A Character Analysis of Arnold Friend within the Work of Joyce Carol Oates

With the world being full of people who portray themselves as someone or something they are not, people hide their identity to obtain things they desire. In Joyce Carol Oates’s, “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been,” Arnold Friend is an example of someone trying to trick another individual into believing he is someone he is not.

Arnold Friend is a mystery to the readers and scholars because it was not stated whether he is a boy, a man, or a devil.

Whether Arnold symbolizes the devil, or a dream, readers can definitely conclude he is hiding something. Arnold Friend’s physical appearance is noticeably significant throughout the short story as Oates continuously lists detailed descriptions about his characteristics, which may lead some readers and scholars to believe that Arnold Friend is not a human.

Without a doubt, he is hiding his identity behind the glasses, under the black wig, and into boots that do not fit him well.

Arnold Friend seems to have supernatural powers, powers such as seeing events that are in present and the ability to make his victims give in, as well as exposing connections to a biblical refences, which can lead to Arnold Friend being the devil.

A general belief based on the short story “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been” is the Arnold Friend symbolizes the devil The story starts by describing Arnold Friends hair by saying “he had shaggy, shabby black hair that looked crazy as a wig” (Oates 117). By wearing the wig some readers can conclude that he is trying to hide something under the wig, which could possibly be his devil-like horns.

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In addition, Oates also describes how careful he was when putting the sunglasses on top of his head as if he is not trying to reveal something. In the story Arnold also had trouble keeping his balance as Oates wrote, “He was standing in a strange way, leaning back against the car as if he were balancing himself” (119). Which he could be him having trouble balancing because they are not his real feet but are hooves. It seems as every physical trait about Arnold Friend is fake.

An observation, particularly his name, if the letters R’s are dropped in both the last and first name, his name reads “An Old Fiend”, which can prove that adding the R’s gives a false identity. Secondly, Arnold seems to know the whereabout of Connie’s family from knowing what they are wearing, what they are doing, and where they went something that is very strange and seems supernatural (Werlock). As it is impossible for a human to stare into distance and know what a person is doing at the exact time.

For example, Connie tells Arnold her father will be home soon and Arnold answers, “He ain’t coming. He’s at a barbeque… Right now they’re — uh – they’re drinking” (Oates 121). Arnold has a psychic awareness of what others are doing whenever he is not physically present which gives a reason onto why he is the devil. Another example would be when he says, “I know who you were with last night, and your best girlfriend’s name is Betty right” (Oates 119). Some readers will argue that Arnold is a stalker, but a stalker cannot tell another person where someone is or what they are doing that exact moment in a different location unless Arnold is a supernatural being.

Lastly, Arnold threatens Connie’s family and friends and manages to have an extreme amount of power over Connie as she realizes that he is evil. As it is a human instinct to protect themselves from danger Connie seems to fall into a mind tramp that makes her do otherwise. Some readers can argue that Connie left with Arnold to protect her family, but Oates never mentioned that Connie left with Arnold Friend to maintain her family’s safety. Another example is when Arnold first sees her, he draws a X in the air.

Some scholars may suggest that Arnold is using black magic whenever he drew the “X” on his victim (Connie) which may mean she is possessed by Arnold and cannot escape the devil (Cusatis 3). Oates writes, “She [Connie] felt her pounding heart. Her hand seemed to enclose it. She thought for the first time in her life that it was nothing that was hers, that belonged to her, but just a pounding, living thing inside this body that wasn’t really hers either” (125). This proves that there is something or someone taker her body that then makes her go outside.

During the time he was at Connie’s house he never stepped into the house. Arnold only made threats from the outside because he was not allowed to go into the home unless he was invited in; the devil cannot go in unless invited. Arnold Friend has many mystery features and characteristics about him that can lead the reader into believing that he in fact is covering demonic features with a fake human resemblance.

If Arnold Friend is not supposed to be the devil, perhaps he is actually a dream. Arnold Friend is actually Connie’s dream or a figment of her imagination. An essay about Joyce Carol Oates offers that, “The dream is said to be some kind of manifestation of desire, so the short story must also represent a desire, perhaps only partly expressed, but the most interesting thing about it is its mystery.” (Snodgrass). Which describes the short story because it is a complete mystery on who Arnold really is.

Arnold Friend could be a dream that Connie made up because it represent her sexual desire. As Connie faces problems in her family it is quite possible that she wants to be ravaged and is wanting to have sex with one of the older boys she desperately wants the attention of. Which leaves for Arnold Friend being Connie’s unconscious sexual desire. Dreams allow people to visualize how their unconscious mind would act as themselves. Whenever some people dream their subconscious may release symbols that could pertain in their everyday lives that they may want to experience or have already experienced.

Arnold Friend could either be the devil or a dream. There are many ways one could interpret this short story by Joyce Carol Oates. It is up to the reader to decide if Arnold Friend is actually the devil or just another one of Connie’s dream, or one may never know what he actually Arnold Friend is definitely hiding something and obvious that Arnold Friend symbolizers something dark, as the devil and has changed the minds of readers.

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A Character Analysis of Arnold Friend within the Work of Joyce Carol Oates. (2023, May 05). Retrieved from https://paperap.com/a-character-analysis-of-arnold-friend-within-the-work-of-joyce-carol-oates/

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