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Persuasive Format Sample 3

John K. Doe
Professor Gregory Maddux
English 1102.099
September 21, 2004

Who Is Arnold Friend?
          Joyce Carol Oates's "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" is one of the most anthologized short stories by any contemporary writer.  One reason the story may be attractive to students is that it presents a convincingly realistic portrait of the sort of shallow teenaged girl that all of us have some familiarity with: the pretty, vain, boy-crazy teen seemingly so air-headed and so influenced by images of romance from movies and pop music that, as Connie's mother says, her mind is "all filled with trashy daydreams" (1052).  The story may be attractive, too, for students and teachers alike because it supports widely different possibilities in interpretation.  On one level, "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" may be seen as a realistic depiction of a girl's seduction or entrapment by a disturbed man who will presumably rape and kill her.  On another level, the story seems to criticize teenage obsession with pop culture—pop music in particular.  As a sort of "mythic" tale, the story may also be considered an allegory describing the seductive attraction of evil, for there are hints that the villain, Arnold Friend, is not purely "human," that he may even be the devil.  The answer to the question of "Who is Arnold Friend, really?" lies at the very heart of each of the different interpretations.  Who is Arnold Friend, really?  Is he a disturbed man, a thoroughly human rapist and killer, or could he be the devil in human disguise?
          Many believe "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" is purely realistic, and thus, Arnold Friend must necessarily be a "real" person.  This view is supported by Oates's comments on the origins of the story.  In "Smooth Talk: Short Story into Film," Oates says that the initial idea for "Where Are You Going" came from a Life Magazine article about a psychopath known as The Pied Piper of Tucson, a twenty-three-year-old gymnast who "played the hero" to a group of Tucson teens, and who seduced and murdered several teenaged girls (1657).  According to Tom Quirk, this "Pied Piper," Charles Schmid, was so self-conscious about his short stature that he stuffed his boots with rags and crushed tin cans to make himself appear taller than he was.  Schmid dressed in teen styles, spoke teen lingo, and drove a gold-colored car, just as Arnold Friend does (Quirk 413-15).  As Oates says in "Smooth Talk," Schmid was reported to be so persuasive in courting the favor of his teen followers that they kept their knowledge of his hideous crimes hidden from their parents and the police (1657).  Knowing that the story was inspired by actual persons and events, it is easy to see how many readers view Arnold Friend as "merely human," a twisted psychopath who preys upon likely targets—pretty, vain, innocent children such as Connie.  Arnold Friend is an older man who "dresses young," frequents teen hangouts, drives a gold-colored car, speaks last year's "teen lingo," and seduces Connie—or more accurately, scares, threatens, and cajoles Connie into going away with him to "learn about love."  Arnold Friend, who is only slightly taller than Connie, has difficulty standing and walking in his scuffed boots—as if he may have stuffed them with rags and crushed cans just as Charles Schmid did.  Arnold Friend's uncanny knowledge about Connie's family and friends, and about her family at the picnic Connie opts not to attend—this knowledge may suggest that Friend is a stalker who has carefully researched and chosen the time for his kill.

          The case for Arnold Friend being a "merely human" stalker and psychotic rapist is strong.  But there are subtle suggestions in the story that he is not so "merely human" as it might seem at first glance.  Something about Arnold Friend makes him seem not entirely real.  His hair looking like a wig, his seeming to have makeup on his face (but not his throat)—these things might simply suggest a man in his thirties trying to appear younger than he is.  But when Oates says that "His teeth were big and white," we may be reminded of "Little Red Riding Hood," in which the big bad wolf says he has such large teeth, "the better to eat you with, my dear" (1058).  Perhaps there is a subtle hint that Arnold Friend is a mythical bogeyman of fairy-tale lore. Granted, the "perhaps" is something of a stretch.  Less of a stretch is the possible allusion to "The Three Little Pigs" when Friend says that Connie's house is "nothing but a cardboard box I can knock down any time" (1063).  He does not say "he'll huff, and he'll puff, and blow the house down," but the parallel seems all the more valid when we know that Connie sees Friend with the "idea that he had driven up the driveway all right but had come from nowhere before that and belonged nowhere and that everything about him and even the music that was so familiar to her was only half real" (1059).  We might imagine that Connie would think the situation unreal—that the man threatening to harm her family if she does not go away with him is like a bogeyman—purely from horror at the terrible reality that is slowly dawning upon her as she realizes the true danger she faces.  It may be natural for Connie to consider the evil man Arnold Friend in exaggerated terms—as the mythical, evil bogeyman in the flesh.

          There is solid evidence that Arnold Friend is not simply a psychotic human man, however, and that Connie is not simply projecting primal, mythic notions of the bogeyman or a terrifying but human creature trying to coax her into his golden jalopy.  There is solid evidence that Arnold Friend is actually the devil.  In the "Smooth Talk" article, Oates says that the story was originally cast in the mode she calls "Hawthornean realistic allegory," and she asserts that "the story was minutely detailed yet clearly an allegory of the fatal attractions of death (or the devil)" (1658).  We read in Genesis that the devil manipulates people—women in particular—through the power of his eminently persuasive "forked tongue."  In "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" there is decided emphasis on Arnold Friend's powers of persuasion.  He says, like the evil vampire of legend, that he will not cross the threshold of Connie's home unless she invites him in, and even when she picks up the telephone, an act which Friend says will negate his promise not to enter her home, he still remains outside, successfully coaxing her to hang up the phone and go with him to what promises to be a terrible future of rape and likely death.  His uncanny power of persuasion is so great that he convinces Connie that leaving with him would even be an act of heroism on her part, saving the rest of her family from harm.  

Topic sentence for author's point 2: The story suggests that Arnold Friend may be the devil, also, in the supernatural knowledge he seems to possess, particularly the knowledge of Connie's dead neighbor and of what her family is doing at the picnic.

Topic sentence for author's point 3: The most compelling evidence that Arnold Friend is the devil lies in Oates's description of him.  (His wig and mask, his unnatural eyes, most of all his boots, which are said to be turned at unnatural angles, as though he has the devil's cloven hooves instead of feet.)

Thesis (delivered in the concluding paragraph): Arnold Friend is the devil, as we see most clearly in understanding that Oates intended the story to be an allegory of the fatal attraction of evil, and as we see in his uncanny supernatural knowledge and in his physical description as a cloven-hoofed impostor.

Works Cited

Oates, Joyce Carol. "Smooth Talk: Short Story into Film." The Story and Its Writer.
          5th edition. Ed. Ann Charters. Boston: Bedford/St. Martins, 1999.
1657-60. Print.

---.  "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" The Story and Its Writer
          5th edition. Ed. by Ann Charters.
 Boston: Bedford/St. Martins, 1999. 1052-64. Print.

Quirk, Tom. "A Source for 'Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been.'"
            Studies in Short Fiction 18 (1981): 413-19. Print.