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    A And P With Araby Essay (1228 words)

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    John Updike’s A ; P and James Joyce’s Araby share many of the same literarytraits. The primary focus of the two stories revolves around a young man who iscompelled to decipher the different between cruel reality and the fantasies ofromance that play in his head. That the man does, indeed, discover thedifference is what sets him off into emotional collapse.

    One of the mainsimilarities between the two stories is the fact that the main character, who isalso the protagonist, has built up incredible,yet unrealistic, expectations ofwomen, having focused upon one in particular towards which he places all hisunrequited affection. The expectation these men hold when finally “face toface with their object of worship” (Wells, 1993, p. 127) is what sends thefinal and crushing blow of reality: The rejection they suffer is far too greatfor them to bear. Updike is famous for taking other author’s works and twistingthem so that they reflect a more contemporary flavor.

    While the story remainsthe same, the climate is singular only to Updike. This is the reason why thereare similarities as well as deviations from Joyce’s original piece. Plot, themeand detail are three of the most resembling aspects of the two stories over allother literary components; characteristic of both writers’ works, each renditionoffers its own unique perspective upon the young man’s romantic infatuation. Notonly are descriptive phrases shared by both stories, but parallels occur witheach ending, as well (Doloff 113). What is even more telling of Updike’simitation of Joyce’s Araby is the fact that the A & P title is hauntinglyclose in pronunciation to the original story’s title.

    The theme of A ; P andAraby are so close to each other that the subtle differences might be somewhatimperceptible to the untrained eye. Both stories delve into the unstable psycheof a young man who is faced with one of life’s most difficult lessons: thatthings are not always as they appear to be. Telling the tale as a way of lookingback on his life, the protagonist allows the reader to follow his life’s lessonsas they are learned, imparting upon the audience all the emotional pain andsuffering endured for each one. The primary focal point is the young man’s lovefor a completely unattainable girl who unknowingly riles the man into such asexual and emotional frenzy that he begins to confuse “sexual impulses forthose of honor and chivalry” (Wells, 1993, p. 127). It is this verysituation of self-deception upon which both stories concentrate that brings theyoung man to his emotional knees as he is forced to “compensate for theemptiness and longing in the young boy’s life” (Norris 309).

    As much asUpdike’s rendition is different from Joyce’s original work, the two pieces areas closely related as any literary writings can be. Specifically addressingdetails, it can be argued that Updike missed no opportunity to fashion A & Pas much after Araby as possible. For example, one aspect of womanhood thatfascinates and intrigues both young men is the whiteness of the girls’ skin. This explicit detail is not to be taken lightly in either piece, for theimplication is integral to the other important story elements, particularly asthey deal with female obsession.

    Focusing upon the milky softness and “thewhite curve of her neck”(Joyce 32) demonstrates the overwhelming interestJoyce’s protagonist place in the more subtle features; as well, Updike’scharacter is equally as enthralled by the sensuality of his lady’s “longwhite prima-donna legs” (A & P 188). One considerable differencebetween Updike’s A & P and Joyce’s Araby is the gap between the young men’sages, with Updike’s embarking upon his twenties while Joyce’s is of asignificantly more tender age. This divergence presents itself as one of themost instrumentally unique aspects separating the two stories, as it establishesa considerable variance between the age groups. The reader is more readily ableto accept the fact that the younger man has not yet gained the ability toascertain the complex differences between love’s reality; on the other hand, itis not as easy to apply this same understanding to Updike’s older character, whoshould by all rights be significantly more familiar with the ways of the worldby that age. “The lesson that romance and morality are antithetical,whether learned from haunting celibates or breathed in with the chastisingDublin air, has not been lost on the narrator” (Coulthard 97).

    What doesnot escape either story, however, is the manner in which the young men aretransformed into “distracted, agitated, disoriented” (Wells, 1993, p. 127) versions of their former selves once they have become focused upon theirrespective objects of affection. Both have lost sight of what is importantwithin their lives, “with the serious work of life” (Joyce 32), to seewhat havoc their passion is wreaking. It is not important that everyone aroundthem notices the way they have withdrawn from reality; rather, they have bothcome under a spell of infatuation that pays no mind to anything but theirfixations (Wells, 1993). Despite their best efforts, neither young manultimately wins the heart — or the attention — of his respective loveinterest, which Updike’s character asserts to be “the sad part of thestory” (192).

    Their gallant rescue attempts aside, the two men are facedwith the grim and shattering reality that the girls have no desire for theircompany. This particular attention to plot is critical within the two stories,because it demonstrates how despair can be both disheartening and uplifting atthe same time. Updike’s character has found himself holding a dollar bill thathe obtained from his lady love, to which he inwardly acknowledges “it justhaving come from between the two smoothest scoops of vanilla I had everknown” (193-94). The gifts each young man offered his love interest are notwell received; in fact, it is at this very moment in each story that the readerfeels the depths of each character’s despair. While different in origination,the intent was the same, since both young men come from such diversebackgrounds; where Joyce’s Irish boy offers a material gesture, Updike’sAmerican character offers himself as a shield against any further antagonizinghis lady has endured.

    This clearly demonstrates the variance in bothmaterialistic values and the concepts of what is important to each young man. Toone, offering something tangible is far more worthwhile than anything else hecould present; to the other, however, extending his manliness far better suitshis attempts to win the girl’s heart. “The story’s closing moral turns onitself by concluding with a parabolic maneuver, by having the narrativeconsciousness turn itself into an allegorical figure” (Norris 309). Nomatter their efforts, both young men fail miserably in their attempts to wootheir respective ladies. The similarities between the two stories with regard tothe manner in which each is conveyed to the reader speak of life’s lessons andthe sometimes painful road one is required to take in order to gain suchexperience. With images of chivalry and romance notwithstanding, both Updike’s A& P and Joyce’s Araby set forth to impart the many trials and tribulationsassociated with love.

    “Expressions of emotions and thoughts also showparallels, including the ending self-revelation and climax” (Doloff 255). BibliographyCoulthard, A. R. “Joyce’s ‘Araby’.

    ,” The Explicator, vol. 52, (1994): Winter, pp. 97(3). Doloff, Steven. “Aspects of Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’ inJames Joyce’s ‘Araby’.

    ,” James Joyce Quarterly, vol. 33, (1995) : Fall, pp. 113(3). Doloff, Steven.

    “Rousseau and the confessions of ‘Araby’. ,”James Joyce Quarterly, vol. 33, (1996) : Winter, pp. 255(4). Joyce, James.

    Dubliners. (New York : Penguin, 1967). Norris, Margot. “Blind streets andseeing houses: Araby’s dim glass revisited. ,” Studies in Short Fiction,vol. 32, (1995) : Summer, pp.

    309(10). Updike, John. “A & P. “Pigeon Feathers and Other Stories. (New York : Knopf, 1962).

    Wells, Walter. “John Updike’s ‘A & P’: a return visit to Araby. ,” Studies inShort Fiction, vol. 30, (1993) : Spring, pp.


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