A Comparative Analysis between Araby and The Bread of Salt

Topics: Social class, Love, James Joyce Pages: 6 (1766 words) Published: May 10, 2015
A Comparative Analysis Between “Araby” and “The Bread of Salt” Age brings maturity, experience ripens it.
― Vimal Athithan

Reality isn't the way you wish things to be, nor the way they appear to be, but the way they actually are. ― Robert J. Ringer

These two quotes capture what James Joyce’s Araby and N.V.M. Gonzalez’s The Bread of Salt are all about – maturity and realization. Araby and The Bread of Salt are both coming of age stories, featuring an adolescent boy’s first experience with love, and how this leads to his self realization and entrance to the adult world. Although the narratives have different backgrounds, Araby being written by an Irish author and The Bread of Salt being written in a distinctly Filipino context, there are similarities when it comes to their characters, story and theme. In fact, there are professionals who claim that The Bread of Salt is a remake of Joyce’s piece and serves as Gonzalez's “loving homage” to it (Conejos, 2012, para.1). In both works, the lead characters are blinded by their romantic desires, but in the end, their eyes are opened to life’s harsh realities. In Araby, the protagonist, who is also the narrator, is a young boy who becomes attracted to a friend’s sister. He begins the story by describing his environment as dark and bleak, and later on speaks of Mangan’s sister with her figure being “defined by the light from the half-opened door.” In a literary analysis, Donschikowski (2006) writes, “His youthful imagination sees her always surrounded with light; she is the contrast to his dark world” (p. 12). He thinks of her all the time, although he does not fully know her, as he “had never spoken to her, except for a few casual words.” Every morning, he tries to get a glimpse of her and follows her on the way out until they have to go their separate ways. Similarly, the protagonist in The Bread of Salt also deals with his first encounter with love. He is a fourteen year old violinist who becomes infatuated with his high school classmate named Aida. Like the boy in Araby, he usually follows Aida around by “taking the route that she had fixed for [him]” on the way to class. In school, he does his best in sports and academics so that he may be worthy of her in the future. He also plans on expressing his admiration by writing love letters and giving Aida a brooch, although he never really accomplishes them. In the story, he believes that Aida’s purpose was “to reveal thus her assent to [his] desire,” assuming that she feels the same way towards him, when in reality, she did not even have any idea of his attraction to her. Both characters show how the youth view romantic love as it first enters their lives, and how they tend to idealize it. Furthermore, it is interesting to note that the boys notice mostly the bodily details of the girls they admire, such as the curve of Mangan’s sister’s neck and her hair that is “tossed from side to side”, and Aida’s “fair cheeks and bobbed dark-brown hair.” This may suggest that their love was mainly based on physical factors. Nonetheless, it still gave them an intense feeling of longing. Throughout the two stories, the feelings of the characters continuously develop. In Araby, when the boy finally speaks with Mangan’s sister, they talk about the bazaar called Araby. Since Mangan’s sister could not go because of a retreat she would be attending, he guarantees her that he would bring her something from the bazaar. From this point on, he becomes distracted by the thoughts of going to Araby, saying that it has “cast an Eastern enchantment over [him].” He imagines how splendid the bazaar will be, and he simply could not wait any longer. On the day itself, however, things do not go as he expects them to. Likewise, in The Bread of Salt, scenes also play in the boy’s mind. One night, he dreams of returning from an international music tour and being praised for his talent in playing the violin. In this dream, he points out “a girl in her blue...

References: Conejos, A. (2012, May 25). The Bread of Salt by: N.V.M. Gonzalez. In Lit React. Retrieved
from http://www.litreact.com/reactions/bread-of-salt_gonzalez_conejos.html
Donschikowski, D. (2006). Literary analysis using James Joyce’s “Araby,” a thematic approach.
Retrieved from http://thetalon.org/MISC/araby_analysis.pdf
Gonzalez, N.V.M. (1993). The bread of salt. The bread of salt and other stories (pp. 96-106).
Seattle: University of Washington Press.
Gray, W. (1997). Wallace Gray 's notes for James Joyce 's "Araby". In World Wide Dubliners.
Retrieved from http://www.mendele.com/WWD/WWDaraby.notes.html
Joyce, J. (1999). Araby. In R. Scholes & A.W. Litz (Eds.), Dubliners (pp. 26-33). Retrieved from http://sparks.eserver.org/books/dubliners.pdf
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