The Devil’s Advocate
Is Arnold Friend the Devil in disguise in Joyce Carol Oates’ short story “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” If one were to look at the facts surrounding the actual event this story was based on, any assumption that “Friend” was anything but a man would be thrown out due to logic. However, if one were to look at the story alone, he could concede that Friend is indeed the Devil or at least the Devil’s angel.
First, there is the physical description of Arnold Friend. His “shaggy, shabby black hair that looked crazy as a wig,” (591) his nose, “long and hawk-like,” (592) and his eyes that “were like chips of broken glass” (592) all suggest that he is evil in some way. “His whole face was a mask, [Connie] thought wildly, tanned down onto his throat but then running out as if he had plastered make-up on his face but had forgotten about his throat” (596). This indicates that Friend is not of human race, and he is using the mask to cover his face and shield his true identity from Connie. Also, Arnold’s boots “must have been stuffed with something so that he would seem taller” (596-7). The fact that Friend is short could mean he is an elf or dwarf-like creature, or it could merely mean that he is trying to be something he definitely is not.
Besides physical characteristics, the devilish nature of Friend is depicted through his subtle ability to manipulate Connie. When they first meet, Connie is apprehensive of Arnold. Through manipulation, charm, and possibly a spell, Arnold is skillful in influencing Connie, ultimately resulting in her demise. “‘Now get up, honey. Get up all by yourself.’ She stood” (599). “The kitchen looked like a place she had never seen before” (596). “Her eyes darted everywhere in the kitchen. She could not remember what it was, this room” (597). Common places no longer have any familiarity to her.
Lastly, Oates uses irony and symbolism to convey the possibility that Arnold Friend is the Devil. The main section of the story ironically takes place on Sunday. Sunday is the Holy day and Friend, in all probability, feels that by degrading God, he is proving himself more powerful. Oates uses his name, Friend, as symbolic irony. Arnold is inevitably evil, and Oates uses his name to represent him as a Devil’s Advocate playing both sides. “After his hand fell back to his side the X was still in the air, almost visible” (593). The X is a sign of evil, and Friend tells Connie that it is his sign. This could also imply that Friend was putting a “spell” on Connie to make her obey and succumb to his every demand. The numbers (33, 19, 17) printed on the side of his car, when added up as single digits (i.e. 33 being 3 and 3) equal 24. X is the 24th letter of the alphabet.
Although it is not clear in the story whether Arnold Friend is the Devil, there is much to support the idea that he is. Through Friend’s manipulation and physical aspects, and through irony and symbols, one could assume that the author intended this to be true. In the event this story was based on, “Friend” most likely was not the Devil. However, evidence in the fictional work “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” reveals that he is.