says, “from the heart, unpremeditated and unrehearsed” (Silko). The telling “establishes permanence and maintains the culture” (Evans), the storyteller is “a highly revered member” who “has a unique relationship with the past” (Evans).

In the beginning of the story, the girl is only a listener who has no story to tell. Meanwhile, Grandma has the story about the death of the girl’s parents. The old man never quits telling his story of the bear. The girl asks questions and learns until she decides to make a story of her own, a story “about the red-haired Gussuck” (Silko p.30). She kills the storeman with tricks from the old man’s story and becomes a storyteller who does “not pause or hesitate” and “goes on with the story” and “never stops” (Silko p.62).

Just like the old man, the girl preserved her identity in continuously storytelling. Therefore, Native American culture is maintained in the same way. Refusing the excuse that the attorney makes up for her, the girl insists on telling the story in her own way, the way in which the story must be told and the way the Gussucks don’t understand and never will. It goes the same with the Native American culture. It must keep its integrity and independence resisting the assimilation and reformation of white culture. Only in this way, by telling the story as it is, Native American culture is able to survive.

The theme of cultural integrity and individual identity is best presented by the dominant image of merging of the ice and the sky and the sun. Silko warns people of the danger of cultural assimilation using this image in the very beginning of the story through the girl’s thought and words. “She told herself it wasn’t a good sign for the sky to be indistinguishable from the river ice, frozen solid and white against the earth” (Silko p.1). However, that’s the crisis state that Native American culture faces under the pressure of the white culture. Just like the sky “that were lost in the density of the pale ice” (Silko p.1), Native American culture loses itself in white culture’s infiltration. “The obliteration of contrast is the obliteration of boundaries, and boundaries are what form identity” (Salyer). Boundaries between ice and the sky are what have been lost in the story. They have been “swallowed by the freezing white” (Silko p.54). People are losing their language, traditions, lifestyle and environment that they live in. Everything that defines them and their culture is gradually replaced by new ones of white culture. Both the old man and the girl notice this. They know the threat of white culture and the disastrous result that the obliteration of cultural identity would bring. The image has been repeated several times in their words or through their eyes in the story. The storytellers are more like prophets speaking of their predictions. The old man claims that “it is approaching. As it comes, ice will push across the sky” (Silko p.21). The girl says “That was how the cold would come: when the boundaries were gone the polar ice would range across the land into the sky” (Silko p.44).

Individual is like the sun in the sky. The sun “wasn’t moving; it was frozen, caught in the middle of the sky” (Silko p.4). The sky is “solid as the river with ice which had trapped the sun” (Silko p.4). Native Americans have been lost their identity in the cultural assimilation as ice has already “pushed its way into the sky to seize the sun” (Silko p.48). They have been stripped off their language and abandoned their lifestyle, traditions and everything in their culture which they root in and which make them who they are. Nevertheless, they can never enter into white culture and has no say in the white world. They have been trapped by white culture.

However, the girl hasn’t given up seeking her identity and her own way to go. And she makes it by resisting influence of white culture and telling her story in her own way, a way in which Native American culture depends on for continuity. Her victory is also showed by the same image of the sun, the sun and ice in a contrast between the beginning and the end. At the end of the story, before she starts her story, the girl looks out the window and sees that “the sun has finally broken loose from the ice” (Silko p.60). The sun’s breakthrough and regaining of power symbolize the girl’s success in fighting for identity, integrity and freedom. Although it may be hard to make a great change with one person’s strength since the sun’s light is still “weak and pale” (Silko p.60), it is a start for finding its own place and getting Native American back to its track. The girl knows that white culture could and would be beaten as long as every native American beware of and keep their identity and integrity just like ice will finally “descend from the sky” (Silko p.59). The fate of individual and Native American culture has interacted.

The struggling for identity and integrity is also showed in different ways of storytelling of different people. Grandma keeps the story to herself until the girl asks. Her story is a story in which her role is to accept the result that the Gussuck have arranged. The story ends up with nothing conclusive after the storeman leaves, otherwise, she could tell the girl more (Silko p.39). Instead, she tells the story once and “never speaks of it again” (Silko p.39). The old man is the one from whom the girl learns the rules of storytelling. He keeps telling his story and tells it as it is. However, there’s no audience for his story. He warns people about the danger and how the end is approaching. No one understands or cares. Nonetheless, recognized or not, he possesses his identity and integrity in his storytelling and making his own ending.

The girl is more energetic and initiative in fighting for her own identity. She plans and takes control of her own story which is her own destiny. After the storeman dies as she intends, she insists on telling the story as it is. She refuses the reformation of the white attorney to the story even when telling the true story on the court may cost her life. She understands that “the story must be told as it is” (Silko p.59) just like culture must be kept its way without reconstruction and reformation by other culture. The three characters in the story have struggled to varying degree and ended with different destiny. However, as long as the story is told, the role in the story wouldn’t be dead and Native American culture will live.

All the analysis discussed above aims to clarify the theme of the story and how Silko manage to present rich meaning with a simple story. The significance of storytelling and storyteller in Native American culture lays the foundation for understanding this story. The author’s worries about cultural assimilation and the loss of self identity are best embodied in the image of the sun, ice and the sky throughout the story. Silko suggests her will for fighting and taking control of one’s own fate through different reactions of different characters. “Storyteller” is a wonderful story and a thought-provoking one. As Gregory Salyer puts it, it is a story “not simply entertainment or fantasy but invoke the realities” and “generates death as well as survival”.

