Arnold Friend is a Stalker
There are many nebulous aspects to Joyce Carol Oates short story, "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been," for example, the origins of Connie's troubled relationship with her mother (is it strictly a jealousy thing?), the peculiarity of Arnold Friend's last name (what kind of friend is he?), the relevance of those secret numbers that Arnold Friend rattles off ("33, 19, 17") or even why the story is dedicated to Bob Dylan (is 'Bobby King' a reference to Dylan?), but one aspect of the story that is certainly clear is that Arnold Friend is a stalker, a predatory malcontent. And it is the purpose of this essay to conclusively demonstrate that Arnold Friend is a prototypical stalker by using three rubrics -- a psychological rubric, a literary comparative rubric, and a public opinion rubric - for evaluating his predatory behaviors.
Perhaps, it's best to start with the most convincing evidence that Friend is a stalker and that would be using a psychological rubric to evaluate his behaviors. According to a study, "Study of Stalkers," published in The American Journal of Psychiatry, stalking "refers to a constellation of behaviors involving repeated and persistent attempts to impose on another person unwanted communication and/or contact. Communication can be by means of telephone calls, letters, e-mail, and graffiti, with contact by means of approaching the victim and following and maintaining surveillance" (Mullen, et al.).
In looking at Friend's constellation of behaviors, beginning with his first attempt at contacting Connie at the restaurant, "He wagged a finger and laughed and said, "Gonna get you baby," to his abduction of her at her home, "This is how it is, honey: you come out and we'll drive away, have a nice ride. But if you don't come out we're gonna wait till your people come home and then they're all going to get it" (Oates) it's clear that Friend is, per the definition, a stalker (someone who persistently harasses another with unwanted communication/contact).
As instructive and as clear-cut as that analysis is it becomes even more evident the Friend is a stalker when one examines the different types of stalkers described in the aforementioned study. The researchers found that there were five types of stalker personalities: rejected, intimacy seeking, incompetent, resentful, and predatory (Mullen, et al.). Of those five types of stalker personalities, it was the last one mentioned that most aptly described Friend. The researchers noted that the predatory stalkers they interviewed "were preparing a sexual attack. These men took pleasure in the sense of power produced by stalking, and there were elements of getting to know their victim and rehearsing, in fantasy, their intended attack (Mullen, et al.).
In looking at Friend's dialogue with Connie, it becomes apparent that he is certainly preparing for a sexual attack, "Yes, I'm your lover. You don't know what that is but you will… And I'll come inside you where it's all secret and you'll give in to me and you'll love me," (Oates) Friend tells Connie.
Moreover, he has definitely taken the time to study up on his target, to get to know who she is, who her family is, who her friends are, etc. "But I know what it is. I know your name and all about you, lots of things,' Arnold Friend said. He had not moved yet but stood still leaning back against the side of his jalopy. 'I took a special interest in you, such a pretty girl, and found out all about you -- like I know your parents and sister are gone somewheres and I know where and how long they're going to be gone, and I know who you were with last night, and your best girl friend's name is Betty. Right?" (Oates).
And lastly, Friend seems to be taking joy in Connie's distress, "Now, put your hand on your heart, honey. Feel that? That feels solid too but we know better. Be nice to me, be sweet like you can because what else is there for a girl like you but to be sweet...
Friend knows the power he has over her, and he is relishing it.
In those passages Friend exhibits behaviors that are characteristic of a predatory stalker: he researched his target, he elucidated an explicit sexual fantasy ("Yes, I'm your lover,"), he seems to takes pleasure in her fear and the power he has over her and he directly contacted her for the purposes of a sexual encounter (standing at her front door demanding she "go for a ride"). By using a psychological rubric or framework for evaluating Friend, it's clear that Friend fits not only the profile of a stalker, but as a predatory stalker.
If the psychological rubric is not enough to convince one of Friend's stalker-status, then one can also turn to a different rubric, a literary comparative rubric. That is to say, in the literary canon there is no shortage of creepy malcontents and stalker personalities that would help one to classify and characterize Friend's behavior.
One of the most notorious stalkers in the literary canon that bears resemblance to Friend is Nabokov's Humbert. Humbert is a stage-five predatory stalker ('stage-five' being of the utmost degree). Like Friend, Humbert has a particular affinity for a young girl, Lolita. And also like Friend, Humbert is stalking his "nymphet" in the hopes that it will lead to an explicit sexual affair, "My knuckles lay against the child's blue jeans. She was barefooted; her toenails showed remnants of cherry-red polish and there was a bit of adhesive tape across her big toe; and, God, what would I not have given to kiss then and there those delicate-boned, long-toed monkeyish feet!" (Nabokov 51).
Although they both share a desire to have relations with their subjects, the similarities between Humbert and Friend could best be understood by examining the way in which they describe their immediate adulation with the young girls, which proves to be the driving force behind their predatory behaviors. Humbert makes the following admission regarding Lolita, "It was love at first sight, at last sight, at ever and ever sight" (Nabokov 221). Friend makes a similar admission in conversing with Connie, he says, "Seen you that night and thought, that's the one, yes sir. I never needed to look anymore" (Oates).
Therefore it stands to reason that the impetus behind both Friend's and Humbert's obsession with their respective nymphets is a "love at first sight" phenomenon. It's clear to the reader, or at least to the majority of readers, that these characters have mental issues, as it's abnormal for grown men to fall madly in love with pubescent girls. And by extension of this conceit (that these men are abnormal), the reader can understand their predisposition for stalking. Nevertheless, if the reader accepts that Humbert is indeed a stalker, by virtue of the similarities between Humbert and Friend (their sexual expectations, their capacity to be besotted with nymphets) one can conclude that Friend is also a stalker.
The last rubric for proving the Friend is a stalker is the most tenuous of the ones discussed thus far; it's the public opinion rubric. Essentially, this rubric subscribes to the "perception is reality" theory. In short, if there is a consensus among readers or literary critics that Friend is a stalker or a seductive demon, etc. then one can conclude Friend is a stalker (obviously there are certain limitations to this rubric, as public opinion can be fickle and contradict fact, but for the sake of both simplicity and brevity these limitations will not be discussed).
In their essay, "Connie's Tambourine Man: A New Reading of Arnold Friend," Mike Tierce and John Michael Crafton discus the "univocal reading" of Arnold Friend, they write, "No critic has yet questioned Joyce Weg's assertion that 'Arnold is clearly a symbolic Satan. Marie Urbanski argues that Arnold's 'feet resemble the devil's clove hoofs,' Joan Winslow calls the story 'an encounter with the devil,' Tom Quirk maintains the story describes a 'demonic character,' and Christina Marsden Gillis refers to 'the satanic visitor's incantation'" (Tierce & Crafton). Looking at the critics' reactions to the story, one could assume that the choice word to describe Friend is "devilish." The consensus is that Friend is synonymous with the devil. And what is the devil but a predator stalker? As it says in the bible, "Satan is a lion, roaring, looking for and stalking whom he may devour" (1 Peter 5:8). Satan is an evildoer, a seducer of women (Eve), and a stalker - just like Arnold Friend.
The truth is that one doesn't need three different rubrics to determine whether Arnold Friend is a stalker, it's pretty evident just by reading the story (assuming one has at least a cursory understanding of what a stalker…
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