What are the similarities between Arnold Friend in "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? " and serial killer Charles Schmid?

2 Answers

akannan's profile pic

Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Schmid becomes the basis for Arnold Friend in Oates' short story.  Some of the descriptions of Arnold Friend are extremely close to how Schmid actually was.  The cowboy boots and the lifts inside them to make it appear that Arnold is taller than he actually is bears a striking resemblance to Schmid.  Additionally, Oates talks about the caked up makeup of Arnold Friend, which is another physical similarity shared with Schmid.  The need to appear young and then to be accepted by younger people as a means of bolstering his own sense of identity is also another similarity that both men share.  The "Pied Piper" element of Schmid is something that Oates conveys through the golden jalopy and the use of younger people's slang.  I think that a final comparison would be the setting of the murder.  The ending of the Oates story is one where Connie is entering a realm unknown to her, yet one that is laid out in front of her.  She sees a world in front of her that is unrecognizable, but one that she understands will mark her own end.  To enter the mindset of the young woman about to die is where Oates' story is unbelievably powerful and one that might be applicable to Schmid's victim, Alleen Rowe, who died in the Arizona desert.

mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Much like the fictional character of Arnold Friend, Charles Howard Schmid, Jr. was a liar who attempted to influence others to like him with his calculated stories. He created a false persona that resembled Elvis Presley. Similar to Oates's fictional character, Schmid wore pancake makeup and used lip balm. He even placed an artificial mole on his cheek, and he stuffed his cowboy boots with newspaper and flattened cans to make himself seem taller. Arnold Friend is also described as short and seems to have done something to make himself appear taller:

He was standing in a strange way, leaning back against the car as if he were balancing himself. He wasn't tall.... His face was a familiar face. 

Schmid and Arnold Friend try to relate to the young girls who become victims. Arnold tries to seduce Connie; Schmid had his girlfriend bring her friend Aileen on a date with him and a friend. He then drove to a "nice spot" at a nearby desert, where the girl was raped and killed while Mary, his girlfriend, casually listened to a radio in the car.

In Oates's story, Arnold tells Connie that he is going to "come inside you where it's all secret" and later drives Connie toward "vast sunlit reaches of land." 

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