Works Cited
Evans, Taylor Charlene. “Mother-Daughter Relationships as Epistemological Structures: Leslie Marmon Silko’s Almanac of the Dead and Storyteller”. Women of Color: Mother-Daughter Relationships in 20th-Century Literature. 1996. 87-172.
Salyer, Gregory. “Storyteller: Spider-Woman’s Web”. Leslie Marmon Silko. New York: Twayne, 1997. 58-84.
Silko, Leslie. “Storyteller”. Leslie Marmon Silko. New York: Twayne, 1997.
Ruppert, Jim. “Storytelling: The Fiction of Leslie Silko”. Leslie Marmon Silko. New York: Twayne, 1997.
Danielson, L. Linda. “A Feminist Reading of Storyteller”. Leslie Marmon Silko. New York: Twayne, 1997.

Companion Piece:

This paper is well organized in three parts with a brief introduction, body part and a sound conclusion. Three reasons have been offered: the importance of storytelling in Pueblo culture, the meaning behind the image of the sky, ice and he sun and different reactions of characters. Other scholar’s opinions and arguments have been acknowledged.

Text and Contexts: The Story Must Be Told | Storyteller

The Story Must Be Told

Writing Project: Text and Contexts
Essay Concerned: Storyteller

Leslie Marmon Silko, a contemporary writer and a Laguna, brings a new perception to language and literature, seeing the creation, history and time from the Pueblo perspective. Storyteller by Silko is a multigeneric work comprised of personal reminiscences and narratives, retellings of traditional Laguna stories and lovely maps of the fertile storytelling ground from which her art evolves and to which it is returned to. The book weaves itself into a spiderweb that brings together time, land, and experience, capturing the essence of life and language in a way that diverse audiences can appreciate. In Silko’s words, “the dimensions of the process” of storytelling is explained and both the structure and primary thematic concerns are established in the book.

The short story “Storyteller” could be recognized as Silko’s signature story in a highly condensed form with almost all the issues addressed in her other work. At its center is a young Eskimo girl, orphaned, living with a dying old man, the village storyteller who is victimized by Gussuck. She determines to avenge herself against the Gussuck storekeeper responsible for her parents’ death.

Leslie Marmon Silko’s works are widely studied by scholars. Edith Blicksilver examines Silko’s portrayal of Native American woman in her short stories and suggests that “Silko attempts to explore the conflict between traditionalism and modernity”. Jim Ruppert believes that in “Storyteller” the reality of the story and the individual’s identity are woven together into one story reality that patterns all others. Linda L. Danielson gives a feminist reading of “Storyteller”. She maintains that “the central character uses narrative to maintain the integrity of self and culture in opposition to the pressures of white culture”.

The “story” serves as several roles in “Storyteller” the title story and also in Storyteller the whole book. In her anthology, Silko establishes the significance of the “story”. As it is vividly portrayed in the title story “Storyteller”, story can be seen from three main perspectives on my behalf: story as the legacy; story as a way to seek identity; story as a weapon against assimilation.

First and foremost, story has been seen as the legacy. In “Storyteller”, story is the tie that bonds the old man and the girl, two generations of Native Americans, together. The old man is the village storyteller who tells story in an intensely beautiful precision and accomplishes it with his life. The story of a bear in winter that he keeps telling becomes the girl’s legacy. It is such a powerful version from which the girl learns when she decides to create a story of her own. Most importantly, besides the story itself, the way in which a story should be told has also been passed from generation to generation as a legacy. As the old man insists, the principle of storytelling says that “it will take a long time, but the story must be told. There must be no lies” (Silko p.42). It then becomes the principle of the girl who follows it strictly and even is willing to give up her freedom to defend it. At the end of the story, the attorney wants her to change her story to tell the court that “it was an accident” (Silko p.59), but the girl refuses, even though to follow his advice would mean freedom. She chooses to carry the legacy of the old storyteller and becomes a storyteller herself.

Besides her bonds with the old man, the girl also shares a grandmother-granddaughter pairing relationship with her grandmother. According to Leslie Marmon Silko, Native American woman has been “the tie that binds her and people together, transmitting her culture through story from generation to generation” (Charlene). In “Storyteller”, the girl receives another precious legacy from her grandmother, which is the story of her parents. Being acknowledged of her parents’ death, the girl enters more deeply into her family and her culture.

Another important perspective that “Storyteller” discusses is that storytelling can be seen as a way to seek identity, not only the identity of individual one but also the whole community. The creation story plays a significant role in Native American culture. Silko has pointed out that “the origin story functions basically as a maker of our identity—with the story we know who we are. Then from the idea of one’s identity as a tribal person, we can move into clan identity”.

The title story “Storyteller” could be seen as a story of identity-seeking journey. Important characters in “Storyteller” all have their stories. The girl’s grandmother has the story of the girl’s parents. The old man keeps telling the story of the bear. Those stories establish their role in family, in community and in humanity.

In the beginning, “the nameless girl is ignorant of her identity” (Ruppert). She has no story of her own to tell. She wonders about the world which confuses her with all kinds of conflicts and finds it hard to attain a place. She tries school but only has a harsh time when Gussucks tries to change and reform her in their way with their lifestyle and language. When her grandmother dies, the girl chooses to live with the old storyteller, which allows her defining herself in her own way. Grandma’s story about her parents’ death marks the beginning of her identity seeking since she decides to plan her own story from that moment. She listens very carefully to the old man’s story and uses tricks that she learns from it in creating her own story. She finds her place in the world as a daughter, a granddaughter, a Native American, a rebel and a creature of nature in her story-creating. And finally, she completes her identity journey by becoming a storyteller who insists telling the story “as it is” (Silko p.59).
Nevertheless, Pueblo community achieves its identity from story and storytelling. In the story, characters are bonded together by stories and they confirm their identity as a Native American seeing the world from the Pueblo perspective by storytelling. That’s how clan identity is confirmed.
Last but not the least, story can be seen as a weapon against “assimilation” which is not only refers to individualities but also the cultures.

