How do popular songs form a symbolic backdrop?
There are several ways in which popular music/figures from popular music work to create atmosphere, meaning, and theme within Oates' story. First, the story is dedicated to Bob Dylan, and there are several references to his songs contained within the piece. Second, the story is set in a time when popular music was dangerous, rebellious, and exciting -- a time when things were, as Dylan sang, a-changing. Music became representative of rebellious youth and the experience of being young (specifically, a teenager on the brink of freedom). Rock-and-roll is a siren song, surrounding Connie, charming her, but also working as a sort of siren song. She is caught up in the world of rock-and-roll, and it is one of the primary reasons that she does not recognize Arnold Friend for what he truly is -- not a young Elvis or rock-and-roll messiah, but someone evil who uses rock-and-roll as a cover for his dark intentions.
The false sense of security of summer, of a small town, of being young and in love with rock and roll -- all of these things work to make Connie vulnerable. The story's themes of appearance v. reality and innocence v. experience are explored in this way.