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Gonna get you, baby.
~ Arnold to Connie

Arnold Friend is the main antagonist of the short story, Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?, by Joyce Carol Oates and its 1985 film adaption, Smooth Talk

He was portrayed by Treat Williams - who also portrayed Xander Drax in The Phantom - in the film.

Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?

The protagonist of the short story is a young woman named Connie. Naturally beautiful, yet self-absorbed, Connie was always at odds with her mother, who was a former looker herself. In secret, she picks up boys at a Big Boy restaurant each evening, which proves to be her undoing. On one such evening, she catches the attention of a total stranger who had a golden convertible in his possession. After some minor flirting, the stranger states his intention on acquiring the young woman.

While her parents and her sister were away at a barbacue, a car pulls up in the driveway. At first, Connie doesn't realize that the car belonged to the same stranger she met at the drive-in restaurant, but she immediately remembers him once he exits his car. The stranger identifies himself as "Arnold Friend," and he insists that he's 18 years old. Initially calmed by his smooth-talking, Arnold asks for Connie to accompany him on a ride to a far away location. He also introduces her to his partner, Ellie, who was eerily silent about Arnold's intentions.

Connie becomes frightened by the man before her as it dawned on her that Arnold was far older than he initially claimed, and demands for him to leave. Arnold's tone quickly evaporates and he starts to threaten her family if she refused to go with him, and he even proclaims that he'll burn her house down with her still inside of it. Feeling compelled by his threats, in an act of self-sacrifice, Connie goes along with the deranged man. She cries for her mother when the car began to pull out of the driveway. While the short story leaves it vague as to what he has in store for Connie, the 1985 film all but states that he raped her.

Personality

Arnold initially portrays himself as being an affable figure who is rather friendly. However, the more that Connie resisted his advances, Arnold's politeness erodes, revealing him as psychotic and malicious. Arnold also takes pleasure in terrorizing Connie as evidenced by him saying that he could get into her house whenever he pleases, and by taunting her about knowing the whereabouts of her parents. He exploits their safety in exchange for Connie giving herself up, knowing that she would choose the latter.

Symbolism

Many critics have speculated on the true nature of this enigmatic figure. Given how close his name is to "Arch Fiend," some suggest that Arnold is actually the Devil himself or a lesser demon who's out to whisk Connie away to eternal damnation. Arnold had an odd appearance; he wore mirrored sunglasses, as well as translucent skin. Additionally, he seemed to wobble as he walked. Some interpret this as him feebly attempting to hide that he has hooves, much like how Satan is traditionally believed to possess. Arnold seems to know things that should be unknown to him. For instance, he somehow knew that an elderly woman a few blocks away was dead (though it is implied that he murdered her), and that her parents were attending the barbacue when he logically should not know that. Many people also look at the cryptic writing on his convertible as further evidence of his demonic nature.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, many just believe that Arnold is simply a metaphor for the dangers of young women meeting complete strangers. Because Connie wasn't careful, she ends up acquiring the attention of a man who is a borderline sociopath and has no qualms with threatening innocents if it benefits him. The story is written in such a way that both interpretations of Arnold have the possibility of being true, but they can also be false.

Gallery

Trivia

  • He might have had previous victims prior to Connie.