Assimilation has embodied in the image of merging of the sky and ice. It is repeated several times throughout the story while playing a significant role in story developing. Silko suggests the theme concerning cultural assimilation and warns of the danger of it in the very beginning of the story by saying that “it wasn’t a good sign for the sky to be indistinguishable from the river ice, frozen solid and white against the earth” (Silko p.1). However, it seems that the old storyteller is the only one who notices it while other citizens have bent to it. He passes the information to the girl telling her that “ice will push across the sky” (Silko p.21).

The powerful weapon against it is storytelling. Silko emphasizes that the boundaries between the sky and ice are losing. Boundaries, according to Salyer, “are what form identity”. Keeping identity, as well as being distinguishable, is essential to keep a culture from losing itself in cultural assimilation.

However, it has been already discussed above that story is significant for an individual and a community to seek identity. Unlike other indifferent and confusing village people who have lost themselves in assimilation, grandma, the old man and the girl follow the Pueblo traditions, lifestyle and speak native language. Those are what define them and make them who they are. And most importantly, they find their way to defend these valuable things with storytelling. The old man’s story which are told with passion in a traditional way is a typical one of how Pueblo people get along with other creatures showing the Pueblo perspective of seeing and dealing with the nature. The story that grandma tells is an accusation of the wrongdoings and damage that the white bring. The girl tells her story of resisting assimilation and oppression of White culture.

Red that witnesses the story of her parents’ death has been used by the girl to mark the boundaries. “The east bank of the river was lost in the sky; the boundaries had been swallowed by the freezing white. And then, in the distance, she saw something red, and suddenly it was as she had remembered it all those years” (Silko 54). The victory of storytelling against assimilation has also been shown in the image of the sky and ice. When the girl insists telling the story in her own way after killing the storeman, she knows that “the ice descending from the sky” (Silko p.59). By telling the stories and telling it the way it should be, the Pueblo culture is able to survive.

“Storyteller” is a dark tale of racism and revenge but also of the integrity of stories and their tellers. It vividly and clearly presents the very essence of Silko’s works. Silko expresses, with grace and power through her melding of oral tradition and the written words in Storyteller, the sense of life being lived, of timeless and ongoing, changing and evolving, contradictory and continuous. Story, as the one of most important elements in her works and also in the tradition of Pueblo culture, can be seen as legacy that maintain the essence of traditional culture; as a way of seeking identity from being aware of the past and pursuing their present; as a weapon against assimilation of others and other cultures.

Works Cited
Blicksilver, Edith. “Traditionalism vs. Modernity: Leslie Silko on American Indian Woman”. Southwest Review 64.2 (1979): 149-160
Salyer, Gregory. “Storyteller: Spider-Woman’s Web”. Leslie Marmon Silko. New York: Twayne, 1997. 58-84.
Silko, Leslie. “Storyteller”. Leslie Marmon Silko. New York: Twayne, 1997.
Ruppert, Jim. “Storytelling: The Fiction of Leslie Silko”. Leslie Marmon Silko. New York: Twayne, 1997.
Danielson, L. Linda. “A Feminist Reading of Storyteller”. Leslie Marmon Silko. New York: Twayne, 1997.

Reflective Companion Piece:

“Storyteller” is not an easy short story for reading. In order to understand it, information about the author and Native American culture and other research are needed. This paper is based on a close examination and full acknowledgment of cultural background. It also introduces other scholars’ opinions and interpretations with which the view of its own has been better demonstrated.

The paper is well-organized with an introduction part of the book and the short story, a brief literature review, self presentation and argumentation and conclusion. It makes a very clear thesis statement with simple words. Each view then is explained deliberately with detailed analysis of the text. It provides a comprehensive interpretation with the short story.

“Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been” by Joyce Carol Oates (1966)

Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been” by Joyce Carol Oates (1966)
for Bob Dylan

Her name was Connie. She was fifteen and she had a quick, nervous giggling habit of craning her neck to glance into mirrors or checking other people’s faces to make sure her own was all right. Her mother, who noticed everything and knew everything and who hadn’t much reason any longer to look at her own face, always scolded Connie about it. “Stop gawking at yourself. Who are you? You think you’re so pretty?” she would say. Connie would raise her eyebrows at these familiar old complaints and look right through her mother, into a shadowy vision of herself as she was right at that moment: she knew she was pretty and that was everything. Her mother had been pretty once too, if you could believe those old snapshots in the album, but now her looks were gone and that was why she was always after Connie.

“Why don’t you keep your room clean like your sister? How’ve you got your hair fixed—what the hell stinks? Hair spray? You don’t see your sister using that junk.” Her sister June was twenty-four and still lived at home. She was a secretary in the high school Connie attended, and if that wasn’t bad enough—with her in the same building—she was so plain and chunky and steady that Connie had to hear her praised all the time by her mother and her mother’s sisters. June did this, June did that, she saved money and helped clean the house and cooked and Connie couldn’t do a thing, her mind was all filled with trashy daydreams. Their father was away at work most of the time and when he came home he wanted supper and he read the newspaper at supper and after supper he went to bed. He didn’t bother talking much to them, but around his bent head Connie’s mother kept picking at her until Connie wished her mother was dead and she herself was dead and it was all over. “She makes me want to throw up sometimes,” she complained to her friends. She had a high, breathless, amused voice that made everything she said sound a little forced, whether it was sincere or not.

There was one good thing: June went places with girl friends of hers, girls who were just as plain and steady as she, and so when Connie wanted to do that her mother had no objections. The father of Connie’s best girl friend drove the girls the three miles to town and left them at a shopping plaza so they could walk through the stores or go to a movie, and when he came to pick them up again at eleven he never bothered to ask what they had done.

