John Updike's "A & P" and James Joyce's "Araby" are very similar. The theme of the two stories is about a young man who is interested in figuring out the difference between reality and the fantasies of romance that play in his head and of the mistaken thoughts each has about their world, the girls, and themselves. One of the main similarities between the two stories is the fact that the main character has built up unrealistic expectations of women. Both characters have focused upon one girl which they place all their affection. Both Sammy and the boy suffer rejection in the end. Both stories also dive into the unstable mind of a young man who is faced with one of life's most difficult lessons. Their lesson is that things are not always as they appear to be.
Their confusion of the world is shown in the descriptions both boys use when describing the town in "A & P" and the bazaar of "Araby". Sammy speaks of the people of his town saying, the customers had been showing up with their carts but, you know, sheep, seeing a scene, they had all bunched up on Stoksie". In his mind the town has become so boring that the citizens have been brain washed into mindless sheep. In "Araby" the bazaar is exaggerated in the way its building is described by the boy as, "a large building which displayed the magical name". The boy is seeing the bazaar as the only place that will have just the right gift to win the girls affection and not the flea market it actually is.
The primary focal point is the young man's love for a completely unattainable girl who unknowingly riles the man into such a frenzy that he begins to confuse sexual impulses for those of honor. This is shown in "A & P" when Sammy quits his job in protest over the girls being mistreated. He hopes to impress the girls with this. It is this example of self-deception that both stories concentrate that brings the young man to his emotional knees as he is forced to return to normal life