The original story that served as the inspitation for this widely read tale was an article that appeared in Time magazine based on Charles Schmid, who was a young man who, in spite of having very little going for him, was charismatic enough to lure several teenage girls to go away with him. He eventually killed them all. What struck Oates about the character of Schmid was the disparity between his physical appearance, as he was somewhat strange with his awkward way of walking, and the way that he was able to psychologically convince his victims that they would be safe with him and that they needed to go with him. The awkward gait is reflected accurately in the short story, as the following quote makes clear:
He was standing in a strange way, leaning back against the care as if he were balancing himself. He wasn't tall, only an inch or so taller than she would be if she came down to him.
Arnold Friend thus possesses the same kind of physical awkwardness that the original Schmid displayed. What is different about this story however is that Oates decided to tell it from the perspective of the victim to identity the way in which Friend was able to prey upon Connie's insecurities as a teenager and make her leave her home and go with him. What is missing in the story is the fact that in the original article, Schmid was able to convince several girls to go with him. The story, because it is focusing on Connie and her view of events, only presents Arnold Friend as preying on her. In addition, the name that Oates chose for her antagonist, Arnold Friend, is a cruel reflection of the way that he is obviously not a "friend," but he is able to convince Connie that she needs to go with him.