They must have been familiar sights, walking around the shopping plaza in their shorts and flat ballerina slippers that always scuffed the sidewalk, with charm bracelets jingling on their thin wrists; they would lean together to whisper and laugh secretly if someone passed who amused or interested them. Connie had long dark blond hair that drew anyone’s eye to it, and she wore part of it pulled up on her head and puffed out and the rest of it she let fall down her back. She wore a pull-over jersey blouse that looked one way when she was at home and another way when she was away from home. Everything about her had two sides to it, one for home and one for anywhere that was not home: her walk, which could be childlike and bobbing, or languid enough to make anyone think she was hearing music in her head; her mouth, which was pale and smirking most of the time, but bright and pink on these evenings out; her laugh, which was cynical and drawling at home—”Ha, ha, very funny,”—but highpitched and nervous anywhere
else, like the jingling of the charms on her bracelet.

Sometimes they did go shopping or to a movie, but sometimes they went across the highway, ducking fast across the busy road, to a drive-in restaurant where older kids hung out. The restaurant was shaped like a big bottle, though squatter than a real bottle, and on its cap was a revolving figure of a grinning boy holding a hamburger aloft. One night in midsummer they ran across, breathless with daring, and right away someone leaned out a car window and invited them over, but it was just a boy from high school they didn’t like. It made them feel good to be able to ignore him. They went up through the maze of parked and cruising cars to the brightlit, fly-infested restaurant, their faces pleased and expectant as if they were entering a sacred building that loomed up out of the night to give them what haven and blessing they yearned for. They sat at the counter and crossed their legs at the ankles, their thin
shoulders rigid with excitement, and 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.

A boy named Eddie came in to talk with them. He sat backwards on his stool, turning himself jerkily around in semicircles and then stopping and turning back again, and after a while he asked Connie if she would like something to eat. She said she would and so she tapped her friend’s arm on her way out—her friend pulled her face up into a brave, droll look—and Connie said she would meet her at eleven, across the way. “I just hate to leave her like that,” Connie said earnestly, but the boy said that she wouldn’t be alone for long. So they went out to his car, and on the way Connie couldn’t help but let her eyes wander over the windshields and faces all around her, her face gleaming with a joy that had nothing to do with Eddie or even this place; it might have been the music. She drew her shoulders up and sucked in her breath with the pure pleasure of being alive, and just at that moment she happened to glance at a face just a few feet from hers. It was a boy with shaggy black hair, in a convertible jalopy painted gold. He stared at her and then his lips widened into a grin. Connie slit her eyes at him and turned away, but she couldn’t help glancing back and there he was, still watching her. He wagged a finger and laughed and said, “Gonna get you, baby,” and Connie turned away again without Eddie noticing anything.

She spent three hours with him, at the restaurant where they ate hamburgers and drank Cokes in wax cups that were always sweating, and then down an alley a mile or so away, and when he left her off at five to eleven only the movie house was still open at the plaza. Her girl friend was there, talking with a boy. When Connie came up, the two girls smiled at each other and Connie said, “How was the movie?” and the girl said, ‘You should know.” They rode off with the girl’s father, sleepy and pleased, and Connie couldn’t help but look back at the darkened shopping plaza with its big empty parking lot and its signs that were faded and ghostly now, and over at the drive-in restaurant where cars were still circling tirelessly. She couldn’t hear the music at this distance.

Next morning June asked her how the movie was and Connie said, “So-so.”

She and that girl and occasionally another girl went out several times a week, and the rest of the time Connie spent around the house—it was summer vacation—getting in her mother’s way and thinking, dreaming about the boys she met. But all the boys fell back and dissolved into a single face that was not even a face but an idea, a feeling, mixed up with the urgent insistent pounding of the music and the humid night air of July. Connie’s mother kept dragging her back to the daylight by finding things for her to do or saying suddenly, ‘What’s this about the Pettinger girl?”

And Connie would say nervously, “Oh, her. That dope.” She always drew thick clear lines between herself and such girls, and her mother was simple and kind enough to believe it. Her mother was so simple, Connie thought, that it was maybe cruel to fool her so much. Her mother went scuffling around the house in old bedroom slippers and complained over the telephone to one sister about the other, then the other called up and the two of them complained about the third one. If June’s name was mentioned her mother’s tone was approving, and if Connie’s name was mentioned it was disapproving. This did not really mean she disliked Connie, and actually Connie thought that her mother preferred her to June just because she was prettier, but the two of them kept up a pretense of exasperation, a sense that they were tugging and struggling over something of little value to either of them. Sometimes, over coffee, they were almost friends, but something would come up—some vexation that was like a fly buzzing suddenly around their heads—and their faces went hard with contempt.

One Sunday Connie got up at eleven—none of them bothered with church—and washed her hair so that it could dry all day long in the sun. Her parents and sister were going to a barbecue at an aunt’s house and Connie said no, she wasn’t interested, rolling her eyes to let her mother know just what she thought of it. “Stay home alone then,” her mother said sharply. Connie sat out back in a lawn chair and watched them drive away, her father quiet and bald, hunched around so that he could back the car out, her mother with a look that was still angry and not at all softened through the windshield, and in the back seat poor old June, all dressed up as if she didn’t know what a barbecue was, with all the running yelling kids and the flies. Connie sat with her eyes closed in the sun, dreaming and dazed with the warmth about her as if this were a kind of love, the caresses of love, and her mind slipped over onto thoughts of the boy she had been with the night before and how nice he had been, how sweet it always was, not the way someone like June would suppose but sweet, gentle, the way it was in movies and promised in songs; and when she opened her eyes she hardly knew where she was, the back yard ran off into weeds and a fence-like 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.

