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I think that one of the most ominous details in Oates' work is when Connie realizes that she might be in real danger. It is a moment that undercuts the childish banter and her own self indulgence: Connie felt a wave of dizziness rise in her at this sight and she stared at him as if waiting for something to change the shock of the moment, make it all right again. It is at this moment that Connie realizes that she is in trouble. Arnold is not a teenager, but rather an older man. Connie recognizes that she is in trouble, and Oates' style of writing brings out the seedy underbelly of all of the chatting, the car, the XYZ radio station, and everything that might have been seen as infantile. All of it at this moment acquires a sad nostalgia because this moment marks the instant when Connie understands that she can no longer go back. Another similar moment, but even more ominous is when Oates describes Friend's smile as one that was "from inside a mask." The simple word of "mask" compels the reader to grasp that Connie is in real trouble and the feeling of helplessness begins to descend upon both Connie and the reader in understanding that the supposed independent streak that Connie displayed is futile, for she is trapped at that moment.
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