Considerable academic analysis has been written about the story, with scholars divided on whether it is intended to be taken literally or as allegory. Several writers focus on the series of numbers written on Friend's car, which he indicates are a code of some sort, but which is never explained:
"'Now, these numbers are a secret code, honey,' Arnold Friend explained. He read off the numbers 33, 19, 17 and raised his eyebrows at her to see what she thought of that, but she didn't think much of it."(p. 41)
Literary scholars have interpreted this series of numbers as different Biblical references, as an underlining of Friend's sexual deviancy, or as a reference to the ages of Friend as his victims.
Removing the "r's from his name reveals, "An old Fiend"
The narrative has also been viewed as an allegory for initiation into sexual adulthood, an encounter with the devil, a critique of modern youth's obsession with sexual themes in popular music, or as a dream sequence.