Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been By Oates

1232 words - 5 pages

For centuries, society has placed a remarkably large emphasis on protecting the young from the many perceived errors of growing up. Effective sex education is resisted in many locations across the country in favor of somewhat comical biblical suggestions for abstinence until marriage even while the majority of those targeted teens are viewing the world as a more and more sexual place. So many views are weaving in and out of teenagers' newly formed adolescent minds that any effective argument for responsible attitudes or analysis of sexual behavior in teens should be expressed with a certain minimal degree of clarity. Unfortunately, this essential lucidity of advice is missing in the short story “Where are You Going, Where Have You Been,” in which the misguided Joyce Carol Oates creates the character of Arthur Friend as a cliché personification of the inner demon of uncontrollably budding sexuality. Instead, the murky characterization of the antagonist presents nothing more than a confused and ambiguous view of the meaning of the story.
According to popular belief, the character in question, Arthur Friend, is essentially the devil, or if not the fiend himself, a reasonable symbolic facsimile that serves to represent a similarly sinister aspect of society. There’s such a plethora of textual evidence to support this analysis that it’s often skipped over in discussions in favor of more “thought provoking” conversation. However, the demonic illustration of A. Friend is so present in the story that to skip it would be to unforgivably neglect an integral part of the story. In nearly every detail of description resides a sometimes insidious demonic allusion. The physical appearance being the most present, it describes Arthur as a man behind a mask with warped feet and an ageless face. He speaks in a kind of strange musical style, possibly alluding to the lyrical style the devil speaks in during such classical literature as Faust, Paradise Lost, or Inferno, while including various confused expressions that were from another time either in the future or past in his speech mannerisms, also indicative of a character who exists not in time and space but rather a creature that transcends those two both. His car comes from nowhere and leads to nowhere, and his companion with the boom box has a description with certain inarguable parallels to Peter Stormare’s rendition of Satan in Constantine. Even his name is a sign of demonic influence. Arnold Friend, once you take out all of the r’s (r being the 18th letter of the alphabet, coinciding with the declared age of Friend. We’ll get to ridiculously complex analysis later, though.) in the name, can be read as “An Old Fiend,” a relatively common pseudonym for the devil used in certain fiction novels.
Of course, using the devil as a symbol for evil or sex or what have you is a reasonable if boring choice. The devil has always entertained a certain unique relationship with sexual acts, violence, evil and temptation...

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