Connie, a stereotypical fifteen year old girl, views her life and her family with dissatisfaction. Jealous around her twenty-four year old sister, June, despite June’s outward plainness, and tense around her irksome mother, Connie escapes to the mall with her friends. She and her clique of friends feel like they own the place, and the rest of the world: “Everything about her had two sides to it, one for home and one for anywhere that was not home…” (1-2). The sense of freedom intoxicates them.
Sometimes, they sneak across the street to a drive-in restaurant. Crossing from one world to the next, they leave the well known layout of the mall and adopt the turf of the older kids.
They went up through the maze of parked and cruising cars to the bright-lit, fly- infested restaurant, their faces pleased and expectant as if they were entering a sacred building that loomed up out of the night to give them what haven and blessing they yearned for (2).
Here, they rid themselves of average, familial and school-age problems and bask in the glory of teenagerdom, drinking from their Holy Grail of liberty. Here, listening to “the music that made everything so good” (2), they finally taste the maturity they yearn for.
However, growing up often comes too quickly. A boy, Eddie, soon arr...
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...ate. As the last lines of the story suggest, despite her terror through the piece, she is finally forced to accept her future: “…the vast sunlit reaches of the land behind him and on all sides of him - so much land that Connie had never seen before and did not recognize except to know that she was going to it” (9). After spending so much time acting more grown up than she actually was, she now must face the truth of growing up, despite her trepidation, like all children.
With complex themes and multifaceted symbols, Oates presents a girl so eager to grow up, but not yet ready to face what that truly entails. Arnold Friend represents the bare actuality many children ignore when looking at the far unlit unknown of adulthood and growing up. In essence, this story acts as a way to warn “be careful what you wish for” and “life’s not all it’s cracked up to be”.
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