It was too hot. She went inside the house and turned on the radio to drown out the quiet. She sat on the edge of her bed, barefoot, and listened for an hour and a half to a program called XYZ Sunday Jamboree, record after record of hard, fast, shrieking songs she sang along with, interspersed by exclamations from “Bobby King”: “An’ look here, you girls at Napoleon’s—Son and Charley want you to pay real close attention to this song coming up!”

And Connie paid close attention herself, bathed in a glow of slow-pulsed joy that seemed to rise mysteriously out of the music itself and lay languidly about the airless little room, breathed in and breathed out with each gentle rise and fall of her chest.

After a while she heard a car coming up the drive. She sat up at once, startled, because it couldn’t be her father so soon. The gravel kept crunching all the way in from the road—the driveway was long—and Connie ran to the window. It was a car she didn’t know. It was an open jalopy, painted a bright gold that caught the sunlight opaquely. Her heart began to pound and her fingers snatched at her hair, checking it, and she whispered, “Christ. Christ,” wondering how bad she looked. The car came to a stop at the side door and the horn sounded four short taps, as if this were a signal Connie knew.

She went into the kitchen and approached the door slowly, then hung out the screen door, her bare toes curling down off the step. There were two boys in the car and now she recognized the driver: he had shaggy, shabby black hair that looked crazy as a wig and he was grinning at her.

“I ain’t late, am I?” he said.

“Who the hell do you think you are?” Connie said.

“Toldja I’d be out, didn’t I?”

“I don’t even know who you are.”

She spoke sullenly, careful to show no interest or pleasure, and he spoke in a fast, bright monotone. Connie looked past him to the other boy, taking her time. He had fair brown hair, with a lock that fell onto his forehead. His sideburns gave him a fierce, embarrassed look, but so far he hadn’t even bothered to glance at her. Both boys wore sunglasses. The driver’s glasses were metallic and mirrored everything in miniature.

“You wanta come for a ride?” he said.

Connie smirked and let her hair fall loose over one shoulder.

“Don’tcha like my car? New paint job,” he said. “Hey.”

“What?”

“You’re cute.”

She pretended to fidget, chasing flies away from the door.

“Don’tcha believe me, or what?” he said.

“Look, I don’t even know who you are,” Connie said in disgust.

“Hey, Ellie’s got a radio, see. Mine broke down.” He lifted his friend’s arm and showed her the little transistor radio the boy was holding, and now Connie began to hear the music. It was the same program that was playing inside the house.

“Bobby King?” she said.

“I listen to him all the time. I think he’s great.”

“He’s kind of great,” Connie said reluctantly.

“Listen, that guy’s great. He knows where the action is.”

Connie blushed a little, because the glasses made it impossible for her to see just what this boy was looking at. She couldn’t decide if she liked him or if he was just a jerk, and so she dawdled in the doorway and wouldn’t come down or go back inside. She said,”What’s all that stuff painted on your car?”

“Can’tcha read it?” He opened the door very carefully, as if he were afraid it might fall off. He slid out just as carefully, planting his feet firmly on the ground, the tiny metallic world in his glasses slowing down like gelatine hardening, and in the midst of it Connie’s bright green blouse. “This here is my name, to begin with, he said. ARNOLD FRIEND was written in tarlike black letters on the side, with a drawing of a round, grinning face that reminded Connie of a pumpkin, except it wore sunglasses. “I wanta introduce myself, I’m Arnold Friend and that’s my real name and I’m gonna be your friend, honey, and inside the car’s Ellie Oscar, he’s kinda shy.” Ellie brought his transistor radio up to his shoulder and balanced it there. “Now, these numbers are a secret code, honey,” Arnold Friend explained. He read off the numbers 33, 19, 17 and raised his eyebrows at her to see what she thought of that, but she didn’t think much of it. The left rear fender had been smashed and around it was written, on the gleaming gold background: DONE BY CRAZY WOMAN DRIVER. Connie had to laugh at that. Arnold Friend was pleased at her laughter and looked up at her. “Around the other side’s a lot more —you wanta come and see them?”

“No.”

“Why not?”

“Why should I?”

“Don’tcha wanta see what’s on the car? Don’tcha wanta go for a ride?”

“I don’t know.”

“Why not?”

“I got things to do.”

“Like what?”

“Things.”

He laughed as if she had said something funny. He slapped his thighs. He was standing in a strange way, leaning back against the car as if he were balancing himself. He wasn’t tall, only an inch or so taller than she would be if she came down to him. Connie liked the way he was dressed, which was the way all of them dressed: tight faded jeans stuffed into black, scuffed boots, a belt that pulled his waist in and showed how lean he was, and a white pull-over shirt that was a little soiled and showed the hard small muscles of his arms and shoulders. He looked as if he probably did hard work, lifting and carrying things. Even his neck looked muscular. And his face was a familiar face, somehow: the jaw and chin and cheeks slightly darkened because he hadn’t shaved for a day or two, and the nose long and hawklike, sniffing as if she were a treat he was going to gobble up and it was all a joke.

“Connie, you ain’t telling the truth. This is your day set aside for a ride with me and you know it,” he said, still laughing. The way he straightened and recovered from his fit of laughing showed that it had been all fake.

“How do you know what my name is?” she said suspiciously.

“It’s Connie.”

“Maybe and maybe not.”

“I know my Connie,” he said, wagging his finger. Now she remembered him even better, back at the restaurant, and her cheeks warmed at the thought of how she had sucked in her breath just at the moment she passed him—how she must have looked to him.

And he had remembered her. “Ellie and I come out here especially for you,” he said. “Ellie can sit in back. How about it?”

