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Devil in Disguise

Updated: Apr 26, 2021

By India Peterkin

Critical Essay Honorable Mention, 2018 VSU Student Writing Contest

In the story “Where Are You going, Where Have You Been” by Joyce Carol Oates, Connie is harassed by a man named Arnold Friend. However, Arnold Friend has qualities that suggest that he is not who he says he is. I believe Arnold Friend is a supernatural being. He is not the typical everyday guy. He is a devil, because of his appearance, controlling demeanor, and knowledge of Connie.

To begin with, Arnold Friend’s appearance lets me know he is not who he say he is. From the time he stepped out the truck Connie knew something was not right about him. Oates writes “He was standing in a strange way, leaning back against the car as if he were balancing himself”. When I think of the devil I imagine a man with claws as his feet, and that’s why Arnold could not stay balanced. When Connie asked his age, he was hesitating to answer. Oates writes “She could see then that he wasn’t a kid, he was much older-thirty, maybe more”. Arnold could possibly be over one hundred; the devil has been alive for decades. I have heard the saying someone can be a devil in disguise. I believe Arnold is the devil disguising his self as a teenager to lure Connie to go with him.

Secondly, Arnold Friend knew everything about Connie. He had been stalking her, and studying her every move. He has an obsession over Connie; he’s in love with her. Arnold says “I took special interest in you, such a pretty girl, and found out all about you-like I know your parents and sister are gone somewheres and I know where and how long they’re going to be gone, and I know who were with last night, and your best friend name is Betty.” That is what an extremely creepy and psychopath would say. I believe the Devil has ability to know everything about us, and that’s how he is able to seek out his prey. He knew she would be home alone Sunday, and he took that as the perfect opportunity to make his move. Arnold also knew what her family was doing at barbecue. Oates writes “Right now they’re uh-they’re drinking. Sitting around,” he said vaguely, squinting as if he were staring all the way to town and over to Aunt Tillie’s back yard. The devil has a way of sneaking in at the perfect time to bring you down into sin.

Lastly, Arnold Friend had control over Connie. This gave him the advantage to get inside Connie’s head, and hypnotize her to go with him. You can see Connie’s attitude changes throughout the story. At first she seemed brave and wasn’t afraid of Arnold, but towards the middle she becomes terrified. Oates writes “she rushed forward and tried to lock the door. Her fingers were shaking.” The Devil can come to you in any form, and slowly take over your mind. The poor girl was stuck between a rock and hard place. She had to pick between saving herself, or keeping her family alive. Arnold said “It’s all over for you here, so come on out. You don’t want your people in any trouble, do you?” When dealing with the Devil you have to make sacrifices. Arnold was willing to sacrifice Connie’s family to have her to his self. At the end of the story Connie finally gives in and goes outside. Oates writes “She watched herself push the door slowly open as if she were back safe somewhere in the other doorway, watching this body and this head of long hair moving out into the sunlight where Arnold Friend waited.” I believe Connie gave her soul to Arnold, and her body was left home. When you die your spirit either goes go to heaven or hell. Arnold took over Connie’s mind and was able to take her soul.

In this story, everything about Arnold Friend screams evil his appearance, controlling demeanor, and knowledge. After reading this story several times I can conclude that Arnold is the Devil. Oates writes “His whole face was a mask, she thought wildly, tanned down to his throat but running out as if he had plastered makeup on his face but had forgotten about his throat.” Arnold Friend hid his identity in order to trick Connie, but he did a poor at it. He never gave any information about his self. If you notice he is very uneasy when Connie questions him. Connie went from being a scared girl; to making a grown up sacrifice for her family. I believe this story was a lesson to scare Connie. Everything that looks good is not good for you!

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