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The Devil in Disguise

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Molly Berndt
English 102-03
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The Devil in Disguise In the short story “Where Are You Going? Where Have You Been?” by Joyce Carol Oates, the use of the symbolism of Connie’s clothes, her fascination with her beauty, Arnold Friend’s car and Arnold Friend himself help to understand the story’s theme of evil and manipulation. The story, peppered with underlying tones of evil, finds Oates writing about 15-year-old Connie, a pretty girl who is a little too into her own attractiveness, which eventually gets her into trouble with a man named Arnold Friend. The story is full with symbolism, from the way Connie dresses to the shoes on Arnold Friend’s feet. The clever hint of symbolism throughout the story creates an exciting tale that draws the reader in. In an article by Shmoop, Oats wrote this story based on a true story from life magazine. The article was about an older man who preyed on adolescent girls, like Arnold in this story (Shmoop). This world is what she thinks she wants, until the day a shiny golden convertible pulls into her driveway and the evil, mysterious Arnold Friend emerges.
Connie’s clothes and obsession with her own beauty symbolize her lack of maturity or knowing her true self, which in the end enables her to be manipulated by Arnold Friend. Connie was smitten with her own beauty; in the beginning of the story Oates states that Connie “knew she was pretty and that was everything” (626). This captivation with herself along with the constant looking in the mirrors and thinking her mother was only pestering her all the time because her mother’s own good looks were long gone by now, shows a sign of immaturity because she believes everything revolves around whether or not someone is beautiful. Connie had two sides to her, which is most personified in her clothing and the way she makes it look one way at home and a different way when she is out. Everything about her had one side for home and one side for public, from the way she walked to her laugh. These two sides of her symbolize lack of knowing herself, because she could not decide whether to be the girl that she was when she was out, or the girl that she portrayed when she was at home. This immaturity and not being sure of who she is allows Arnold Friend to manipulate and overpower Connie by the end of the story.
Arnold Friend’s car symbolizes warnings to Connie, inscribed on the car is a cryptic code and words that if thoughts about intently have deeper meanings of evil. Arnold’s car has numbers on it that he refers to as a “secret code” (630); these numbers are 33, 19 and 17. These numbers can be interpreted as Arnold’s age; Connie even guessed around 30 for his age (632) and the ages of his previous victims. Connie is 15 years old in the story, which could be right around the age he like his victims. Arnold has intentions of making Connie a victim. The way Oates’ writes about how Arnold is smiling as if he had ideas he would not put into words and the way he told Connie he wanted to make her his lover (632, 635) make this clear. There are the words “man the flying saucers” (631) on the front bumper of the car which in the time the story was written, 1966, people would say to mean something foreign or crazy. Connie even had the idea that Arnold had come from nowhere before he drove up her driveway and he did not really belong anywhere either. The words and numbers written on Arnold’s car combined with the evil that Arnold himself exudes cause Connie to become concerned, but in the end she cannot escape the evil.
Arnold Friend symbolizes the devil; he radiates evil from his name, to the way he looks and the way he speaks. When Oates describes his appearance, the reader can see a creepy parallel to the devil. Arnold’s eyes “catch the light in an amiable way”; this can be a parallel to the devil, which used to be the angel of light. Connie notices that Arnold’s neck is muscular, the way his nose sniffed towards her and the way he slid out of the car (630-631). These are all similar to the devil in his snake-like form. When one takes away the “r” in Arnold, his name becomes “an old friend”, which in the Bible usually means the devil. Connie noticed that Arnold’s boots looked like they didn’t have feet in them and he kept tripping when he tried to walk (630), the devil is said to have hooves for feet. Arnold knew about Connie’s family and what they were doing at that very moment (629) using one’s family to make someone do what he wants is a trademark of the devil. When one thinks about all of the things that are parallel between Arnold and the devil, it sends a chill up the spine. Arnold Friend radiates evil; he has evil intentions and evil behind every aspect of his being.
Oates’ use of the way Arnold looks and acts so similar to the devil, her use of the words on the car meaning something foreign and her symbolism with Connie’s attire make the story’s theme of evil and manipulation stand out so much more. Connie’s clothing symbolizing the lack of knowing her true self lets Arnold Friend overpower her in the end. The words and letters on Arnold’s car symbolize warnings that Connie should have picked up on. Because Arnold symbolizes the devil, the evil inside of him gives him advantages to manipulate Connie into leaving her house, despite everything inside of Connie screaming at her not to go. Oats won the “O Henry Award in 1968 and Best American Short Story in 1967 from this story. She was very successful in her writing life so far” (USFCA).

Work Cited

Oats, Joyce Carol. “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing. Ed. X. J. Kennedy and Dana Gioia. 12th ed. New York: Pearson, 2013. 626-637. Print.
Shmoop Editorial Team. "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" Shmoop.com. Shmoop University, Inc., 11 Nov. 2008. Web. 4 Dec. 2012.
“Where are you going, Where have you been?." USFCA. USFCA. Web. 6 Dec 2012. <http://www.usfca.edu/jco/whereareyougoing/>.

Cited: Oats, Joyce Carol. “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing. Ed. X. J. Kennedy and Dana Gioia. 12th ed. New York: Pearson, 2013. 626-637. Print. Shmoop Editorial Team. "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" Shmoop.com. Shmoop University, Inc., 11 Nov. 2008. Web. 4 Dec. 2012. “Where are you going, Where have you been?." USFCA. USFCA. Web. 6 Dec 2012. &lt;http://www.usfca.edu/jco/whereareyougoing/&gt;.

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