Araby vs. A&P
Araby, written by James Joyce, and A&P, written by John Updike are two short stories that are a lot alike yet still completely different. Araby and A&P are both about young boys who are learning about love as they transition into adulthood. They both fall head over heels ‘in love’ with girls they have never met before. Both boys go to extremes measures to win over the love of the girls and be their hero’s. However, throughout both stories a couple of things were different. Such as, the passage of time in which the stories were written. Also, they had different circumstances that lead to the characters epiphany. And lastly, the use of dialogue was different in each short story.
In A&P the time of passage is very important to developing the character of Sammy. The story of A&P was very time oriented. The whole story took place in a matter of a mere half an hour or so. This shows that Sammy’s feeling for this girl developed quickly and he appeared to have no control over his thought or actions. In Araby, the time orientation is much different. Unlike A&P, in Araby you don’t have a certain time frame. For example, on page 328 of “The Literary Experience,” Joyce writes “One evening I went into the back drawing room in which the priest had died.” The words ‘one evening’ are not very specific. Was it a day, a week, a month or even a year later! This could symbolize how the boys love for Mangan’s sister developed more and more over time rather than in a couple of minutes like Updike’s Sammy.
In both stories, each boy comes to an epiphany at the end. However, different circumstances lead to them. In A&P, the mere presences of the three girls in the grocery store for such a short amount of time pushes Sammy. The ‘Queen Bee’ catches his attention and immediately captures his mind and heart. The presence and actions of her cause Sammy to quit his job and go chasing after this girl. When he sees that they left without turning back Sammy realizes that his life is going to be a lot harder from then on out and he is going to have to work at life, and girls, a lot harder. He can’t just drop everything and go chasing after them. Like in A&P, the boy in Araby is also extremely fixated on a girl who is out of his league. However, unlike Sammy, the boy is more patient with his actions and less hasty. He carefully plans out his moves so that he can be in her presence more. Over an unknown period of time he watches Mangan’s sister and gets to know her from afar. It isn’t until he goes to the bizarre to buy her a gift, does he realize how absurd he is being. How he has no chance with her and he is just fantasizing over something that he can’t have. While standing in the middle of the bizarre the boy comes to the realization that he has a lot of growing up to do.
Lastly, dialogue plays a key role in how a character is seen. For example, in A&P, Sammy speaking in a nature of a typical teenage boy his age. He uses slang words help the reader recognize that his maturity level is average this helps us understand how his brain works and why he does what he does. But, the dialogue in Araby tells a whole different story. The young boy’s thoughts and actions are very advanced for his young age of 12 or 13. He is very good with his interpersonal skills that help him think through different scenarios. In both stories dialogue is a key part in understanding the characters actions.
A conclusion that could be drawn from analyzing the parallels between the two stories is how on the surface the two stories appear to be the same; to love struck boys seeking out love as they come of age. However, as you did deeper, you soon realize how different they really are. They both have different underlying messages that wouldn’t be uncovered without analyzing the different literary elements. That is why close-reading is so important when trying to understand important themes or concepts. A lot of times they are hidden within the text and you have to dig deep to find them.