Journey to Self-Awareness (Araby & Two Kinds, Compare/Contrast)

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Tiffany Rayside September 27, 2012 Dr. Lynne DeCicco, Eng. 112 Journey to Self-Awareness The term, “coming of age” signifies a growth in a person’s identity. It is a confusing phase in which one is on the cusp of adulthood and will experience pivotal moments that will shape character and lead to some sort of self-realization. Such moments may result in a loss of innocence, the destruction of hopes and dreams, the sense of imprisonment, and perhaps lessons learned. Two literary works that illustrate such concepts are Amy Tan’s “Two Kinds” and James Joyce’s “Araby.” Both pieces are narrated by the main characters, as adults, reflecting upon and portraying a better understanding of their childhood experiences. Although the affairs and outcomes recounted in each differ greatly, “Two Kinds” and “Araby” embody the foolishness commonly displayed during adolescence, as well the maturity and insight the characters gain as the stories evolve. In Joyce’s “Araby,” the un-named main character is a thirteen year old boy living in a depressed society, worn-down and devoured by “…drunken men and bargaining women…”(Joyce 92). The boy brightens his days marveling over his best friend Mangan’s sister. The boy’s obsession becomes eerily clear as his daily ritual is revealed: When she came out on the doorstep my heart leaped. I ran into the hall, seized my books and followed her. I kept her brown figure always in my eye and, when we came near the point in which our ways diverged, I quickened my pace and passed her. This happened morning after morning. I had never spoken to her, except for a few casual words, and yet her name was like a summons to all my foolish blood. Her image accompanied me even in places the most hostile to romance (92).

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Rayside More often than not, the first step of the coming of age process is the loss of innocence, which is most commonly a result of disappointment. As the first true interaction occurs between the boy and Mangan’s sister, the preface for disappointment is shaped. The boy finds himself in the position to impress his fantasy girl when she asks if he will be attending the bazaar at Araby. Upon conveying her longing to attend the splendid event, the young lad seizes the moment and offers to bring her a present from the bazaar, a silent gesture of his love for her. The following days proved tedious as he is consumed with his trip to Araby. Finally, the sacred day arrives and, although he felt he took every precaution to ensure his success, his trip is delayed due to his uncle’s late return home. The narrator realizes that his uncle has forgotten his plans due to intoxication, “I heard him talking to himself and heard the hallstand rocking when it had received the weight of his overcoat. I could interpret these signs” (Joyce, P93). The reader is immediately presented with the boy’s awareness of the harsh realities in his world and the discouragement that follows. The boy is of the age where one begins to acknowledge, but not quite understand, adult behavior. Likewise, Amy Tan explores the loss of innocence as an aftermath of childhood disappointment in “Two Kinds.” Tan portrays herself as a young, first-generation AmericanChinese girl, struggling with the seemingly unrealistic expectations of her mother. Amy, who, in the story is referred to by her Chinese name, Ni-Kan, is on a quest, imposed upon her by her mother, to discover her talent so she may become a child prodigy, comparable to Shirley Temple. After countless ‘talent tests’ given to her by her mother, Ni-Kan begins to accept the notion that she may not have a distinct talent, that she may never be a prodigy: “But sometimes the prodigy in me became impatient” (Tan 384). With this revelation came a sense of failure and 2

Rayside disappointment in herself, in contrast to the narration of “Araby.” Ni-Kan confesses: “And after seeing my mother’s disappointed face once again, something inside of me began to die” (Tan 384). This admission results...
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