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Character of Arnold Friend in “Where Are You Going Where Have You Been”

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    “Where Are You Going, Where Have you Been” is one of Joyce Carol Oates’ darkest and most infamous short stories. The story is told in the third person, primarily focused on Connie; the vain self-centered teenager, who is adamant on becoming an independent woman. Although told from the third person limited point of view, the narrator’s point of view is centered around Connie’s opinions towards family, her personal life, and ultimately her fears and emotions during her interaction with Arnold Friend. Reading the events unfold presents things strictly as Connie views them. This point of view ultimately allows the reader to connect with the pure horror that Connie experiences when making the decision to leave with Arnold Friend. Connie is changed from a naive disconnected teenager, set on becoming an independent woman, to an innocent childlike victim. In this paper, the point of view of Arnold Friend will be illustrated.

    He had many names, the Lord of Flies, Lucifer, Satan, or even an old friend to some. “Yes, that’s it, Arnold Friend,” he exclaimed. He had done this very thing a million times before; cloak himself in trendy clothing or as he liked to call it “the sheep’s clothing.” Arnold was a wolf; a predator; a monster. Arnold was all powerful and all knowing. Arnold would offer freedom from the rules of unreasonable parents, the confines of the church, and whomever else passed judgment of how and when a woman should use her body. “It never ceases to amaze me the amount of narcissism, vanity, and pride in this world. I love it. I don’t have to look hard to find my next narcissistic beauty to entice. I do become tired of dressing up in these so-called trendy outfits, wearing make-up, putting on a wig, and learning the new slang and music. Although, my horns and hooves showing would not sit well with God’s precious humans. All this work just to tempt another insignificant soul,” Arnold exclaimed in one breath. Even though he was not alone, Arnold was having a conversation with himself. Arnold slowly pulled into the drive-in restaurant in his gold convertible. In the back seat was Ellie. Ellie’s full name was Belias, but that name just wouldn’t do. Ellie fed off of tempting women to be vain. Just like Arnold, Ellie was a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Ellie was subservient to Arnold. Arnold looked into the cracked rearview mirror to practice his smile. At first, it seemed forced. Anyone who took notice would see who he really was. Arnold tried again. “Not too much,” he said. The smile was awkward, yet believable. The only tell that evil was afoot were the dozens of flies that followed the gold convertible in tow.

    Arnold scanned the parking lot and within moments he found her. “Oh, how I have waited for this moment,” Arnold whispered. Her outer shell, as he called it, was flawless. Her hair shined in the sun like thin strings of gold. He could smell her shampoo from over twenty feet away. Her skin was ceramic like with a light hue of pink. Her eyeliner flared out ever-so slightly from the corners of her eyes as if it was painted on by Picasso. He could see her thoughts; jam-packed with lust and pure vanity. Connie’s eyes scanned the parking lot looking for admiration. Arnold tracked Connie’s eyes and movements, as a hunter should. Then, at last, their eyes met. Connie slit her eyes at him and turned away, but she couldn’t help glancing back and there he was still watching her. He wagged a finger and laughed and said, “Gonna get you, baby” (Oates, 1994).

    That Sunday, Connie awoke at exactly 11 o’clock. Connie knew that is was 11 o’clock because the church bell ring filled her room and head. Connie nor any of her family attended the Sunday morning sermon that day nor any other Sunday. From across town, Arnold snickered at this vision. Arnold could see things that no ordinary man could see. “After today, they will attend church and ask for His help and mercy,” he said. “Pathetic,” he scoffed. He knew that Connie’s family would be leaving the house in exactly 17 minutes to attend a barbeque across town. He knew when they would be leaving and exactly when they would return. “Let’s go Ellie, time for another hunt,” Arnold said with excitement. “What’s her name this time boss?” Ellie asked. “Connie, oh sweet, Connie, how I’m gonna get you,” Arnold replied with a sadistic voice. Before putting the car in drive, Arnold grabbed the rear-view mirror and tilted it towards his face. He could see the evil and hatred in his face. A little piece of him was disgusted. How did he get to his point he thought? He prodded and poked at his face as if he had the ability to push the pure evil back inside. He took a deep breath and applied a touch of makeup under his eyes. “That’ll do,” he said in attempt to convince himself.

    After a while, Arnold and Ellie pulled onto the long gravel driveway. When the tires of car touched the driveway, they made a loud crunching sound that radiated all around them. “It sounds like bones crunching,” Ellie chuckled. “Shut up Ellie,” Arnold said in annoyance. When they reached the end of the driveway, Arnold saw the front screen door to the house slowly open. Connie peeked out in curiosity. “I ain’t late, am I?” he said. “Who the hell do you think you are?” Connie said. (Oates, 1994).

    Arnold had to play it cool, convince her that he was there to help her, free her from the prison of rules, restrictions, and allow her to be a real woman. He attempted to convince her in several sweet insincere ways to take a ride with him. It was just a ride; a simple innocent ride with a nice teenage boy. He tried to flatter her and inflate her ego. He complimented her hair, skin, clothes, laugh, and anything else he could think of, all the while speaking in a sweet soothing, almost dripping tone. “Nothing is working; I wish I could just step inside and snatch her,” he said internally. The crucifix hanging above the front threshold prevented his entry. He leaned closer. “I’ll call the police,” Connie screamed. “Christ,” Arnold responded forcefully. Even the mere speaking of the Lord’s name caused him agony and pain. As he twitched in discomfort, Arnold knew that the time for small talk was over. And then he muttered, “We ain’t leaving until you come with us” (Oates, 1994). Immediately upon saying this, he could see the fear instantaneously hit Connie like a shockwave and reverberate through her body. The time had come to threaten and cause panic. Arnold affirmed that if Connie touched the phone to call the police he would have to come in the house. If she failed to come out, he would just wait for her family to come home, and when they did, serious harm would come to them.

    “We’ll go out to a nice field, out in the country here where it smells so nice and it’s sunny,” Arnold said. “I’ll have my arms around you so you won’t need to try to get away and I’ll show you what love is like, what it does” (Oates, 1994). He could feel Connie’s heart beating in her chest with fear and anxiety. With every pounding beat of her heart, he grew stronger; wickeder. “You don’t want them to get hurt,” Arnold went on. “Now get up, honey. Get up all by yourself.” She stood (Oates, 1994). Arnold knew at that moment that Connie had given up. Either too scared to fight or unwilling to let her family suffer. Arnold knew that when she got up and opened the screen door that she had stepped into his abyss that was hell and there was no turning back. As Connie looked back at her life, Arnold put his arm around her and slowly led her into hell.


    1. Oates, J.C., (1994). Where are You Going, Where Have You Been? Rutgers University Press

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