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Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? – Arnold Friend Analysis Essay

In many religions, the major representation of an evil spirit, ruler of Hell, and rival of God is of course the Devil. His power to distress humans both with physical sickness and with spiritual corruption is inexplicable. However, the idea of a man with such power and knowledge has been used in stories and films alike. In Joyce Carol Oates’ short story, “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” Oates depicts Arnold Friend as the Devil; we can see this through his physical description, strange seduction, and his supernatural knowledge of Connie.

The bodily features of Arnold Friend suggest he is the devil in disguise. During the whole event, Connie recognizes the way Arnold Friend “wobbled in his high boots” (196). She believed that he may have been a drunken stumbling man until she identifies “one of his boots was at a strange angle, it pointed out to the left, but at the ankle” (197). Nevertheless, Connie continues to examine his boots, and comes to the conclusion that “his feet did not go all the way down” (197). Illustrations of the Devil propose that he walks in a bent manner; legs twisted in a bizarre way, and have feet that angle into goat hooves. A clear reference to the Devil is present in the form of Arnold Friend walking style and appearance of his boots.

Coupled with the physical features, Arnold Friend’s attire implies an extra layer of his disguise. In most stories and films, the Devil is always among us, but in disguise. By dressing as a teenager, he is able to give the impression that they both are relatively the same age, and is able set a common ground with Connie. For instance, Connie enjoyed “the way he dressed, which was the way all of them dressed: tight faded jeans stuffed into black, scuffed boots, a belt pulled his waist and showed how lean he was” (193). Arnold Friend uses this look to gain Connie’s assurance of him. However, Connie seems to pay no attention to it because he appears to look a lot like a common boy.

Equally important is the use of Arnold Friend’s mysterious sunglasses to conceal his identity. The metallic glasses only give off a mirror-like image, but in miniature which Connie felt uncomfortable with “because the glasses made it impossible for her to see just what this boy was looking at” (192). He could have been staring at her figure, behind her, or straight into her spirit. The eyes that were masked behind the glasses were “pale, like holes that were not in black but instead of light” as if he were always wearing his glasses to hide his identity (193). In most stories of the Devil, the use of clothing and accessories to conceal his true identity is used; the same is true in Oates’ story.

Also depicted in stories and films of the Devil, he often uses items of desire against the characters to lure his victims into doing as he pleases. Arnold Friend uses his brightly painted open jalopy as a tool to tempt Connie into going for a ride with him. Connie finds some humor in the written messages, but especially the “DONE BY A CRAZY WOMAN” on the rear fender (192). In fact, she finds every part of his jalopy attractive: its hilarity, its splendor, and its deep mysteriousness. However, the same idea is true with the story of Adam and Eve. The Devil, which is disguised as a snake, used the desire of fruit to persuade Eve to defy God’s wishes.

In fact, if the Devil is going to catch the attention of his victims, he must first speak in a familiar nature to gain their confidence. Arnold Friend uses Connie’s language, which is radio, to sway her assurance. He continues speaking “in a simple lifting voice, exactly as if he were reciting the words to a song,” a way that she can connect with (193). Shortly after, he begins to adopt “the voice of the man of the radio,” it becomes clear that she begins to recognize to tone of his voice (195). Thus, communication through Connie’s language brings more association between her and Arnold Friend.

As a result of gaining his victim’s confidence, the Devil must then flatter them, telling them exactly what they want to hear. Arnold Friend attempts to flatter Connie explaining “I took a special interest in you, such a pretty girl” then reassures her with a smile (193). During, Connie emphasizes how much everyone prefers her sister June over her by stating “If June’s name was mentioned her mother’s tone was approving, and if Connie’s name was mentioned it was disapproving” (191). Arnold Friend hints he wants nothing to do with her sister, “that poor bitch-nothing like you, sweetheart!”, and in a way that is precisely what Connie wants to hear (195). In any case, inquiring that he prefers Connie over her sister or any girl for that manner, Arnold Friend maintains the conversation with her and continues to sway her in his favor.

In addition to the Devil’s bag of tricks, he often knows all there is to know regarding his prey, and his supernatural knowledge begins to tie everything together. Arnold Friend definitely seems to possess such powers, and begins to tell Connie he knows her “name and all about you, lots of things” (193). He starts to specifically describe how her family is “drinking, sitting around” at the barbecue (195). Yet, the way he goes about revealing it to her seems bizarre.

For example, he instigates Connie with the idea that he can visualize by “squinting as if he were staring all the way to town and over to Aunt Tillie’s back yard” (195). In fact, he begins to illustrate “there is your sister in the blue dress, and high heels”, and “your mother’s helping some fat woman with the corn” (195). For this reason, Arnold Friend appears to be a deranged individual, who follows and stalks his subjects, but Oates gives the impression of a great projection of Satan.

All things considered, Oates’ use of Arnold Friend to represent the Devil and preserve an illustration of evil. The shocking tale of a young girl taken away to hell, but not by a man she knows yet by a man who came from no where. This seems like a tale that could be far from reality, but the Devil will for eternity come from hell to collect his souls when life slips into presence of sin.

McMahan, Elizabeth, Robert Funk, and Susan X. Day. Literature and the Writing Process. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall PTR, 2006. 188-99.


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