I’m going to have a stab at something I find very difficult, namely trying to talk about a Joyce Carol Oates short story in a meaningful way. I often find her short stories elusive; they have an impact on me but I’m not always clear why (if that makes sense).
This story is set in the 1960s (I think it was written in the late 60s) and is about Connie, a fifteen year old girl who has a relatively normal life; she gets on OK with her parents and sister but there are the usual tensions that you get within families. She isn’t always truthful – she tells her parents she’s going to the cinema with her friend but they usually split up and hang around with boys.
One night she catches the eye of a particular boy, Arnold Friend, who comes to her house with one of his friends when he knows she is home alone. Connie realises that both of the boys are a lot older than she thought but she still doesn’t sense the danger…
Although the ending is fairly open, it’s clear what will happen to Connie, especially as I believe the character of Arnold Friend is based on a real person. I found the ideas behind the story quite disturbing, and there is a real sense of menace. I’m sure I haven’t done it justice, but since reading it at the weekend I find myself thinking back to it a lot.