Oates was also interested in exploring the various aspects of adolescence through her writing (Schwartz, 1). Critics have widely argued over the influences of Where Are You Going? Where Have You Been? and the true identity of Arnold Friend. Little attention has been given to the music incorporated into the story and the obvious similarities of the antagonist, Arnold Friend to legendary singer, Bob Dylan. This essay will explore Bob Dylans musical influence on Where Are You Going?
Where Have You Been? by interpreting the song, Its All Over Now, Baby Blue and the similarities between the two as well as identifying physical characteristic similarities between Dylan and Friend. Oates dedicated this story to Bob Dylan; which gives interpreters of this story just cause to assume Dylans music during the 1960s greatly influenced the characters and scenes of Where Are You Going? Where Have You Been? Critics however do not agree as to who Arnold Friend represents.
Most critics feel that Arnold represents the devil and evil, such as Joyce Wegs and Marie Urbanski who argue that Arnold is evil and his outward appearance represents the devil. Some critics however feel that Arnold represents a religious or cultural savior (Jordan). It is unrealistic to think that Arnold Friend is any savior such as Mike Tierce and John Michael Crafton suggest in Connies Tambourine Man: A New Reading of Arnold Friend (Jordan). It seems most likely that Arnold is a creation of Oates which had the appearance of Bob Dylan because she was inspired by him which many critics have already noted.
Another argument made by a small portion of critics is that Arnold didnt really exist but was rather a figment of Connies imagination such as McConnell states in Connies Tambourine Man: A New Reading of Arnold Friend where he writes, Connie is the framer, the story creator”and the diabolic traces in her fiction frighten her not because they are the manifestations of an outside evil but because they are the symbolic extrapolations of her own psyche (1). There is no reason to think that Connie, a fifteen year old girl would imagine such a threatening older person.
When Connie daydreams, she thinks of the caresses of love and boys such as the one she met the night before Arnold Friend showed up at the door. Connie daydreamed about how nice [the boy] had been, and Connie continues thinking of how sweet being with this boy had been. She related her experience to be like the movies and the way it was promised in songs (339). Connie was a young girl living her life according to the music, and she would not have daydreamed something as threatening and terrifying as Arnold Friend.
While critics may disagree to what Arnold represents; there is significant evidence that Arnold was created to look, but not necessarily be, Bob Dylan. Arnold Friends physical description is that of Bob Dylans appearance in the 1960s. Oates makes reference to the radio DJ, Bobby King, which is in reference to Bobby Dylan, the king of rock-and-roll (McConnell, 1). McConnell also supports the theory that Arnold looks like Bob Dylan, with his shaggy, shabby black hair that looked crazy as a wig, (Oates, 340) his long and hawk-like nose, (Oates, 342) and his unshaven face.
Arnold also had big and white teeth, his lashes, thick and black as if painted with a black tar-like material (Oates, 344) and his size, only an inch or so taller (Oates, 341) than Connie are all characteristic of Bob Dylan. Arnold spoke in a fast, bright monotone voice which is also suggestive of Dylan, especially since he speaks in a simple lilting voice, exactly as if he were reciting the words to a song (Oates, 342) (McConnell, 1).
When Connie became suspicious of his age, before she realized the danger she was in, small clues confirmed her feelings that he was indeed an older man. He used a mix of slang as if he were running through all the expressions hed learned but was no longer sure which of them was in style. Arnold used his lyrical voice and pieces of lyrics from songs to confuse, comfort and then scare Connie. Connie recognized many of the lyrics used. Michael Kapper accurately portrays the influence of music in Connies life. Kapper writes, Rocknroll music is a constant presence in Connies life.
At the drive-in, the background music is something to depend on (Oates, 337), and on Sunday afternoon, with no drive-in and no boys around, the music itself gives Connie joy. This omnipresence is even noteworthy in the musics absence (1). It is important to decipher the similarities between Where Are You Going? Where Have You Been? and Bob Dylans Its All Over Now, Baby Blue. While there are several other songs that are similar to the overall theme of Oates story, Its All Over Now, Baby Blue has substantial similarities and support from several critics.
The reoccurring lyric in Its All Over Now, Baby Blue (Dylan) is ¦its all over now. Arnold Friend spends the majority of the time at Connies house explaining to her that her life as she knows it is over; at the end he says its all over for you here, so come out (349). Connie and her friend were very trusting and unaware of the consequences of their actions. Connie and friend risked crossing the highway to be able to act like adults, and ¦listen to the music that made everything so good (337).
Dylan sings of the risks of living on the edge in Its all Over Now, Baby Blue, warning that the highway is for gamblers, better use your sense (7). Connie gambles with her life both by crossing a busy highway and by trusting people she does not know. Arnold tells Connie that her time in her home was over, telling Connie, ¦they dont know anything about you and never did and honey youre better than them because not a one of them would have done this for you (Oates, 350). Arnold also makes himself look as if he is a saint saving Connie from her family who does not understand her.
This is also present in Its All Over Now, Baby Blue, where Dylan sings look out the saints are comin through (5). Dylan sings that The carpet, too, is moving under you (17), this must be what Connie felt when she realized Arnold was a forty-year-old baby (Oates, 344) and when she realized that she would not see her mother or sleep in her bed again. In the final few verses of Dylans song it states; leave your stepping stones behind, something calls for you. Forget the dead youve left, they will not follow you (19. 20).
Oates story echoes Dylans song. Connie is leaving her home where she has learned and grown such as stepping stones and she will never see her family again; whether she dies or must stay with Arnold Friend against her will is personal interpretation. Arnold Friend however made it clear that she would not return. It is evident from the wealth of literary analyses that Joyce Carol Oates story Where Are You Going? Where Have You Been? will continue to have mixed interpretations of its characters, influence and overall theme.
It is undeniable however, from Oates dedication of the story to Bob Dylan and the overwhelming similarities of Its All Over Now, Baby Blue to Oates story that both the story and Oates was heavily influenced by Bob Dylan visible in both the antagonists characteristics, the choice of words and the overall importance of music to the characters and theme of the story. References Its All Over Now, Baby Blue. Lyrics. Sony NY BMG Music Entertainment. (2007). 31 August 2007
com/? Who-Is-Arnold-Friend? &id=313523> Kapper, Michael, C. A Virgin in the Backseat Smoking Hash: Joyce Carol Oatess Where are You Going, Where Have You Been? The Joyce Carol Oates Papers. (1996). 1 September 2007
Oates, Joyce Carol: INTRODUCTION. Short Story Criticism. Ed. Joseph Palmisano Project Editor. Vol. 70. Gale Group, Inc. , 2004. eNotes. com. 2006. 30 Aug, 2007