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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Why is the name Arnold Friend ironic in the story?

Quick answer:

Arnold Friend's name is ironic because he is a sinister character and not, in any way, a friend.

Expert Answers

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Arnold Friend's name is ironic because he is a sinister character. The last thing he is is Connie's friend. He threatens her. He makes uncomfortable sexual comments. He insists Connie wants him and will be his lover, even though she is terrified of him and screams for him to leave her alone. Of course, Connie is not initially terrified of Arnold. She assumes he is merely another of her many admirers and, as a result, someone she has power over through her beauty. However, this soon changes once Arnold corners Connie when she is home alone and demands she come along with him.

If you remove the letter r from Arnold's name, you are left with "An old Fiend," which is what he is in reality. Additionally, some critics have pointed out that the name "Arnold Friend" is similar to the title "Arch Fiend," a traditional way of referring to the Devil. This adds to the idea that Arnold is not even human, but something supernatural in origin. He is much older than he appears, he walks unnaturally, and his face is caked with makeup, suggesting someone (or something) trying to appear as a human. His deceptive name also calls back to the idea that the Devil is seductive, appearing as a friendly figure to entice individuals to sin before revealing his true evil nature.

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