Explain how the antagonist is  the devil in "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" by Joyce Carol Oates.

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

 In her gothic tale, the grotesque of Joyce Carol Oates is strongly of a demon, perhaps Satan. 

  • First of all, he has a certain "presence." For, as Connie walks with Eddie, reveling in the physical "pleasure of being alive," her glance catches a face with shaggy black hair "in a convertible jalopy painted gold" and she pauses to look at him.
  • Exercising a eerie power, he predicts what will happen. After staring at her, he grins. As Connie turns back after passing him, he yet watches her, wags his finger, laughs and says, "Gonna get you baby."
  • When Arnold Friend and his jalopy appear on the long driveway to Connie's house, she runs to the window and sees the gold jalopy. For some reason, her heart pounds and, oddly, the girl who never goes to church, invokes the name of Jesus, whispering, "Christ, Christ."  (The Devil tempted Jesus in the Book of Matthew.) 
  • Boldly, Arnold declares, "Toldja I'd be out, didn't I?" referring to his words when Connie first saw him. He strangely appears again, somehow knowing where she lives.
  • He wears mirrored sunglasses, suggestive of the eyes of a fly, the symbol for Beelezeb. Further Oates writes,

His eyes were like chips of broken glass that catch the light in an amiable way. (Flies have many eyes.)

  • Arnold Friend's name spells An old Fiend if the r's are removed.
  • He tempts Connie with music that "made everything so good and...was something to depend on." Music for Connie is a substitute for religion; Friend uses music and speaks in a sing-song manner to tempt her. Friend's initial words mimic Bob Dylan's lyrics from "Mr. Tamborine Man"
  • Certain aspects of Friend suggest pretense.  For instance, he mimics the words of Bob Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man" as he first speaks to Connie. Later, falsely, his face is like a "mask," and his voice sounds like that of the radio announcer; he runs through "expressions he'd learned but was no longer sure which one of them was in style," then rushes on to others in a strange and meaningless manner. His nose is "hawlike," indicating his predatory nature.  He balances against the car as he small feet are enclosed in cowboy boots--perhaps, he has hoofs:  "One of his boots was at a strange angle, as if his foot wasn't in it."  His hair seems wig-like, his face is covered with makeup in an attempt to belie his age.  And, his car is gilded, hiding what is underneath.
  • Also connotative of the devil is the "X" that Friend makes in the air as his sign.  And, he asks Connie, "Don't you know who I am?"
carol-davis eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There is nothing normal about Arnold Friend, the antagonist, in "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" by Joyce Carol Oates.  Arnold is no friend to Connie, the 15 year old protagonist of the story.

In the dictionary, a demon's characteristics include being short, ugly, and having horns on top of the head.  Arnold Friend, the demonic character in this story, fits this description. He is described as being short, looking ageless, and having a fake appearance.

His whole face was a mask, she thought wildly, tanned down to his throat but then running out as if he had plastered makeup on his face but had forgotten about his throat.

Arnold seems to know about her family.  Where they are and who they are with--Arnold has the answers for it all. Apparently, he has been stalking her and her family.

Arnold is evil personified.  Arnold's laugh, his persistence, and ability to see what Connie is thinking--these are horrifying to this young, innocent girl. Figuratively, he knows exactly how to corner her and not allow her to get away from him.

Friend uses the word "Christ" when he almost falls.  As the devil, Friend's choosing this word "Christ" elicits  a negative connotation because he is the enemy of God and humankind.  A rule of Christian belief is to not use the Lords’ name in vain, and Friend does just that when he intentionally curses the word “Christ”.

When Connie goes back inside her house to get away,  she is unable to call the police.  Friend threatens that he will kill her family if she does not get in the car and go with him.  Oddly, he is unable to cross the threshold of her house.  If Connie had invited him inside, he would have been able to come in; but without her invitation, he is unable to enter. The devil cannot enter you or your house without being invited.

The devil wins when Connie, fearing for her family's lives, gets in the car.  She drives off with fiend to an unknown future.

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