Where Are You Going, Where have you been?

Freshman (College 1st year) ・Literature ・MLA ・1 Sources

Arnold Friend is one of the central characters in J. C. Oates' story "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" As he interacts with Connie, a young teenage girl, Friend portrays an evil character. Arnold Friend is portrayed as a dangerous character who resembles a demon rather than a human being. He makes demands and threats, instilling fear in Connie rather than attraction. Arnold Friend is a villainous figure.
Arnold's flamboyant nature and appearance, for starters, bring his allegoric image of an evil individual to life. Most common forms of evil as defined by the Christian religion can be linked to his abilities. Through this, the character of evil is achieved, for instance the author creates a symbolic story whereby Arnold seduces and blackmails a naïve teenage girl who was eager to experience love. This particular event is a symbolic comparison of the story of Adam and Eve in the bible who ended up being banished from the Garden of Eden and cursed by God because they were duped by the devil into disobedience. In the story Connie fell for a similar seduction trick from the evil one Arnold Friend (Oates et al., 4). Arnold persuades Connie several times to go with him and Connie refuses. The car is used as an image to try and tempt Connie into accepting Arnold as her lover. Arnold represents the character of the devil from the biblical story. Just as the devil used the forbidden fruit to tempt Adam and Eve into sinning, Arnold is using the car and other goodies to lure Connie into his trap. When she refuses, he resorts to blackmail and threats.

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Most of the major themes in the story revolve around evil and the choice between right and wrong. This is seen mainly though the characters of Connie and Arnold: Arnold as an evil character that tries to influence everyone around him into evil and Connie as a naïve individual has been intimated and coerced into accepting his demands as a survival strategy. He persuades Connie to go with him and resorts threats and demands when she refuses. He also uses lies, like when he alleges that Connie and he are almost the same age. The story was written around 1966, a time that was marked by a shift of ideologies, thoughts, liberal ideas, and culture especially in the American society. The author develops Arnold’s and Connie’s character to depict that change. She portrays a society where freedom, love, and sexuality had a great influence on the decisions made by young people. Connie’s struggle with ideologies depicted the influence the shift from the common conservative values had on the youth in the 1950s. Connie was a having a difficult time dealing with her sister, mother and eventually Arnold given their different perspectives on life issues. The society around her was affecting her choice between right and wrong. Arnold at the other hand depicts an evil demeanor that seems to be deeply rooted as the story portrays evil in everything he did. For instance, a symbolism employed by the author describes how when Arnold met Connie, he did not come out of the car like normal people but instead he slid out like a snake. In the bible, the snake was a creature that was associated with evil. The snake tricked Adam and Eve into eating the forbidden fruit which earned them severe punishment from God. In this story, Arnold Friend is like the snake in the Garden of Eden, he uses all means to lure Connie into his evil plans and uses threat and demands when she objects. Moreover, the author describes his appearance as shaggy with eyes that looked like holes that were in the shadow. His strange appearance suggests that he may be having mental problems. He wobbles when walking as if his shoes do not fit him properly. His unsteadiness is linked to the fact that his feet could be hooves, same as the feet of a devil. He also mentions how he seemed to know too much about Connie, something that had seemed peculiar. He seems to know things about Connie’s family and their neighbors that he couldn’t probably know given that he doesn’t live with them; this raises questions about his humanness. For instance, he can tell exactly where Connie’s family were and what they were doing despite not having prior knowledge of their event. Arnold preyed on Connie’s naivety through seduction and Connie’s weak character eventually led her to voluntarily accept him. The author states that Arnold’s seduction was similar to the ‘devils will’ whereby Connie stood no chance. Besides the seduction, Arnold completed his character as evil when he threatened to hurt Connie’s friends and family if she would not relent with his demands. Connie had no choice but to surrender to Arnold’s obstinate advances.

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In the story music also plays a contributing role in the development of the story. For instance, the recurring music seems to help Arnold to seduce Connie in an instance whereby they realized that they shared the same taste in music. Similarly, instead of the apple as in the bible in the story of Adam and Eve, the music assumed a similar role in the story. Connie is a great lover of music, instead of going to church in Sunday she stays home and listens to Bobby King’s music. This great interest in music attracts Connie into Arnold’s trap just as the apple was used in the bible to attract and trick Adam and Eve (Oates et al., 4-26). Yes the music is meant to be forbidden in this case. Music acts as Connie’s gateway from the real world into the world of fantasy where she dreams about boys. In fact, she learns most of her ideas about romance and adult ex from the music she listens to. It happens that the music she was listening to is the same as that which Arnold was listening to. Music is used as a tool here to lower her guard and make her submit quickly.

As mentioned above, the story depicts a struggle between right and wrong, evil and good. Connie is a naïve and innocent girl who is considered a good person but falls victim to Arnold who is a direct contrast of her. She had not adopted any values and was still learning from the society, making decisions on the right and wrong when Arnold spotted and exploited her. The bible allusions therefore seem to be used to differentiate the good and evil and how the two are observed through the characters.

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Work Cited

Oates, Joyce Carol. Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? 1966. Web. 04. Apr. 2017 http://www.cusd200.org/cms/lib7/IL01001538/Centricity/Domain/361/oates_going.pdf

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