Synopsis (With Spoilers)
The short story starts out with an introduction to Connie. A fifteen year old who cannot stop staring at herself in a mirror. She would spend her afternoons going out with her friends, telling her dad she was going to the movie theatre, and did the opposite of it.
Everything about her had two sides to it, one for home and one for anywhere that was not home: her walk, which could be childlike and bobbing, or languid enough to make anyone think she was hearing music in her head; her mouth, which was pale and smirking most of the time, but bright and pink on these evenings out; her laugh, which was cynical and drawling at home . . . but high-pitched and nervous anywhere else.
Then suddenly, a car would pass in front of her house and she wondered who she was.
It was a car [Connie] didn’t know. It was an open jalopy, painted a bright gold that caught the sunlight opaquely. Her heart began to pound and her fingers snatched at her hair, checking it, and she whispered, “Christ, Christ,” wondering how bad she looked.
When a car with men came by, she didn’t question who it was. Her first instinct was to check herself, and made sure to look good. And then we meet Arnold. A guy who tries to lure Connie with her.
I’m the boy for you and like I said, you come out here nice like a lady and give me your hand, and nobody else gets hurt, I mean, your nice old bald-headed daddy and your mummy and your sister in her high heels
Who is Arnold? Is he even real?
There is much criticism that argues that Arnold is not a real human being, and that he is just a character in Connie’s imagination.
“My sign.” And he drew an X in the air, leaning out toward her […] After his hand fell back to his side the X was still in the air, almost visible
Arnold seems supernatural here, doing X’s on the sky. Almost as if this was a part of Connie’s imagination.
Connie saw with a shock that he wasn’t a kid either. […] Connie felt a wave of dizziness rise in her at this sight and she stared at him as if waiting for something to change the shock of the moment, make it all right again […] Connie stared at him, another wave of dizziness and fear rising in her so that for a moment he wasn’t even in focus but just a blur standing there against his gold car.
The fact that Connie once again noticed Arnold as a blurred figure, further extends the idea that Arnold is a figment in Connie’s mind.
The ending…. so what’s the truth?
That’s the beauty of literature, you interpret the text differently than others. Despite all the uncertainty, this short story shows that Connie’s future is changed no matter what, when she grows into adulthood. Arnold represents the lost of innocence, Connie was scared and unwilling to loose it, but she had to other choice as she knew where she was going.
[The] vast sunlit reaches of the land behind him and on all sides of him – so much land that Connie had never seen before and did not recognize except to know that she was going to it.