illustration of a young girl, Connie, reflected in the sunglasses of a man, Arnold Friend

Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?

by Joyce Carol Oates

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How does Arnold Friend manipulate Connie in "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?"

Quick answer:

Arnold Friendly manipulates Connie by threatening to hurt her family and by using his authority as an older male to make her believe complying with him is inevitable.

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Manipulation involves using someone as a tool to get what you want from them. It shows little or no concern for what is in the best interest of that person.

Arnold Friend manipulates Connie through threatening her family and implying that he has already murdered a woman down the road. When she goes into the house to call the police, he warns her not to pick up the phone and says,

if you don't come out we're gonna wait till your people come home and then they're all going to get it.

But more than the threats, he manipulates Connie with his quiet, threatening, off-base insistence that she is fated to come with him. He presents it as a done deal from the start. He is thirty, and he projects a male authority and finality that he knows would be difficult for a teenage girl to resist. For instance, he says to her,

This is your day set aside for a ride with me and you know it.

He also tells her "I took a special interest in you."

By the end of the story, Arnold is increasing the pressure by putting together the inevitability of her complying with him and the safety of her family, saying:

It's all over for you here, so come on out. You don't want your people in any trouble, do you?

Like his real life model, the murderer Charles Schmid, Arnold Friend has a charismatic if very disturbed and frightening personality that exerts a hold over a girl like Connie, manipulating her to act against her own best interests.

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What does Arnold Friend do to Connie?

In the story, Arnold threatens Connie into going away with him despite her intense resistance. Early in the story, he tells her, "Gonna get you, baby." Initially, Connie thinks nothing of it. She assumes Arnold is another harmless admirer. However, Arnold turns out to be a major danger, one that might potentially end her life.

Arnold is privy to information he should not be, such as where Connie's family is the day she's home alone and even what her older sister is wearing at the picnic. He demands Connie get into his golden car. When Connie threatens to call the police on him, Arnold claims he will stop her physically if she even tries and that he will hurt her family if she continues to resist his demands. Ultimately, Arnold is able to coax Connie to him with his threats, using her love for her family as a way of forcing her hand.

As to what Arnold does to Connie after he lures her to his car, the story is not explicit. Rape and murder seem inevitable from Arnold's sexually threatening comments and Connie's sudden premonition that she will never return home or see her family ever again. However, Oates leaves Connie's ultimate fate uncertain.

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