How does Connie become an obsessive preoccupation with the stranger?  

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Oates does a really strong and commendable job of being able to bring out the idea of how individuals are not really in control of their image with all of society. There are some elements that will misread and misunderstand, despite our beliefs that everything has been "controlled" and designed in a particular manner.  It is here where Connie is located.  She believes that she is in control of her own identity and her own image.  When she goes out that night to the restaurant, she sees herself as being in control of everything around her and those who look at her.  While she is bored with Eddy, she starts to notice Arnold.  Her continual looks of flirting and interest are what awakens Arnold and his predatory instinct towards her.  In the saddest of ways, Connie got what she wanted.  Her entire motivation to carry herself in a particular manner, the obsession about her looks as well as the strict definition of herself against her family, ended up causing her to be "noticed."  The sadness here is that she is noticed by the wrong people, by someone like Arnold Friend who takes to stalking and eventually abducting her.  It is here were Oates makes clear the idea that we are not entirely in control of the image that we send across to others.  Connie becomes a target of Arnold, whose obsessive preoccupation becomes the end result of her desire to be "someone."

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