Oates’ Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?

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In Joyce Carol Oates’ short story Where Are You Going Where Have You Been?, critics debate whether Arnold Friend, the character who tempts the protagonist Connie to ride off with him, represents Satan. Some argue that Arnold is a diabolical figure, while others suggest he is a religious and cultural savior. However, the majority of readers believe that Arnold represents a devil figure, given his diabolical characteristics and his relentless temptation of Connie. Oates characterizes Arnold as a psychopathic stalker, but never explicitly states the diabolical nature of his character. Despite this, Arnold’s resemblance to Satan is striking, especially in his temptation of Connie to leave the safety of her home and go for a ride with him in his car.

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Oates’ “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?”: Arnold FiendOates’ “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?”: Arnold FiendIn Joyce Carol critics argue whether the character of Arnold Friend, clearly the story’santagonist, represents Satan in the story. Indeed, Arnold Friend is anallegorical devil figure for the main reason that he tempts Connie, theprotagonist, 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 readerknow that Arnold is not a teenager when Connie begins to notice the featuressuch as the painted eyelashes, his shaggy hair which looked like a wig, and hisstuffed boots; these features led her to believe he was not a teenager, but infact, much older. Oates does make Arnold out to be a psychopathic stalker, butnever objectively states the diabolical nature to his character.

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In Connie’s Tambourine Man, a critical essay on the story, the authorswrite about Arnold Friend: There are indeed diabolical shades to Arnold just asBlake and Shelley could see Milton’s Satan a positive, attractive symbol of thepoet, the religious embodiment of creative energy, so we should also besensitive to Arnold’s multifaceted and creative nature(Tierce and Crafton 608).

Mike Tierce and John Michael Crafton suggest that Arnold Friend is not adiabolical figure, but instead a religious and cultural savior.

On a more realistic note, Joyce M. Wegs argues the symbolism of ArnoldFriend as a Satan figure when she writes: Arnold is far more a grotesqueportrait of a psychopathic killer masquerading as a teenager; he also has allthe traditional, sinister traits of that arch deceiver and source of grotesqueterror, the devil(616). She also writes about how the author sets up the ideaof a religious, diabolical figure when she links popular music and its values asConnie’s perverted version of a religion. Another hint is Arnold’s almostsupernatural, mysterious knowledge about Connie, her family and her friends(Wegs617).

The main reason why the reader would extract this diabolical symbol fromreading the story is that Arnold’s character bears striking resemblance toSatan’s. At the drive-in, Arnold is warning Connie of his coming when he wagshis finger at her and says Gonna get you, baby(Oates 581). The majority ofthe story is Arnold tempting Connie to leave the safe haven that is her home andgo for a ride with him in his car. The diabolical symbolism is most visible inthe following quote: I ain’t made plans for coming in that house where I don’tbelong, but just for you to come out to me, the way you should. Don’t you knowwho I am?(Oates 589).

Having all the diabolical characteristics of Satan, and with hisrelentless temptation of Connie, Arnold Friend most certainly represents a devilfigure in this short story.

Works CitedKiszner, Laurie G., and Stephen R. Mandell, eds. Literature: Reading, Reacting,Writing. Fort Worth: Harcourt, 1997.

Oates, Joyce Carol “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?”…Kirszner andMandell, 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 TambourineMan”…..Kirszner and Mandell, 607-612.


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Oates’ Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?. (2018, Nov 16). Retrieved from


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