Joyce's Araby and Updike's A&P both exhibit young, male protagonists who, through a series of events, come to a realization that denotes their shift from adolescence to adulthood. Araby describes the daily life of the juvenile narrator, and his actions as a result of his attraction to his friend's sister. Similarly, A&P portrays an adolescent and the impact of female customers on his interactions with his fellow employees. The progression from youth to adulthood, which each protagonist undertakes, can be interpreted differently depending on the various power dynamics that are present throughout both texts. These powers are sexual desire, consumerism, masculinity, and social stratification.
Both Joyce's Araby and Updike's A&P examine the influence of carnal attraction in the development of the adolescent protagonists. Within the texts each young male character possesses a subject of desire. As a result of this attraction they are distracted from their endeavors. The narrator of Araby withdraws from his scholarly studies, stating, I had hardly any patience with the serious work of life which, now that it stood between me and my desire, seemed to me child's play, ugly monotonous child's play (Joyce 648). The subject of his desire, Mangan's sister, is in control of his mental faculties, acting as an intruding influence in the activities of his daily life.
Similarly, within A&P, Sammy is transformed into an inattentive employee as he becomes distracted by the presence of his love interest. Within both texts the power of sexual desire is emphasized by the lack of interaction between the infatuated adolescents and their subject of desire. Observation is the solitary means in which Araby 's narrator and Sammy have formed a relationship with Mangan's sister and Queenie.
[...] Stearns, Jennie. “Resistance on Aisle Three?: Exploring the Big Curriculum of Consumption and the (Im)Possibility of Resistance in John Updike's Curriculum Inquiry. 395-415. Print. Stone, Harry. ‘Araby' and the Writings of James Joyce.” The Antioch Review Vol No (1965): 375-410. Print. Updike, John. Pigeon Feathers and Other Stories. New York: Fawcett Columbine (PDF version of document downloaded November 2nd, 2012). [...]
[...] Jennie Stearns, a Georgia Gwinnett College professor explains, drawing a parallel between the store's commodities and the girls, Sammy suggests that they, like the commodities, are merely objects to be observed, handled, and used” (216). The protagonists' actions are thereby fuelled by their involvement in the consumer culture that surrounds them. The maturation of each character is manifested by the desire to escape from their consumerist constraints. 's narrator does so by choosing to not purchase a gift from the bazaar, while Sammie quits his position at the A&P in an attempt to escape the realm of consumerism. [...]
[...] Print. Joyce, James. The Story and Its Writer: An Introduction to Short Fiction. Ed. Ann Charters. New York: Bedford/St. Martin's 646- 650. Print. Mordecai, Marcus. “What is an Initiation Story?” The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism Vol No (1960): 221-228. Print. [...]
[...] The narrator of is attempting to conform to the normative ideal of male conduct. He is endeavouring to participate in a heterosexual relationship, a socially endorsed connection. Through his constant surveillance of Mangan's sister, he is objectifying her. This objectification is emphasized by his focus on physicality. The narrator fails to inform the reader of her disposition, or even her name. The character of Sammy in also objectifies females in this way: his focus on, his attitude about, and his description of the girls, Sammy represents conventional masculinity” (Bentley 3). [...]
using our reader.