smile for the camera

Sierra Latshaw, Julia Sircar, Sydney Stevens and Katy Yut

Influence Has the Power to Hinder or Sway Decision-Making

In both the short story “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” and Smile for the Camera, the main characters are surrounded by people that influence their decision making. Some of these influences lead them to do bad things like leave town with an unfamiliar person, or sleep with someone they just met. The two stories involve multiple situations of bad influences that force the main characters to change their morals.

Appetizer: "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" by Joyce Carol Oates

The main character, Connie, constantly goes out with friends for late night fun. Meeting new boys every night, Connie tries to stick out and be noticed by her neglecting parents.

Left home alone one day, Connie is confronted by a strange boy and his quiet friend, who drive up in a gold convertible. After introducing himself as Arnold Friend, the strange boy invites Connie for a ride.

The situation takes a sudden turn for the worse as Connie repeatedly declines his offer and Arnold’s true personality is revealed, including his false identity. He seems to know everything about her, from where her family is to what she was doing last night.

Connie is stuck in a sticky situation, completely at Arnold’s mercy. When she threatens to call the police Arnold warns her of the consequences of her rash actions, beginning to control her with his influential words. Connie panics and eventually runs into the back room, attempting to grab the phone and call the cops.

From the perspective of Connie’s frantic, disjointed thoughts the reader concludes that the dial tone fills Connie’s mind and freezes her in a state of terror. Soon after, Arnold Friend enters, commands her to replace the phone, and calmly walk out of the house into his car. Connie quietly obeys, feeling as if she’s watching the situation from someone else’s body.

Arnold uses Connie’s insecurity of being less than adequate in her family’s eyes to persuade her to make a detrimental decision. Aware of Arnold’s capabilities and the danger of leaving with him, Connie still believes the lies he spins into a web to convince her otherwise. By the end of the short story Arnold had succeeded in persuading her that her family didn’t truly know her, or love her, or want her around, and that leaving is the best option. Arnold Friend’s influence hindered the morals Connie displayed at the beginning of the story.

Main Course: Smile For the Camera: a Memoir by Kelle James

Kelle, a teenager who grew up in a small rural town in Maryland, flees from the emotional and physical abuse of her father and decides to become a model in New York City. Upon arriving, Kelle is influenced by several people she meets, from fellow models to residents of the city to perverts who want to take advantage of her. As Kelle journeys on to finding who she really is, her morals are swayed by others both positively and negatively -- in many cases they end up getting her into dangerous situations. Kelle learns who and who not to trust and that she must be her own person, be her own role model and find her own path to life.

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