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A comparison paper of James Joyce’s Araby and John Updike’s A&P

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The brief but complex stories of “Araby” by James Joyce and, “A&P by John Updike focuses on character traits rather than on plot to reveal the ironies that inherent self deception. The theme for both Sammy from “A&P” and the narrator from “Araby” is the transition from childhood to adulthood, a process that everyone experiences in one’s own way and time. The transformation that both characters make from children to adults includes unrealistic expectations of women, focusing upon one girl in particular which he places all his unreciprocated affection, and the rejection they suffer is far too great for them to bear.

Sammy is working as a cashier at A&P when he spots her, the girl who he labels “Queenie”. She is leading a parade around the store with her two fiends following. The three of them are in nothing more than a bathing suit. Sammy longs to be like her and to be with her. “She kept her eyes moving across the racks, and stopped, and turned slow it made my stomach rub the inside of my apron….”(126). Sammy is quite taken with “Queenie” he desires her to pay attention to him.

Sammy is absolutely thrilled when the three girls approach his check out line. At this time the manager of the A&P enters the picture and tells the girls that bathing suits are not proper attire for a supermarket. Then Sammy embarks upon the ultimate form of play that, although immature, is sometimes used by adults to make an impression on others. He ultimately sacrifices his job, saying, “I quit”(129). His motivation for quitting is the hope that “Queenie” would stop and thank him, her unsuspected hero.

Sammy’s gesture does not have the results for which he hopes. Upon exiting the A&P, he realizes that the girls are gone, and he looks back to see the store manager taking control of the abandoned register. It suddenly occurs to Sammy that he is on his own now, that his parents, who got him the job at the A&P, will not support his decision and will surely not do him any more favors.

In his epiphany, Sammy realizes that it is responsible behavior, not playing “adult- like” games that will make him a true adult. The transition from childhood to adulthood is provoked by this incident at the A&P, which he will probably never forget.

The narrator of “Araby” is telling the tale as a way of looking back on his life. The primary focal point is the young man’s love for a completely unattainable girl. “My eyes were often full of tears and at times a flood from my heart seemed to pour itself out into my bosom”(284). She would unknowingly aggravate the man into such an emotional frenzy that he begins to confuse these feeling for those of honor and chivalry.

As a display of the narrator’s illusion of heroism, admiration, and courtliness he desires to depart for Araby so that he could return with a token for his love. “The syllables of the word Araby were called to me through the silence in which my soul luxuriated and cast an Eastern enchantment over me”(285). The account of the boy’s futile quest emphasizes both his lonely idealism and his ability to achieve the perspectives he now has.

The quest ends when he arrives at Araby and realizes with slow agonizing clarity that it is not at all what he imagined. It is dark and thrives on the profit motive and the eternal lure evokes in men. The boy grasps that he has placed all his love and hope in a world that does not exist except in his imagination. “Gazing up into the darkness I saw myself as a creature driven and derided by vanity; and my eyes burned with anguish and anger”(287). He feels angry and understands his self-deception.

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