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“Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” Essay

In Joyce Carol Oates’ “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” critics argue whether the character of Arnold Friend, clearly the story’s antagonist, represents Satan in the story. Indeed, Arnold Friend is an allegorical devil figure for the main reason that he tempts Connie, the protagonist, into riding off with him in his car. Oates characterizes Arnold Friend at first glance as “a boy with shaggy, black hair, in a convertible jalopy painted gold”(581). She lets the reader know that Arnold is not a teenager when Connie begins to notice the features such as the painted eyelashes, his shaggy hair which looked like a wig, and his stuffed boots; these features led her to believe he was not a teenager, but in fact, much older. Oates does make Arnold out to be a psychopathic stalker, but never objectively states the diabolical nature to his character. In “Connie’s Tambourine Man”, a critical essay on the story, the authors write about Arnold Friend: “There are indeed diabolical shades to Arnold just as Blake and Shelley could see Milton’s Satan a positive, attractive symbol of the poet, the religious embodiment of creative energy, so we should also be sensitive to Arnold’s multifaceted and creative nature”(Tierce and Crafton 608).

Mike Tierce and John Michael Crafton suggest that Arnold Friend is not a diabolical figure, but instead a religious and cultural savior. On a more realistic note, Joyce M. Wegs argues the symbolism of Arnold Friend as a Satan figure when she writes: “Arnold is far more a grotesque portrait of a psychopathic killer masquerading as a teenager; he also has all the traditional, sinister traits of that arch deceiver and source of grotesque terror, the devil”(616). She also writes about how the author sets up the idea of a religious, diabolical figure when she links popular music and its values as Connie’s perverted version of a religion. Another hint is Arnold’s almost supernatural, mysterious knowledge about Connie, her family and her friends(Wegs 617). The main reason why the reader would extract this diabolical symbol from reading the story is that Arnold’s character bears striking resemblance to Satan’s. At the drive-in, Arnold is warning Connie of his coming when he wags his finger at her and says “Gonna get you, baby”(Oates 581).

The majority of the story is Arnold tempting Connie to leave the safe haven that is her home and go for a ride with him in his car. The diabolical symbolism is most visible in the following quote: “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?”(Oates 589). Having all the diabolical characteristics of Satan, and with his relentless temptation of Connie, Arnold Friend most certainly represents a devil figure in this short story. Works Cited Kiszner, Laurie G., and Stephen R. Mandell, eds.


Reading, Reacting, Writing. Fort Worth: Harcourt, 1997. Oates, Joyce Carol “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?”…Kirszner and Mandell, 579-591. Wegs, Joyce M. “Don’t You Know Who I Am?”……Kirszner and Mandell 614-619. Tierce, Michael and John Michael Crafton. “Connie’s Tambourine Man”…..Kirszner and Mandell, 607-612.

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