The Devils Favorite Sin: Vanity
In Where are You Going, Where Have you Been? Joyce Carol Oates uses an allegorical figure of evil to illustrate the theme of temptation. Oates alludes to hell through the character Arnold Friend, as the devil, and his victim Connie, who invites him in by committing one of the devils favorites sins: vanity.
The narrator implies that Arnold Friend is Satan by giving certain clues that the reader can easily deduce. The name that Oates gives to the character is one hint to the reader: Connie looked away from Friend’s smile to the car, which was painted so bright it almost hurt her eyes to look at it. She looked at the name, Arnold Friend. She looked at it for a while as if the words meant something to her that she did not yet know (583). The name friend was commonly used by the Protestants to refer to evil or the devil. Moreover, Arnold Friend’s appearance also hints that he is Satan: There were two boys in the car and now she recognizes the driver: he had shaggy, shabby black hair that looked as a crazy wig(583). The narrator emphasizes the wig to make the reader think that he is wearing it for a purpose, which is hide his devils horns. Also, the fact that Arnold Friend’s eyes are covered is another stragedy use by Oates to confirm the assumption of the diabolic presence: He took off the sunglasses and she saw how pale the skin around his eyes was it, like holes that were not in shadow but instead in light. His eyes were chips of broken glass that catch the light in an amiable way (584). In this quote, Oates suggests that Arnold Friend is hiding something more than an evil look; he is hiding his own satanic appearance.
Besides Arnold Friend physical appearance, which makes the reader assume that his character is not a human being, Oates gives him supernatural powers that a normal person could not have. One example of this is the power that he has over Connie; he knows everything that involves her: ‘Just for a ride, Connie sweetheart.’ Arnold Friend says. ‘I never said that my name was Connie, she said.’ And he replies: ‘But I know what it is. I know your name and all about you, a lots of things, Arnold Friend said’ (584-585). The security of Arnold Friend words gives to reader the impression that he has been watching her closely and all the time without her knowing it or noticing it. This confirms the readers hypothesis that Friend’s is Satan. Moreover, when Connie tries to hide from him in her house, Arnold manipulates her into leaving the house simply by telling her what to do, like a puppeteer and his puppet: You wont want your family to get hurt. Now get up all by yourself. Now turn this way. Thats right. Come over here to me. Now come out through the kitchen to me honey and lets see a smile, try it, you are brave sweet little girl(591). Oates makes the reader infer that Satans only way to make her comes out is by using his demon powers, because the devil cannot get into your house unless you have invited him in. Therefore, he uses his power to hypnotize Connie’s and to make her do what he wants to, which is take her to the inferno with him.
The last hint that Oates gives to the reader is the behavior of Connie and her family. Connie tempts the devil by committing the sin of vanity. The narrator shows how Connie’s vain is one of the main factors that influences the devils appearance: She was fifteen and she had a quick nervous giggling habit of craning her neck to glance into mirrors, or checking other peoples faces to make sure her own was all right (579). This quote makes the reader visualize a girl that thinks only of her appearance. Oats begins this story with this quote to emphasize the main cause of the fatal end of Connies life. Also, the family’s lack of religious: One Sunday Connie got up at