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Biblical Allusion in Joyce Carol Oates' Story "Where are You Going? Where Have You Been?"

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Joyce Carol Oates' short story "Where are you going? Where have you been?" 'runneth over' with Biblical allusion and symbolism. The symbols of Arnold Friend, his disguise, and the music that runs through the story contribute to an overall feeling of devilishness, deception, and unease.
The depiction of Arnold Friend runs parallel to the common conception of the Devil. Many aspects of his outward appearance, as well as his behavior, contribute to this by portraying him in a sinister manner. His nose is "long and hawklike" and he has a "slippery smile." His "greasy" boots don't fit him right, "as if his feet [don't] go all the way down." The stereotypical Beelzebub is often seen with hooves. When he draws 'his sign' – the sinister letter X – in the air, it "stays there, almost still visible," as if he supernaturally burnt it into the air. The numbers appearing on Arnold's car, 33, 19, and 17, exclude the number 18. The 18th letter of the alphabet is "r", and removing that letter from his name presents "an old fiend". Arnold knows about Connie's family, where they are at that moment, and what radio station she is listening to. This can be explained logically by the fact that that he is a stalker. As an allusion, the Devil is omniscient. Arnold also promises not to enter Connie's house unless she picks up the phone. This exemplifies the classic adage, "The Devil won't come into your home until you invite him in." Finally, the fact that Arnold is preying on someone nearly twenty years his junior (physically inferior and easily overpowered) and the methods he uses to finally convince her to come with him (threatening her family and her home) portray him as a genuinely despicable character, worthy of the epithet "Devil," if not its lit...


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...eft the house. The room is filled with "hard, fast, shrieking songs she [sings] along with" and her heart begins beating quickly. Arnold suddenly pulls in to the driveway, his radio tuned to the same radio station. The music behind Arnold is "perpetual" and symbolizes the danger that Connie has brought upon herself. The reader is put off by Connie's wanton and careless romp at the beginning of the story and, subconsciously, the reintroduction of fast music makes him uneasy again.
Oates uses a great number of symbols in her short story "Where are you going? Where have you been? to create an aura of unease and Devilishness. Her principal symbols are Arnold Friend, his disguise, and the music Connie listens to. Oates' use of symbolism and Biblical allusions to Satan force the reader to raise an eyebrow to the character of Arnold Friend and the doomed future of Connie.


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