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

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

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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...

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...s images of Arnold Friend, suggesting that he is the Devil in disguise, make the story both moving and successful. Connie?s fright at the face of the Devil is shared by Oates?s audience, making it easier for them to understand both the emotional impact of her struggle and the gravity of the lesson being taught by the story: things are not always as they seem. Connie?s fright at the discovery of Arnold?s true nature is comparable to Eve?s fright at the awareness of good and evil. Connie jumped into a world that was as appealing to her as the serpent?s shiny red apple was to Eve, only to discover that everything beyond the savory exterior was fraught with venomous poison.


Oates, Joyce Carol, ?Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?? reprinted in X.J. Kennedy?s Literature: An introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama, 5th ed (Harper Collins, 1991).

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