What is it about Connie's personality that makes her a perfect target for Arnold Friend to prey on?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that there has to be some level of caution in ensuring that Connie does not receive the blame for being victimized by Arnold.  I think that Oates is fairly complex enough to make the situations nuanced enough whereby Connie can be seen as an unfortunate pawn of circumstances.  Additionally, the fate that Connie endures as well as the transformation that she undergoes at the end is something where I don't see that Connie can be blamed in too harsh of a way.  On one hand, I think that Arnold is able to seize upon how Connie sees herself through the eyes of others.  Connie is driven to appeal to the social standard of beauty.  While she asserts individuality and freedom, as a young person of the 1960s, she is chained to the idea of how a girl is supposed to look and within this, the social standard of beauty that she aspires to is something whereby beauty must be socially acknowledged.  Arnold does just that when he first sees her and when she flirtatiously looks at him.  Arnold recognizes that Connie is also defined by popular culture.  Arnold's style of fashion, the car, and the songs that Ellie is listening to are all aspects of the pop setting that Connie is a part of, enabling Arnold to possess an "in" with his conversation.  Had Connie been like June, someone "plain" and more traditional, Arnold's tactics would not have been successful.  It is because Connie is so driven by popular culture and the standards it espouses that she seeks to be the way she is, and Arnold's luring of her takes place within this context.

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