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Joyce Carol Oates's short story was published in a collection entitled, Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?: Stories of Young America, a title which indicates Oates's ongoing interest in adolescence, especially the psychological and social turmoil characteristic of this period of teen angst. Arnold Friend's manipulative stream of conversation mimics the enjambed lines of Bob Dylan's lyrics, especially those from his song "It's All Over Now Baby Blue" that Ms. Oates herself said inspired her,
The vagabond who's rapping at your door
is standing in the clothes that you wore before
In other ways, such as the tone and mood, Oates's short story also speaks to the song culture that was Dylan's, which had much influence on teens. For instance, Connie listens to the music
that made everything so good: the music was always in the background like music at a church service, it was something to depend upon.
And, it is music that lures Connie, just as many teens of Dylan's era were lured by his lyrics and music, although Ms. Oates does not perceive Dylan's as subversive or dangerous. Interestingly, however, in order to deceive Connie, Arnold Friend mimics Dylan in
the singsong way he talked, slightly mocking, kidding, but serious and a little melancholy.
In fact, at one point, Oates writes of Arnold Friend, "He had the voice of the man on the radio now." And, his efforts to seduce Connie are all imitative of singers on the radio, suggesting Oates's ideas about the powerful influence of music upon adolescents.
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