Good vs. Evil in ?Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been??

JJ Dewey says in his writings that the basic difference between good and evil is this: Good is that which takes us forward on the path of spiritual evolution toward greater freedom, livingness, intelligence, light and love. Evil is that which takes us back into the past to lesser freedom, lesser livingness, lesser intelligence, light and love. Joyce Carol Oate?s short story ?Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?? is a religious allegory of good and evil; she presents readers with religious symbols throughout the text, symbols which portray Arnold Friend, Ellie, and Connie as Satan, God, and an innocent victim of evil. Arnold Friend shows relations to Satan in his deceiving appearance, speech, and the use of Oate?s underlying symbols. While many assume Ellie plays the role of Arnold?s evil sidekick the text never uses evil connotations when describing him; Ellie and Arnold?s shared company could in fact be representing the choice of free-will everyone possesses when choosing between good and evil. Connie, an innocent victim of evil shares a very similar story to the biblical Eve as both fall prey to the deceiving figure known as Satan.
The first and possibly most important symbol of Arnold representing Satan is in his name itself, if each r is removed from Arnold Friend his name becomes, An old Fiend, which from Old English means devil or demon. Arnold arrives at Connie?s house on a Sunday afternoon to take her for a ride in his car newly painted with phrases, his name, and a set of three numbers; ?Now these numbers are a secret code, honey, Arnold Friend explained. He read off the numbers 33, 19, 17 and raised his eyebrows at her to see what she thought of that, but she didn?t think much of it? (Oates 331). David J. Piwinski?s critical analysis on ?Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?? quotes Mark Robson and his claims, ?that there exists an allusion to Judges 19:17--the number 33 referring to the fact that ?Judges is the thirty-third book from the end of the Old Testament?? (195). Piwinski suggests a more precise record of each number would be more beneficial and further states that ?Robson's biblical explication is ?more ingenious than convincing?? (195). It is obvious that Piwinski feels the theory of the numbers representing Judges 19:17 is nothing more than a clever idea, yet not once does Piwinski mention what Judges 19:17 actually states in the Old Testament, ?and the old man said, Where are you going, and where do you come from??. Piwinski also neglects to inform readers that Judges 19 is about an innocent woman brutally raped and left to die by men that came knocking on her masters door. If Piwinski had included this information in his critical analysis would his argument of needing a more exact accounting of the individual numbers still be valid? ?The title of Oates's story is taken almost directly from Judges 19:17? (Theriot 60). Connie begins to examine Arnold
?Connie liked the way he was dressed, which was the way all of them dressed: tight faded jeans stuffed into black scuffed boots, a belt that pulled his waist in and showed how lean he was, and a white pull-over shirt that was a little soiled and showed the hard small muscles of his arms and shoulders. He looked as if he probably did hard work, lifting and carrying things. Even his neck looked muscular? (Oates 332).
Connie begins to doubt the sincerity of Arnold as he breaks into a fit of laughter ?The way he straightened and recovered from his fit of laughing showed that it had all been fake? (Oates 332). Increasing suspicions arise when Arnold reveals how much he knows about Connie and her family, provoking Connie to ask Arnold his age, ?She could see then that he wasn?t a kid, he was much older-thirty, maybe more? (Oates 334). Arnold responds stating he is eighteen, 18=6+6+6 and ironically 666 is yet again another sign of Satan. Arnold begins to speak of himself as Connie?s lover, describing what is to come for Connie ?I?ll hold you so tight you won?t think you have to try to get away or pretend anything because you?ll know you can?t. And I?ll come inside you where it?s all secret and