Friday, October 3, 2014

The Monster

Arnold Friend is a monster stemming from the radio and teen magazines Connie surrounds herself with.  As I read the story I started to imagine that Friend wasn't even human at all, simply wearing a human suit.  From his hair and clothes, "the tight jeans that showed his thighs and buttocks...and the tight shirt, and even that slippery friendly smile of his..." (Oates 3129) are all designed to make his as appealing as possible (much like Kayla brought up) but none of it quite fits.  She says, "His whole face was a mask..." and that he can't seem to walk right (3131).  All the right pieces were there for the ultimate dreamboat, but they didn't come together right.  Like Frankenstein's monster, he has been put together to be a perfect man.  The creature of Frankenstein's features ended up becoming grotesque when put all together, frightening people away and making something gentle into a vindictive creature.  The creature is described as:
"His limbs were in proportion, and I had selected his features as beautiful. Beautiful!--Great God! His yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath; his hair was of a lustrous black, and flowing; his teeth of a pearly whiteness; but these luxuriances only formed a more horrid contrast with his watery eyes, that seemed almost of the same color as the dun white sockets in which they were set, his shriveled complexion and straight black lips." (Shelly 68)
Arnold has a similar description, from his "shaggy, shabby black hair" (3126) to his eyes, "...she saw how pale the skin around his eyes was, like holes that were not in shadow but instead in light" (3128)  Friend is a cheap imitation of what Connie and so many girls like her would desire, but his cunning and force keeps them from running away.  I noticed that Connie never actually describes him as handsome or cute, his clothes and demeanor are (at first) appealing, but it has never fully come together for her - even when she first saw him in the parking lot.
The creature in Frankenstein is a victim to his own creation, whereas women are a victim to Arnold's.  I couldn't help but think of the similarities between them multiple times while reading the story.  I don't believe Arnold Friend was of this world, but then that begs the question, was he created like Frankenstein's monster?  Fabricated like some of the bands, the atmosphere, and the culture that Connie so desperately wants to believe in?  Or is he more like Victor himself?  More like the Devil, of his own making and trying to play god?

I think my real question stems from the dedication to Bob Dylan - does this read like an act of admonition to the culture makers like Dylan, The Beatles, or The Who? Is this saying, "You created this monster. This idea that this is what young kids like Connie really want. You've made them think that this (Friend) is the peak of what is out there, and you've weakened them because of it."  Is she saying Connie was taken advantage of (indirectly) by guys like Bob Dylan?

1 comment:

  1. When I imagined Arnold Friend whilst reading (I think I pictured the same image as I read it in high school), is almost a Fonzi-esque character. Now, one thing I did love about this post was your final paragraph. And honestly, it's a hard question to answer. I don't think Oates is blaming the musicians for the violent acts that occur. Surely, they don't fill their songs with lyrics inciting violence. In the story, the music just kind of existed as a bridge to the gap between Arnold and Connie. Arnold simply used music, which she loved, to gain some form of trust. He was trying to make that connection. In that case, you can't blame the musician, because they aren't directly committing the crime, nor are they asking people to commit these crimes through their songs.

    As for guys like Bob Dylan—very interesting. I'd never even thought about that. While I'm unsure, it does seem possible, doesn't it?