The Road to Unhappiness

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“There is only one cause of unhappiness: the false beliefs you have in your head, beliefs so widespread, so commonly held, that it never occurs to you to question them” (Anthony de Mello). Unhappiness is a prevalent issue in “Araby” by James Joyce and “Write Me Sometime” by Taien Ng-Chan, as both protagonists experience it, based on many factors leading to it. Both characters misconceive the depth of the relationships they focus on which causes sadness in their lives. Both protagonists also have an ill-conceived definition of love. They make promises, based on the ill-conceived definition of love that they believe will lead them to happiness. The characters’ inability to maintain a firm grasp on reality causes the accumulation of misconceptions that ultimately lead to their unhappiness.

The characters focus their attention on relationships that they believe to be deeper than they actually are. In ‘Araby’, the unnamed protagonist focuses his attention on Mangan’s sister, captivated by her physical appearance, becoming hung up on her and getting her attention. It becomes apparent that he starts obsessing over her when he states that “her name sprang to my lips at moments in strange prayers and praises which I myself did not understand.” (Joyce, 2) The relationship is shallow because his obsession is based purely on her physical appearance, and not at all based on her personality. Up until the point, he has not had an actual conversation with her. Similarly in “Write Me Sometime”, the unnamed protagonist focuses her attention towards her relationship with her father, who “wasn’t much more in her life than a lunch once a week”. She ‘writes him longer letters than [she] writes her friends”, yet he “hardly ever writes back…” (Ng-Chan, 39) She puts more effort into this relationship than its worth, because she sees the relationship as more important than her father does. Both characters have an ideal stuck in their head, clouding over the reality, hence the focus...
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