We sense the time through the feeling of loss, through the subtle palette of smells and sounds gone forever. Sometimes a gesture, thrown accidentally by a passer-by in the middle of the street reveals strong and painful myth of the past. It is the world which did not exist in the reality but became corporeal in imagination. As every myth, it has its culmination – the final break of the order, the point of no-return. In our vision of the past - it is the loss of the innocent and naïve view of the world. The disillusionment of the two young boys suddenly thrown into the world of adolescence - is the main topic of the two similar short stories – “A&P” and “Araby”, by John Updike and James Joyce correspondingly.
“Araby” was published in 1914. “A&P”, which is phonetically reminiscent to the “Araby”, was written almost half a century later (in 1961). The two stories have many common literary features. “A&P” and “Araby” are both narrated in the first person singular, where the narrators are also being the protagonists of the stories. These two stories provide a glimpse into a moment in the life of protagonists when their self-perception and the view of the world completely change. The emotions of the boys are reflected in their view of the two worlds, which collide – the world of “the desired” and “the real”.
In Araby, the protagonist is craving to escape from the dark dim Dublin into the fantasy world of his exotic passion. His desire manifests itself in the trip to the Arabic bazaar – a space and event that proposes a gateway from his routine. But, contrary to his expectations, the main hero finds himself awaken from the oriental dreams. The boy is left frustrated and disillusioned as he lives childhood behind.
In “A&P” we see a moment in the life of a supermarket clerk – young Sammy. John Updike describes in details the pressing space of the supermarket and its visitors - thoughtless consumers - to express Sammy’s feeling of alienation. His estrangement gets even stronger, as he sees three non-local girls entering the shop only in bathing suits. These girls represent the desired imaginary world of Sammy, similar to the oriental bazaar of “Araby”. The sexual drive as well as desire to break free from the dominant ethical environment provokes the main hero to quit his job. In both stories, the experiences of protagonists are reflected in their subjective view of the space. Joyce and Updike create the sense of immersion through the thick description of the boys’ experience of one small event with painful emotional consequences. Even though objectively nothing big happens in the lives of the protagonists, their worlds change dramatically.
We sense the time through the feeling of loss, through the subtle palette of smells and sounds gone forever. Sometimes a gesture, thrown accidentally by a passer-by in the middle of the street reveals strong and painful myth of the past. It is the world which did not exist in the reality but became corporeal in imagination.