“Where?”

“Where what?”

“Where’re we going?”

He looked at her. He took off the sunglasses and she saw how pale the skin around his eyes was, like holes that were not in shadow but instead in light. His eyes were like chips of broken glass that catch the light in an amiable way. He smiled. It was as if the idea of going for a ride somewhere, to someplace, was a new idea to him.

“Just for a ride, Connie sweetheart.”

“I never said my name was Connie,” she said.

“But I know what it is. I know your name and all about you, lots of things,” Arnold Friend said. He had not moved yet but stood still leaning back against the side of his jalopy. “I took a 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?”

He spoke in a simple lilting voice, exactly as if he were reciting the words to a song. His smile assured her that everything was fine.

In the car Ellie turned up the volume on his radio and did not bother to look around at them.

“Ellie can sit in the back seat,” Arnold Friend said. He indicated his friend with a casual jerk of his chin, as if Ellie did not count and she should not bother with him.

“How’d you find out all that stuff?” Connie said.

“Listen: Betty Schultz and Tony Fitch and Jimmy Pettinger and Nancy Pettinger,” he said in a chant.

“Raymond Stanley and Bob Hutter—”

“Do you know all those kids?”

“I know everybody.”

“Look, you’re kidding. You’re not from around here.”

“Sure.”

“But—how come we never saw you before?”

“Sure you saw me before,” he said. He looked down at his boots, as if he were a little offended. “You just don’t remember.”

“I guess I’d remember you,” Connie said.

“Yeah?” He looked up at this, beaming. He was pleased. He began to mark time with the music from Ellie’s radio, tapping his fists lightly together. Connie looked away from his smile to the car, which was painted so bright it almost hurt her eyes to look at it. She looked at that name, ARNOLD FRIEND. And up at the front fender was an expression that was familiar—MAN THE FLYING SAUCERS. It was an expression kids had used the year before but didn’t use this year. She looked at it for a while as if the words
meant something to her that she did not yet know.

“What’re you thinking about? Huh?” Arnold Friend demanded. “Not worried about your hair blowing around in the car, are you?”

“No.”

“Think I maybe can’t drive good?”

“How do I know?”

“You’re a hard girl to handle. How come?” he said. “Don’t you know I’m your friend? Didn’t you see me put my sign in the air when you walked by?”

“What sign?”

“My sign.” And he drew an X in the air, leaning out toward her. They were maybe ten feet apart. After his hand fell back to his side the X was still in the air, almost visible. Connie let the screen door close and stood perfectly still inside it, listening to the music from her radio and the boy’s blend together. She stared at Arnold Friend. He stood there so stiffly relaxed, pretending to be relaxed, with one hand idly on the door handle as if he were keeping himself up that way and had no intention of ever moving again. She recognized most things about him, the tight jeans that showed his thighs and buttocks and the greasy leather boots and the tight shirt, and even that slippery friendly smile of his, that sleepy dreamy smile that all the boys used to get across ideas they didn’t want to put into words. She recognized all this and also the singsong way he talked, slightly mocking, kidding, but serious and a little melancholy, and she recognized the way he tapped one fist against the other in homage to the perpetual music behind him. But all these things did not come together.

She said suddenly, “Hey, how old are you?”

His smiled faded. She could see then that he wasn’t a kid, he was much older—thirty, maybe more. At this knowledge her heart began to pound faster.

“That’s a crazy thing to ask. Can’tcha see I’m your own age?”

“Like hell you are.”

“Or maybe a couple years older. I’m eighteen.”

“Eighteen?” she said doubtfully.

He grinned to reassure her and lines appeared at the corners of his mouth. 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 tar like material. Then, abruptly, he seemed to become embarrassed and looked over his shoulder at Ellie. “Him, he’s crazy,” he said. “Ain’t he a riot? He’s a nut, a real character.” Ellie was still listening to the music. His sunglasses told nothing about what he was thinking. He wore a bright orange shirt unbuttoned halfway to show his chest, which was a pale, bluish chest and not muscular like Arnold Friend’s. His shirt collar was turned up all around and the very tips of the collar pointed out past his chin as if they were protecting him. He was pressing the transistor radio up against his ear and sat there in a kind of daze, right in the sun.

“He’s kinda strange,” Connie said.

“Hey, she says you’re kinda strange! Kinda strange!” Arnold Friend cried. He pounded on the car to get Ellie’s attention. Ellie turned for the first time and Connie saw with shock that he wasn’t a kid either—he had a fair, hairless face, cheeks reddened slightly as if the veins grew too close to the surface of his skin, the face of a forty-year-old baby. Connie felt a wave of dizziness rise in her at this sight and she stared at him as if waiting for something to change the shock of the moment, make it all right again. Ellie’s lips kept shaping words, mumbling along with the words blasting in his ear.

“Maybe you two better go away,” Connie said faintly.

“What? How come?” Arnold Friend cried. “We come out here to take you for a ride. It’s Sunday.” He had the voice of the man on the radio now. It was the same voice, Connie thought. “Don’tcha know it’s Sunday all day? And honey, no matter who you were with last night, today you’re with Arnold Friend and don’t you forget it! Maybe you better step out here,” he said, and this last was in a different voice. It was a little flatter, as if the heat was finally getting to him.

“No. I got things to do.”

“Hey.”

“You two better leave.”

“We ain’t leaving until you come with us.”

“Like hell I am—”

“Connie, don’t fool around with me. I mean—I mean, don’t fool around,” he said, shaking his head. He laughed incredulously. He placed his sunglasses on top of his head, carefully, as if he were indeed wearing a wig, and brought the stems down behind his ears. Connie stared at him, another wave of dizziness and fear rising in her so that for a moment he wasn’t even in focus but was just a blur standing there against his gold car, and she had the idea that he had driven up the driveway all right but had come from nowhere before that and belonged nowhere and that everything about him and even about the music that was so familiar to her was only half real.

