Connie is your typical attractive teenage girl – she likes going out with friends and flirting with boys. She’s annoyed with her family, especially her mother who’s constantly criticizing her. Her flirting is mostly innocent fun until she’s confronted by a strange older man named Arnold Friend at her home.
Some may view this story as a cautionary tale -a young woman ends up being punished for venturing into adult sexuality. And although her fate after leaving with Arnold is undescribed, all the clues in the story make it clear it will be something horrible (rape/murder). Another way some view the story is that Connie is a hero – she went with Arnold because he was threatening her family and she wanted to keep them safe.
However, I think there’s much more to it than that. Arnold could be something more sinister than a creepy guy. Look at how far he takes his façade – stuffing his boots to look taller, the sunglasses, possibly wearing a wig and such. A more simple explanation would be that he’s hiding his age and wants to seem young and cool to teenage girls.
But there’s also a possibly that Arnold has supernatural origins, possibly a demon. First off his name ‘Arnold Friend” seems artificial. Along with his appearance it’s like he’s trying to imitate a human being rather than being one naturally. At one point when Connie observes his appearance and demeanor more the narrative states, “But all these things did not come together.” Meaning that he seems very unnatural.
The way he seems to entrance Connie also indicates he’s not wholly human. He uses his persuasion to get Connie to come with him, rather than physical (which would have been the last resort). He’s confident in his power of persuasion and snaps at his friend Ellie when he suggests taking other measures.
While the supernatural theory could be wrong, I do think Arnold is basically meant to embody the ultimate predator. He disguises himself to lure in victims and he knows to entrance them.
“And he drew an X in the air, leaning out toward her. They were maybe ten feet apart.
After his had fell back to his side the X was still in the air almost visible.”
Here is where it shows that Connie’s fate is sealed. She has been “X’d” out and the predator will succeed by the end. Arnold shows how evil can appear suddenly and in the most unlikely of places. Connie was just an average teenage girl, but meeting Arnold has forced her to confront the terrible aspects of the world which Arnold embodies.