The first time Connie notices Arnold Friend is when she is out with friends. In reality, she notices his car before him. The car is a significant symbol in the work, and helps to display the character of Friend more clearly. At first glance, Connie describes the car as a “convertible jalopy painted gold” (Oates 723). The car is being described as old, junky, and not expensive; however, Friend has had the car painted gold, a color synonymous with wealth and luxury.
If the car is a reflection of its owner, Friend could be described as a man who does not come from a wealthy background but strives to appear as though he does in order to gain attention or advance himself. The gold color and convertible top are also used to attract attention to the car and to Friend. The convertible is a symbol of freedom, and being carefree and young. Friend uses this feature of the car to portray youth, especially to attract young girls like Connie.
When Friend comes to Connie’s house, he uses the car to try to distract and appease Connie. He hopes that owning a car will make him seem stable, and with that safe, so she will go with him. Friend also has symbols written all over his car. The first is his name, which is used to portray safety and honesty, as no logical person would be thought to commit crimes in a car with his name plastered on the side to grab the attention of the authorities.
The next, and most profound, symbol on the car is a code of three numbers (Oates 725). The numbers could be used to tally the number of crimes committed by Friend, or could describe the ages of his past victims; the last two numbers go down by two and a subtraction of two more would result in Connie’s age of fifteen. In these ways, the symbol of the car in Joyce Carol Oates”, “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” is significant to the plot and secondary character, Arnold Friend.