“If my father comes and sees you—”

“He ain’t coming. He’s at a barbecue.”

“How do you know that?”

“Aunt Tillie’s. Right now they’re uh—they’re drinking. Sitting around,” he said vaguely, squinting as if he were staring all the way to town and over to Aunt Tillie’s back yard. Then the vision seemed to get clear and he nodded energetically. “Yeah. Sitting around. There’s your sister in a blue dress, huh? And high heels, the poor sad bitch—nothing like you, sweetheart! And your mother’s helping some fat woman with the corn, they’re cleaning the corn—husking the corn—”

“What fat woman?” Connie cried.

“How do I know what fat woman, I don’t know every goddamn fat woman in the world!” Arnold Friend laughed.

“Oh, that’s Mrs. Hornsby . . . . Who invited her?” Connie said. She felt a little lightheaded. Her breath was coming quickly.

“She’s too fat. I don’t like them fat. I like them the way you are, honey,” he said, smiling sleepily at her. They stared at each other for a while through the screen door. He said softly, “Now, what you’re going to do is this: you’re going to come out that door. You re going to sit up front with me and Ellie’s going to sit in the back, the hell with Ellie, right? This isn’t Ellie’s date. You’re my date. I’m your lover, honey.”

“What? You’re crazy—”

“Yes, I’m your lover. You don’t know what that is but you will,” he said. “I know that too. I know all about you. But look: it’s real nice and you couldn’t ask for nobody better than me, or more polite. I always keep my word. I’ll tell you how it is, I’m always nice at first, the first time. 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 ”

“Shut up! You’re crazy!” Connie said. She backed away from the door. She put her hands up against her ears as if she’d heard something terrible, something not meant for her. “People don’t talk like that, you’re crazy,” she muttered. Her heart was almost too big now for her chest and its pumping made sweat break out all over her. She looked out to see Arnold Friend pause and then take a step toward the porch, lurching. He almost fell. But, like a clever drunken man, he managed to catch his balance. He wobbled in his high boots and grabbed hold of one of the porch posts.

“Honey?” he said. “You still listening?”

“Get the hell out of here!”

“Be nice, honey. Listen.”

“I’m going to call the police—”

He wobbled again and out of the side of his mouth came a fast spat curse, an aside not meant for her to hear. But even this “Christ!” sounded forced. Then he began to smile again. She watched this smile come, awkward as if he were smiling from inside a mask. 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.

“Honey—? Listen, here’s how it is. I always tell the truth and I promise you this: I ain’t coming in that house after you.”

“You better not! I’m going to call the police if you—if you don’t—”

“Honey,” he said, talking right through her voice, “honey, I m not coming in there but you are coming out here. You know why?”

She was panting. The kitchen looked like a place she had never seen before, some room she had run inside but that wasn’t good enough, wasn’t going to help her. The kitchen window had never had a curtain, after three years, and there were dishes in the sink for her to do—probably—and if you ran your hand across the table you’d probably feel something sticky there.

“You listening, honey? Hey?” “—going to call the police—”

“Soon as you touch the phone I don’t need to keep my promise and can come inside. You won’t want that.”

She rushed forward and tried to lock the door. Her fingers were shaking. “But why lock it,” Arnold Friend said gently, talking right into her face. “It’s just a screen door. It’s just nothing.” 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. “I mean, anybody can break through a screen door and glass and wood and iron or anything else if he needs to, anybody at all, and specially Arnold Friend. If the place got lit up with a fire, honey, you’d come runnin’ out into my arms, right into my arms an’ safe at home—like you knew I was your lover and’d stopped fooling around. I don’t mind a nice shy girl but I don’t like no fooling around.” Part of those words were spoken with a slight rhythmic lilt, and Connie somehow recognized them—the echo of a song from last year, about a girl rushing into her boy friend’s arms and coming home again—

Connie stood barefoot on the linoleum floor, staring at him. “What do you want?” she whispered.

“I want you,” he said.

“What?”

“Seen you that night and thought, that’s the one, yes sir. I never needed to look anymore.”

“But my father’s coming back. He’s coming to get me. I had to wash my hair first—” She spoke in a dry, rapid voice, hardly raising it for him to hear.

“No, your daddy is not coming and yes, you had to wash your hair and you washed it for me. It’s nice and shining and all for me. I thank you sweetheart,” he said with a mock bow, but again he almost lost his balance. He had to bend and adjust his boots.

Evidently his feet did not go all the way down; the boots must have been stuffed with something so that he would seem taller.

Connie stared out at him and behind him at Ellie in the car, who seemed to be looking off toward Connie’s right, into nothing. This Ellie said, pulling the words out of the air one after another as if he were just discovering them, “You want me to pull out the phone?”

“Shut your mouth and keep it shut,” Arnold Friend said, his face red from bending over or maybe from embarrassment because Connie had seen his boots. “This ain’t none of your business.”

“What—what are you doing? What do you want?” Connie said. “If I call the police they’ll get you, they’ll arrest you—”

“Promise was not to come in unless you touch that phone, and I’ll keep that promise,” he said. He resumed his erect position and tried to force his shoulders back. He sounded like a hero in a movie, declaring something important. But he spoke too loudly and it was as if he were speaking to someone behind Connie. “I ain’t made plans for coming in that house where I don’t belong but just for you to come out to me, the way you should. Don’t you know who I am?”

“You’re crazy,” she whispered. She backed away from the door but did not want to go into another part of the house, as if this would give him permission to come through the door. “What do you . . . you’re crazy, you. . . .”

