In Joyce Carol Oates? ?Where Are you Going, Where Have You Been?, there is a clear interpretation of evil in Arnold Friend and how he as a demon tries to pull Connie into the dark world of sex and emotion. Oates seems to extract scenarios of real life and add them into her story. The character of Arnold Friend is more or less what really is out there. The harsh reality that Oates includes in her story is that there are demons like Arnold. Many people have interpreted Friend?s character as the Pied Piper of Tucson who was a mass murderer who killed teens.(Hurley 372). By incorporating more life like realities in the story, Oates can construct the evil of Friend in an almost believable setting.
There are many clues in the story that hint that Arnold Friend is not a friend at all, but is in fact a demon come to take Connie away. When we first meet Arnold Friend, it is obvious that Connie has an uneasy feeling about him and feels violated by his presence. For instance, Arnold right away starts to ask Connie if ?(She) wansta come for a ride.? (Oates 1012). Arnold seems to be pressuring Connie from the start and is obviously not there just to take her for a ride. The ?ride? that Arnold talks of could possibly even have a sexual connotation that Connie does not pick up on because she is so young and blind to the world of sexual pleasures that Arnold lives in. Oates chooses words too carefully to show that Arnold is a devious snake. Connie sees Arnold many times as an evil character and letting the reader know by describing Arnold as a ?pumpkin, except it wore sunglasses.? (Oates 1013). In this passage Connie relates Arnold to a Halloween figure and in the same quote refers to Arnold as ?it?. At other times Oates describes Arnold?s eyes as evil. ?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.? (Oates 1015). It is apparent that Oates uses descriptions such as these to illustrate an unhuman quality in a human form. Another interesting word choice that Oates uses is when Arnold is talking perversely to Connie and she comes back with ?People don?t talk like that, you?re crazy,? (Oates 1017). This helps to illustrate the fact that Connie does not recognize Arnold as human. The reader may feel that Arnold is just a pushy jerk with a crush on Connie, at least up to this point. It is not until Connie begins to get upset and threaten to call the police that the reader sees the true demonic side of Arnold Friend.
Arnold Friend knows too much about everything and everyone to only be a person especially one who is not from around the same area as Connie. Arnold claims to know all of Connie?s friends and where her family is at which scares Connie into asking Arnold how he knows so much and his only response is, ?I know everybody.? (Oates 1014). The omniscient capabilities that Arnold shows are just more justifications of his being a demon, or the devil himself. Arnold not only knows what is going on in the world around Connie, but also what she is thinking and how she is as a person. Arnold knows that Connie is unhappy with her parents in general and taps into this sensitive spot with Connie as a way to bring her outside and go with him. He felt that if he could draw Connie outside it would have to be with sex , for Arnold knows that this is what intrigues the young girl.
The most obvious reason that many believe Oates is portraying Arnold as a demon is the way Arnold must use trickery and blackmail to lure the innocent Connie out of her home and into his clutches. When Connie says she will call the police to restrain Arnold, he then becomes irate and says he will enter the house and says, ?You won?t want that.? (Oates 1018). This harsh threat shows to Connie that he is capable of anything and intimidates her not to call the police. The demon then goes on to tell
Connie that she better take a ride with him or else he will wait for her family to come home and ?they?re all going to get it.? (Oates 1019). Not wanting anything to happen to her family, Connie eventually gives in and goes beyond the threshold of her door and into Arnold?s realm. Many people feel that it is Connie?s compulsive sex drive that destroys her in the end.(Rubin 42). It is true that Connie has an inquisitive fascination with sex as do most pubescent young adults, but is not this that forces to go with Arnold. Yes, Connie is an adolescent but is probably more scared than fascinated with this man. Connie had always dreamed of love and how it would always be just like in the movies and songs, but this was different. Arnold made Connie afraid of love and sex and he tried to trick her into coming with him by saying nice and sweet things such as; ?We?ll go out to a nice field, out in the country here where it smells so nice and its sunny,? (Oates 1020).
In the end, Connie seems to be drawn outside by Arnold?s powers. The ?vast sunlit reaches of land? that Oates writes about are new experiences that Connie has never before experienced. The new lands that Connie sees behind Arnold are symbolic of new experiences that Arnold will show her, and possibly sex. Whether or not she wants to be exposed to sex, Arnold is going to make sure that Connie is exposed to it, and most likely violently.
Some people interpret that Connie was just having a ?daymare? (Rubin 43), but if it were true that Connie was only dreaming, then Arnold?s character would still have the same effect on Connie in being a demonic creature and exposing her to the sins of sexual pleasure. Arnold is a character that must be presented to Connie in some point of her life. Oates tries to incorporate the idea that not everyone is your friend and love is not always what you see in the movies or hear in music. Oates attempts to use an extreme reality and unfortunately, Connie has to learn the hard way.
Have You Been?? Studies in Short Fiction Summer, 1991: 371-375.
Rubin, Larry ?Oates? ?Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been??
Explicator 1981 v42 : 57-60.
Piwinski, David J ?Oates? ?Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been??
Explicator, Spring 1991: 195.
Oates, Joyce Carol. ?Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?? The Story and