Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? Short story by Joyce Carol Oates

In the story Arnold Friend is considered as one of the central personages. His flamboyant nature and appearance brings to live his allegoric image as an evil individual. The powers he possesses can be related with most common forms of evil as defined via the Christian religion. The author of the story, J.C. Oates brings out his ideas through the personality of Arnold Friend. Through this the character of evil is achieved, for instance the author creates a symbolic story whereby Arnold seduces and blackmails a naïve teenage lady who was eager to experience love. This story is a symbolic evaluation of the story of Adam and Eve in the bible who ended up being banished from the Garden of Eden and cursed by God because they were duped by the devil into disobedience. In the story Connie fell for a similar seduction trick from the evil one Arnold Friend (Oates et al., 4).This essay will hereby compare this biblical allusions and how they contribute to the development of Arnold’s character as evil and how music contributed to the overall story.

Most of the major themes in the story revolve around evil and the choice between right and wrong. According to the Bible, Christians are given the freedom to do right or wrong, it also mentions the consequences of the two choices. The Bible also describes a force that drives evil as the devil or Satan. The story was written around 1966, a time that was marked by a shift of ideologies, thoughts, liberal ideas, and culture especially in the American society. Because of this, Arnold and Connie lived in a society where freedom, love, and sexuality had a great influence on the decisions made by young people. Connie’s characteristics depicted a shift from the common conservative values seen in the 1950s. She was a having a difficult time understanding her sister, mother and eventually Arnold. This change in the society can be the cause of Connie’s character. The society around her was affecting her choice between right and wrong. Arnold at the other hand depicts an evil demeanor that seems to be deeply rooted, the story portrays evil in everything he did. The author compares him to a snake when he states that when he met Connie, he did not come out of the car normal people do instead he slid out like a snake. In the bible, the snake was a creature that was associated with evil. Moreover, the author describes his appearance as shaggy with eyes that looked like holes that were in the shadow, a depiction that develops an imagery of an evil person. He also mentions how he seemed to know too much about Connie, something that had seemed peculiar. Arnold preyed on Connie’s naivety through seduction, Connie’s weak character eventually led her to voluntarily accept him. The author states that Arnold’s seduction was similar to the ‘devils will’ whereby Connie stood no chance. Besides the seduction, Arnold completed his character as evil when he threatened to hurt Connie’s friends and family if she would not relent with his demands. Connie had no choice but to surrender to Arnold’s obstinate hegemony.

The story uses various popular music, through this the story is able to retain a taste of realism and also an aspect of religion among the youth. The music is also seen to aid in the story presentation for instance, the recurring music seems to help Arnold to seduce Connie. Similarly, instead of the apple as in the bible, the music assumed a similar role in the story. Connie is a great lover of music, instead of going to church in Sunday she stays home and listens to Bobby King’s music. She shares the same taste of music with Arnold, this also played a role in the relationship between the two (Oates et al., 4-26).


This story sees a struggle between right and wrong, evil and good. Connie is a naïve and innocent girl who is considered a good person but falls victim to Arnold who is a direct contrast of her. She had not adopted any values and was still learning from the society when Arnold spotted and exploited her. At the other hand, the bible allusions are used to differentiate the good and evil and how the two are observed through the various characters.

Work Cited

Oates, Joyce Carol, and Tobias Wolff. Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? Difusión, Centro de Investigación y Pubicaciones de Idiomas, 2013.

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