Do the descriptions of Arnold Friend --his face his clothing ,his dialogue-have symbolic meaning? Is his name symbolic?Joyce Carol Oates Arnold Friend

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Arnold Friend is rolls up to Connie's house in a car reminiscent of Bob Dylan's song "Mr. Tambourine Man," in which Dylan asks, "Let me take you for a ride in my "magic whirling machine."  There are paintings of all sorts of incidents written upon it.  When Connie says that she does not wish to see his car, Arnold asks "Why not?"  But when she laughs he is pleased and then laughs at what she has said as though it were funny, when it has not been so.  As he stands against his strange car, Arnold leans back "as if he were balancing himself." Again, when he walks, it is as though he is upon his toes--or as though he has hoofs shoved into the cowboy boots.  

He knows her name. And, Arnold tells Connie that he and his partner Ellie have come out there "especially for you." As he removes his glasses, his eyes are

like holes that were not in shadow but instead in light.  He eyes were like chips  of broken glass that catch the light in an amiable way.  He smiled.  it was as if the idea of going for a ride somewhere , to some place, was a new idea to him.  

In "Where Are You Going, Where Have you Been," Arnold Friend tells Connie that he knows all about her, and music lures Connie as he speaks with a lilting voice "as if he were reciting the words to a song"; he rattles off the names of all the other teens. As he talks, Connie looks at the car where she finds an expression used the year before.  When he talks, he runs through all kinds of expressions he has learned, but is

no longer sure which one of them was in style, then rushing on to new ones, making them up with his eyes closed. 

Things seem rather out of time and place with Arnold Fiend.  Connie watches him and feels that his "stiffly relaxed" position is not real; the singsong way he talks, that sleepy, dreamy smile that all the boys used"--all of this is familiar, and yet what Arnold does not "come together."  And, when he comes close,  Arnold has the face of "a forty year old baby."

These incongruities frighten Connie, who "feels a wave of dizziness" as senses that he has come from nowhere and everywhere, and the music was so familiar that things become only "half real."  Arnold's name is suggestive of the Devil as removing the r's from his name makes it spell An Old Fiend. Like a fiend, Arnold knows everything about Connie, and she is frightened as she perceives her "trashy daydreams" materialize in the form of Arnold Friend,"  who talks of raping her.  But, with the "echo of a song," and his psychological manipulation through terror, Arnold Friend gets Conne to go in his car. 



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