“Huh? What’re you saying, honey?”

Her eyes darted everywhere in the kitchen. She could not remember what it was, this room.

“This is how it is, honey: you come out and we’ll drive away, have a nice ride. But if you don’t come out we’re gonna wait till your people come home and then they’re all going to get it.”
“You want that telephone pulled out?” Ellie said. He held the radio away from his ear and grimaced, as if without the radio the air was too much for him.

“I toldja shut up, Ellie,” Arnold Friend said, “you’re deaf, get a hearing aid, right? Fix yourself up. This little girl’s no trouble and’s gonna be nice to me, so Ellie keep to yourself, this ain’t your date right? Don’t hem in on me, don’t hog, don’t crush, don’t bird dog, don’t trail me,” he said in a rapid, meaningless voice, as if he were running through all the expressions he’d learned but was no longer sure which of them was in style, then rushing on to new ones, making them up with his eyes closed. “Don’t crawl under my fence, don’t squeeze in my chipmonk hole, don’t sniff my glue, suck my popsicle, keep your own greasy fingers on yourself!” He shaded his eyes and peered in at Connie, who was backed against the kitchen table. “Don’t mind him, honey, he’s just a creep.

He’s a dope. Right? I’m the boy for you, and like I said, you come out here nice like a lady and give me your hand, and nobody else gets hurt, I mean, your nice old bald-headed daddy and your mummy and your sister in her high heels. Because listen: why bring them in this?”

“Leave me alone,” Connie whispered.

“Hey, you know that old woman down the road, the one with the chickens and stuff—you know her?”

“She’s dead!”

“Dead? What? You know her?” Arnold Friend said.

“She’s dead—”

“Don’t you like her?”

“She’s dead—she’s—she isn’t here any more—”

But don’t you like her, I mean, you got something against her? Some grudge or something?” Then his voice dipped as if he were conscious of a rudeness. He touched the sunglasses perched up on top of his head as if to make sure they were still there. “Now,you be a good girl.”

‘What are you going to do?”

“Just two things, or maybe three,” Arnold Friend said. “But I promise it won’t last long and you’ll like me the way you get to like people you’re close to. You will. It’s all over for you here, so come on out. You don’t want your people in any trouble, do you?”

She turned and bumped against a chair or something, hurting her leg, but she ran into the back room and picked up the telephone.

Something roared in her ear, a tiny roaring, and she was so sick with fear that she could do nothing but listen to it—the telephone was clammy and very heavy and her fingers groped down to the dial but were too weak to touch it. She began to scream into the phone, into the roaring. She cried out, she cried for her mother, she felt her breath start jerking back and forth in her lungs as if it were something Arnold Friend was stabbing her with again and again with no tenderness. A noisy sorrowful wailing rose all about her and she was locked inside it the way she was locked inside this house.

After a while she could hear again. She was sitting on the floor with her wet back against the wall.

Arnold Friend was saying from the door, “That’s a good girl. Put the phone back.”

She kicked the phone away from her.

“No, honey. Pick it up. Put it back right.”

She picked it up and put it back. The dial tone stopped.

“That’s a good girl. Now, you come outside.”

She was hollow with what had been fear but what was now just an emptiness. All that screaming had blasted it out of her. She sat, one leg cramped under her, and deep inside her brain was something like a pinpoint of light that kept going and would not let her relax. She thought, I’m not going to see my mother again. She thought, I’m not going to sleep in my bed again. Her bright green blouse was all wet.

Arnold Friend said, in a gentle-loud voice that was like a stage voice, “The place where you came from ain’t there any more, and where you had in mind to go is cancelled out. This 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. You hear me?”

She thought, I have got to think. I have got to know what to do.

“We’ll go out to a nice field, out in the country here where it smells so nice and it’s sunny,” Arnold Friend said. “I’ll have my arms tight around you so you won’t need to try to get away and I’ll show you what love is like, what it does. The hell with this house! It looks solid all right,” he said. He ran a fingernail down the screen and the noise did not make Connie shiver, as it would have the day before.

“Now, put your hand on your heart, honey. Feel that? That feels solid too but we know better. Be nice to me, be sweet like you can because what else is there for a girl like you but to be sweet and pretty and give in?—and get away before her people come back?”

She felt her pounding heart. Her hand seemed to enclose it. She thought for the first time in her life that it was nothing that was hers, that belonged to her, but just a pounding, living thing inside this body that wasn’t really hers either.

“You don’t want them to get hurt,” Arnold Friend went on. “Now, get up, honey. Get up all by yourself.”
She stood.

“Now, turn this way. That’s right. Come over here to me.— Ellie, put that away, didn’t I tell you? You dope. You miserable creepy dope,” Arnold Friend said. His words were not angry but only part of an incantation. The incantation was kindly. “Now come out through the kitchen to me, honey, and let’s see a smile, try it, you re a brave, sweet little girl and now they’re eating corn and hot dogs cooked to bursting over an outdoor fire, and they don’t know one thing about you and never did and honey, you’re better than them because not a one of them would have done this for you.”

Connie felt the linoleum under her feet; it was cool. She brushed her hair back out of her eyes. Arnold Friend let go of the post tentatively and opened his arms for her, his elbows pointing in toward each other and his wrists limp, to show that this was an embarrassed embrace and a little mocking, he didn’t want to make her self-conscious.

She put out her hand against the screen. She watched herself push the door slowly open as if she were back safe somewhere in the other doorway, watching this body and this head of long hair moving out into the sunlight where Arnold Friend waited.

“My sweet little blue-eyed girl,” he said in a half-sung sigh that had nothing to do with her brown eyes but was taken up just the same by the vast sunlit reaches of the land behind him and 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.