Arnold Friend, with his suggestive name that hints at “Arch Fiend,” is an ambiguous figure who may be either demon or human, fantasy or reality. Arnold makes a grand entrance at Connie’s house in his gold convertible, but beyond his ostentatious car, his appearance is less than impressive. Indeed, he looks strange enough to suggest that he has mental problems or is even somehow otherworldly. He wears mirrored sunglasses, has translucent skin, and has hair that is so wild that it looks like a wig. When he walks, he wobbles, as though his shoes don’t fit properly. Some critics suggest that his unsteadiness hints at the possibility that his feet are actually hooves, as the devil would have. Demon or not, however, his strangely mismatched appearance adds to the threatening quality of his calm voice and seemingly gentle coaxing as he tries to convince Connie to come outside.
Despite his strange appearance, Arnold is initially somewhat appealing to Connie in a dangerous way. He is an older, highly sexualized man who offers to take her away from her life as an unhappy teenager. He is incredibly different from Connie’s family and the other boys she knows, which intrigues her. However, any appealing mystery to Arnold quickly dissipates as he begins to make threats and demands. He invites fear rather than attraction when he claims to know things about her family and neighbors that he couldn’t possibly know, which calls the reality or humanness of his character into question. Although we never find out exactly who or what Arnold is, he is the catalyst that changes Connie from a child to an adult—albeit through drastic, violent means.