Arnold Friend is one of the central characters in J. C. Oates’ story “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” Arnold portrays evil behavior as he interacts with the people around him, especially a character named Connie, according to the author. She establishes Arnold as an evil adversary by different means of symbolism and imagery, predominantly biblical allusions. Arnold’s evil character is built through the use of biblical allusions. Arnold’s flamboyant nature and appearance, for starters, bring to life his allegoric image of an evil man. Most common forms of evil as identified by the Christian faith can be linked to his abilities. Through this, the character of evil is achieved, for instance the author creates a symbolic story whereby Arnold seduces and blackmails a naïve teenage girl who was eager to experience love. This particular event is a symbolic comparison of the story of Adam and Eve in the bible. The two were banished from the Garden of Eden and cursed by God because they were duped by the devil into disobedience. In the bible story, the devil in a form of a snake preys on the naivety and curiosity of the two. He asked them what they think could happen if they earned wisdom. He then tells them that they could find out if they ate the forbidden apple. Similarly, in the story, Connie is naïve and curious. She wonders how it could feel breaking from the norms and giving into Arnold’s advances and the only she could find out was by giving in to his advances. By making this choice, Connie breaches the line that separates right and wrong (Oates et al., 4).
Most of the major themes in the story revolve around evil and the choice between right and wrong. This is seen mainly though the characters of Connie and Arnold: Arnold as an evil character that tries to influence his targets into evil through seduction and blackmail and Connie as a naïve individual who is Arnolds target. The story was written around 1966, a time that was marked by a shift of ideologies, thoughts, liberal ideas, and culture especially in the American society. The author develops Arnold’s and Connie’s character to depict that change. She portrays a society where freedom, love, and sexuality had a great influence on the decisions made by young people. Connie’s struggle with ideologies depicted the influence the shift from the common conservative values had on the youth in the 1950s. Connie was a having a difficult time dealing with her sister, mother and eventually Arnold given their different perspectives on life issues. The society around her was affecting her choice between right and wrong. Arnold at the other hand depicts an evil demeanor that seems to be deeply rooted as the story portrays evil in everything he did. For instance, a symbolism employed by the author describes how when Arnold met Connie, he did not come out of the car like normal people but instead he slid out like a snake. In the bible, the snake was a creature that was used as a representation of the devil or as a symbol of evil. Moreover, the author describes his appearance as shaggy with eyes that looked like holes that were in the shadow, a depiction that develops an imagery of an evil person. He also mentions how he seemed to know too much about Connie, important information that he used to manipulate and seduce her. Arnold preyed on Connie’s naivety through seduction and Connie’s weak character eventually led her to voluntarily accept him. The author states that Arnold’s seduction was similar to the ‘devils will’ whereby Connie stood no chance. Besides the seduction, Arnold completed his character as evil when he threatened to hurt Connie’s friends and family if she would not relent with his demands. Connie had no choice but to surrender to Arnold’s obstinate advances. She had been threatened but due to her naivety and curiosity, she gave in without much of a fight.
In the story, music also plays a contributing role in the development of the story. For instance, the recurring music seems to help Arnold to seduce Connie in an instance whereby they realized that they shared the same taste in music. Similarly, instead of the apple as in the bible in the story of Adam and Eve, the music assumed a similar role in the story. Connie is a great lover of music, instead of going to church in Sunday she stays home and listens to Bobby King’s music. This great interest in music attracts Connie into Arnold’s trap just as the apple was used in the bible to attract and trick Adam and Eve (Oates et al., 4-26). In this case, the music was a sign of revolt and a break from the norm. Satan in the bible had managed to trick Adam and Eve into breaking from the norms or the rules by coaxing them into eating the forbidden apple.
As mentioned above, the story depicts a struggle between right and wrong, evil and good. Connie is a naïve and innocent girl who is considered a good person but falls victim to Arnold who is a direct contrast of her. She had not adopted any values and was still learning from the society, making decisions on the right and wrong when Arnold spotted and exploited her. The bible allusions therefore seem to be used to differentiate the good and evil and how the two are observed through the characters.
Oates, Joyce Carol, and Tobias Wolff. Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? Difusión, Centro de Investigación y Pubicaciones de Idiomas, 2013.