Charles Baudelaire once said that, “The devil’s best trick is to persuade you that he doesn’t exist. ” The presence of the devil can never surely be known, but the deception and manipulation that is produced by the presence is always occurring and is sure to be realized by all that encounter it. The prey that the devil seeks are usually searching, vulnerable, and easily fooled by the disguises of the devil. Joyce Carol Oates’ ambiguity and allusions provide a religious undertone revealing the devil’s manipulation of the misguided and weak.
Oates characterizes Connie to represent the seeking and vulnerable. The actions and thoughts of Connie illustrate a young girl searching for affection and self-affirmation. “She was fifteen and she had a quick, nervous giggling habit of craning her neck to glance into mirrors or checking other people’s faces to make sure her own was alright”(paragraph 1). Appearance was crucial to the attention she would receive, and the height of her self-esteem.
As her character develops it becomes more evident that she is in search for warmth and the feeling of being loved. As she lays in the sun she becomes “dazed with the warmth about her as if this were a kind of love, the caresses of love and her mind slipped over onto thoughts of the boy she had been with the night before… ” (paragraph 9). Connie is infatuated with the thought of someone loving her. Her infatuation allows her to blindly saunter into danger, and to be put into a vulnerable state of mind.
A state of mind that could easily be manipulated. As Connie’s character is developed, and the reader becomes aware of her vulnerability and insecurities Oates introduces a character that could instigate Connie’s ultimate downfall. The initially idolized Arnold Friend is used to create a symbolic misjudgment. Arnold Friend’s remark from the night before, “Gonna get you baby”, (paragraph 7) foreshadows his return and a plot to pursue his promise. When Arnold Friend arrives the following morning, Connie is surprised, but interested.
The conversation between them primarily begins off innocent and curious, “Wanta come for a ride? “, (paragraph 13). As time progresses, the relationship between them alters, and the true intentions of Arnold Friend begin to become apparent. His forceful nature begins to penetrate as he tries to persuade Connie, “Yes, I’m your lover, you don’t know what that is but you will. “. (paragraph 29). His intentions are now sexual and dangerous. His transformation is binary and occurs right before Connie. It is the representation of the deceptions that occur upon the weak and searching.
The unaware blindly fall into an initially attractive opportunity, but are then awakened to the realization that they failed to recognize that they were being manipulated. The obliviousness of Connie and the deceptions of Arnold Friend represent the devil deceiving the searching. Throughout the story, certain elements lead to the main theme of the devil manipulating the weak. The ambiguity and allusions allow us to interpret this conflict in a religious context. As Arnold Friend’s transformation of intention takes place, a transformation of appearance also takes place.
At first he appears to be around Connie’s age but as she gets closer, Connie realizes “that he wasn’t a kid, he was much older- thirty, maybe more. At this knowledge her heart began to pound faster” (paragraph 27). After this was recognized she also began to notice that “his feet did not go all the way down; the boots must have been stuffed with something so that he would seem taller”. (paragraph 40) This hints that his feet are perpendicular to the ground, a popular symbol for the devil. Along with that she noticed “…
he were indeed wearing a wig.. ” (paragraph 32). “His whole face was a mask, she thought wildly, tanned down to his throat but then running out as if he had plastered make-up on his face but had forgotten about his throat. ” (paragraph 37). He was disguised to be someone else, someone Connie could eventually fall for, but as time progressed he was seen as what he truly was, after it was too late. To prove Oates’ purpose had a religious undertone, she uses Arnold Friend to establish the ultimate allusion.
Towards the beginning as Arnold Friend was showing Connie his car and the stickers that were displayed on the outside, “he read off the numbers 33, 19, 17…. Now, these numbers are a secret code honey” (paragraph 17). These represent a bible verse, the thirty-third book of the old testament is Judges, chapter nineteen verse 17 (19:17) reads: And when he had lifted up his eyes, he saw a wayfaring man in the street of the city: and the old man said, “Whither goest thou? And whence comest thou? “. Thus, the title of the story, “Where are you going, Where have you been?
“. Oates’ purpose was to reveal the deceptions of the devil, and to provide a representation of how the devil deceives the weak. Arnold Friend, who if you take out all the R’s in his name reads, An old Fiend is the representation of Satan, the master manipulator. Connie simply represents a misguided, vulnerable girl. This story is an overall representation of the easily deceived taken into the temptations and manipulations of the devil. Oates’ purpose was to display a scenario that often transpires in today’s society.
Everyday the credulous are deceived and consequences that are suffered can be vast. Connie walked to her doom, when she walked to Arnold Friend. Desperateness and demise are relative, and the process of manipulation can hardly be recognized. Those who fail to realize that the affect of vulnerability terminates in confusion and danger, live blindly, and are misled down a path that leads to loneliness, sin and ultimate termination.
Works Cited. http://jco. usfca. edu/works/wgoing/text. html http://quotes. liberty-tree. ca/quotes_about/propaganda.