James Joyce story “Araby” and John Updike’s story “A&P” carries the theme of unrealism in the portrayal of middle-class culture. The main characters of the stories Araby and Sammy are young boys having desires of escaping their realities. Self-deception remains visible in the journeys of boys that results in their destruction and demise. The stories exhibits similarities as the boys are in their youth and struggling for their betterment of their lives. The girls and desire for love become a distraction in the life of young boys. Their failure to see reality and overcome distractions result in their deterioration. The journeys of boys disconnect them from realities. Fantasy and unrealism undermine the struggling spirits limiting the potentialities and strengths.
The young boy in Araby belongs to a deprived community that becomes apparent during his stay at his relatives place. The boy used his love to escape his realities of deprivation and instability. He is unable to concentrate on his studies at school and thinks about the girl all times. In Joyce’s story the boy, “had hardly any patience with the serious work of life…seemed to me child’s play, ugly monotonous child’s play” (Joyce 2). Sammy in Updike’s story undergoes similar things as he met beautiful girls at the A store. The boy uses his desire of building a connection with the girls to escape his realities. Sammy ignores his job and duty and involves himself in the unnecessary argument that results in his job termination. His imagination is visible, “The whole store was like a pinball machine, and I didn’t know which tunnel they’d come out of” (Updike 3). The boys ignore their realities that become visible in Sammy’s negligence of his parent’s hopes and Araby’s continuous dreaming. Their inability to build a real relationship with the girl’s results in their dreaming that remains apparent throughout the stories.
The boys encounter difficulties as they change from childhood to manhood. Joyce through building the story of Araby tires to represent the reality of the young people who desire many things in life but are unable to attain them due to the restrictions. The social limitations remain visible in both stories as Joyce and Updike uncover the class gap. The financial limitations of boys exhibit their connection to low-economic status. The reality becomes evident when the boy fails to buy the present for the girl. Sammy encounters a similar situation when the girls ignore him due to class differences. Sammy’s hesitance and inability to talk to them about his feelings are due to the class gap. The girls belong to upper strata, “still with that prim look she lifts a folded dollar bill out of the hollow at the centre of her nubbled pink top” (Updike 2). The class difference becomes one of the darkest realities in Sammy’s story (Updike).
Another similarity in the stories is of dreaming that motivates the boys towards self-delusion. The boy in Araby relies on self-created love story while in reality he only managed to talk once with the girl. Imagination is visible in boy’s question in Araby, “I imagined that I bore my chalice safely through a throng of foes. Her name sprang to my lips at moments in strange prayers and praises” (Joyce 2). Dreaming is so strong in Araby’s quest that the boy is unable to realize the reality of his story. Sammy encounters similar experiences as he continually dreams about the girl in their bathing suits. He thinks unnecessarily about their physical appearances, “its one thing to have a girl in a bathing suit down on the beach, where what with the glare nobody can look at each other much anyway” (Updike 2). Sammy is unable to come back to reality since his interaction with the girls. The story created by him is self-made and lacks reality as he never talks to them directly. The boy in Araby also talks to the girl only once when he tells her that he is going to the bazaar and she requests for a coat. The comparison of a boy in Araby and Sammy in “A&P” reveals similar realities.
Immaturity is one of the evident traits in personalities of both boys. Immature emerges when the boy in Araby fails to concentrate on his studies and thinks about the girl only. He wastes his time and gives no time to study that result in his bad grades. Irrespective of his reality and low-economic status he does nothing that could lead to his improvement. “The syllables of the word Araby were called to me through the silence in which my soul luxuriated and cast an Eastern enchantment over me” (Joyce 2). Sammy acts in the same way as he waste’s his time and effort on girls. He cares not about his parents and quits the job irrespective of his financial need. Updike through the character of Sammy tries to portray the immature and ineffective attitude of young people who ignore their priorities and focus on unnecessary things. The boys would exhibit maturity if in Araby the boy would study hard and put all efforts to make a positive change. Similarly, Sammy’s maturity would require his concentration and determination with his job. Losing job was not sensible because he belonged to a mediocre family where money matters a lot.
The end of both stories is destructive as the quest of Araby and journey of Sammy stumps in hopelessness. When the boy in Araby fails to buy the present for the girl it brings him to the state of realization. His encounter with reality leads to his anguish and anger. “I saw myself as a creature driven and derided by vanity: my eyes burned with anguish and anger” (Joyce 5). Emotions of anger and hopelessness appear depicting the inability of the boy to accept the reality. His failure to satisfy the girl brings him to a state where he feels the deepest pain. Sammy also experiences the same situation when he loses his job in pursuit of fulfilling his fantasy love. He fights with the manager and quit his job to prove his loyalty towards Quinee. When he leaves the store and sees the car, they girls simply ignores him. “I look around for my girls, but they’re gone, of course” (Updike 5). The girls did not care about Sammy; neither had they waited to appreciate him for his sacrifice. The stories depict similarities as the girls display no emotions towards the boys and they both suffer the consequences of their imaginations.
Failure becomes essential element becoming visible at the end of young boy’s quest. The boys are not able to escape the realities and find them in the same place. The world and life remain the same for both boys due to their immature behaviours. Useless goals are mere distractions in lives of young people that they use to overcome the experiences of poverty, failure or an unhappy life. Temporary distractions do not provide long term and permanent solution to the boys but put them into more destructive situations. Fantasy was a timely escape for youth that does not lead to the happy ending. Regret appears in the form of anger and despair as Araby thinks about his stupidity. The moment when Sammy looks into the store windows he encounters guilt and remorse.