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The Devil In Joyce Carol Oates' Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?

1612 words - 6 pages

The Devil in Joyce Carol Oates' "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?"

Her name is Connie, and she is not unlike many girls of the time she lives in. She is vain, she is constantly at war with her family, and she is in an incredible rush to grow up. Her race to maturity is the trait focused on in Joyce Carol Oates' "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been." It splits Connie into two different personalities: 'One for home, and one for anywhere that was not home' (431). Everything about her?her walk, her smile, and her laugh?metamorphoses as soon as she steps out the front door. The child is hidden, the seductive young woman emerges, and the world of the ?big kids? is more than willing to take her in. This world is what she thinks she wants, until the day a shiny golden convertible pulls into her driveway and the the mysterious Arnold Friend emerges.

Through Arnold Friend, Connie learns that her rush to grow up is foolish and that she is trying to jump into a world that she knows nothing about and that could be potentially dangerous. She ultimately releases her dream and clings to her family as never before, realizing that their firm grasp on her is not for their benefit, but her own. Joyce Carol Oates?s vivid description of Arnold Friend carries the most emotional freight, as the evil behind his apparent glamor brings about Connie?s change. Though he takes the outer appearance of a normal boy, everything about his behavior suggests that he is the Devil himself in disguise.

The most obvious aspects of Arnold Friend that suggest that he is the Devil in disguise are his physical features. For example, several references are made to the abnormality of his feet. As he walks about, he stumbles awkwardly as his feet buckle beneath him, constantly forcing him to cling to anything within his grasp for support (438). Connie notes from time to time that his feet seem to be deformed in some way. One of his feet seems to be bent inward, and his boots are apparently stuffed with something to fill the extra space. Several artistic works have depicted the Devil as a middle-aged, sharp-featured man who walks on the haunches of a goat. Oates?s periodic referral to Arnold Friend?s foot abnormality suggests a parallel between his portrait and that of Satan.

Oates also highlights the aura of evil around Arnold Friend?s appearance by stressing how deathly pale his skin is and how his eyes look like ?holes that are not in shadow but instead in light? (435). The sunglasses that conceal Arnold Friend?s eyes also drive Connie to a degree of queasiness, mainly because all she can see in them is a distorted reflection of herself. He could be looking at anything: her deep brown eyes, her quivering body, or perhaps her very soul.

The devices that Arnold Friend uses to tempt Connie also suggest that he is the Devil. As the Devil beguiled Eve with a shiny and mysterious apple in Milton?s Paradise Lost, so...

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