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Joyce Carol Oate's 'Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?'

Good Essays
Religion and temptation of a forbidden object is a major theme in Joyce Carol Oate’s “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?”. The story features Connie, a pretty 15-year-old girl who is given the opportunity to go on a date with Arnold Friend, who is described as being a mysterious man of 30 years of age or older. While this first excites Connie, she becomes increasingly hesitant as to whether or not going with Friend is a good idea as she starts to notice flaws in his character. Arnold Friend takes the form of a devil-like character and displays both physical and mental characteristics of this biblical creature. Friend makes multiple references to numbers and symbols that would give up his identity, and each time he makes these references…show more content…
Connie has been described as having a flirtatious personality and a tendency to go off with boys, and is mostly concerned with her looks, as opposed to her sister June who has a job, a savings and helps around the house. This is seen as a fault of Connie, and her vanity in the story leads to her demise. When we first meet Friend, Connie has been fussing with her hair for hours brushing it to perfection and allowing it to air dry. This display of self-care is a source of pride and vanity for Connie. Martha E. Widmayer pointed out a quote from Christa Grossinger in “Death and the Maiden in Joyce Carol Oates’s “Where Are You Going? Where Have You Been?” that, “a woman’s concern for her hair might attract the attention not only of the seducer, Death, but of the devil, as in a 1493 woodcut that ‘illustrates the dangers of looking into the mirror, the potency of long, flowing hair, symbolic of pride and vanity in call up the devil’ (Grossinger 15)” (1). Connie has blond hair that’s described as eye catching. She takes extra care of it during this Sunday afternoon, and later receives a comment from Friend about her having it ready for him. Oates has an article she wrote for The New York Times called: “When Characters from the Page Are Made Flesh on the Screen. In it, described Connie as, “shallow, vain, silly, hopeful, doomed” (2).…show more content…
Artistic renderings of Satan have also shown him as a goat. William D. Moor explains one of the common depictions of the Devil in “Riding the Goat Secrecy, Masculinity and Fraternal High Jinks in the United States,” he says, “To the common mind, the Devil was represented by a he-goats [sic], and his best known marks were the horn, the bear and the cloven hoofs” (3). Friend is noted as stumbling around and losing his balance when he does walk around, and Connie even notices that something might be stuffed into Friend’s shoes that is helping making him look taller. Although Friend’s boots are never removed, Connie is able to tell that the shape of his legs are odd. In “The Stranger Within: Two Stories by Oates and Hawthorne, Joan D. Winslow writes: “The knowing reader can easily identify him as the devil, although it is uncertain whether Connie does; for example, his awkwardness in walking suggest to her that his boots are stuffed with something so that he will seem taller, but our imaginations penetrate further and recognize the cloven foot of the devil” (4). His oddly shaped legs are indicative of animalistic
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