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The Truth About Adulthood

In: English and Literature

Submitted By zain321
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The Truth About Adulthood
Remember when we were young and dreamt of the day we entered the world of adolescence. So eager to experience the sweet taste of independence that is, till reality came knocking on the door. It is the breakthrough from childhood to adolescence that was captured as the theme in John Updike’s story A &P and James Joyce’s “Araby”. The use of imagery to describe the lifeless and ordinary setting made it clear to distinguish the characters desire to overcome the barriers of childhood.

The story of “Araby” begins at a dead end street where the narrator lives with his aunt and uncle. He describes the short days of winter and mentions, “The space of sky above us was the color of ever-changing violet (107).” He is expressing the continuous change that comes along with getting older, just like the ever changing skies, this feeling of continuous change is something the narrator has no power over and is frustrating to him. To represent the initiation into adulthood and the loss of child like dreams the narrator describes the street where the boys play: “The career of our play brought us through the dark muddy lanes…to the back doors of the dark dripping gardens… to the dark odorous (107). It seems as though where ever the boy goes darkness follows, representing a dreadful feeling of growing up. Passing through to adolescence comes with the crushing of dreams and illusions. In addition to the point on desire to enter adulthood, when in class the narrator says to him self: “I watched my masters face pass from amiability to sternness; he hoped I was not beginning to idle. I could not call my wandering thoughts together. 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 (109).” In this scene the narrator sees that the routine of school is easy, boring and disengaging. On the other hand, his desire for Mangan’s sister is inspirational and exciting. The narrator is longing for the freedom of adulthood but feels stuck in the reality of childhood.

In Updikes’s story “A&P” the story is centered on the thoughts of the main character Sammy in regards to the customers that walk into the grocery store in which the story takes place. Since Sammy works at the A&P store it is clear that he is in his adolescence already, however the theme in the story was his understanding of the harsh reality that is associated with the “real world” and his need for individuality. Working in a grocery store does not provide Sammy with much excitement to his life; with his sarcastic tone he describes the customers as sheep, that they go about their lives without ever aware of their surroundings or the fact that they have conformed themselves to society. This is understood when Sammy states: “I bet you could set off a dynamite in an A&P and the people would by and large keep reaching and checking oatmeal off their lists and muttering…(295)” however the three girls that walked into the store stood out to Sammy, unlike the other sheep. When Sammy’s manager confronted the girls in regards to their inappropriate wear, he took this opportunity to breakthrough his comfort zone and prove a point. Shortly after quitting his job, he had realized what he’s done, that the outside world is nothing compared to what he had dealt with at A&P. There are harsh people and situations that he must be able to handle in order to make something of him self, this realization was clear when Sammy mentions: “I could see Lengel in my place in the slot, checking the sheep through. His face was dark gray and his back stiff, as if he had an injection of iron, and my stomach kind of fell as I felt how hard the world was going to be to me hereafter (299).” Coming from a small town and working for a friend of his parent’s, Sammy’s epiphany about himself is what pushed him to do something outside of his comfort zone in order to become an individual that stood out from the rest of the sheep.

James Joyce’s “Araby” and John Updike’s “A&P” is a representation of how the authors utilized the setting to aid in capturing the theme of the story. In Araby, the narrator used dark imagery to describe a gray and lifeless environment in which the comparison is made to the reality of coming of age. This was also seen in Updike’s “A&P” where the setting takes place in an ordinary small town grocery store. The main character Sammy faces the truth about the real world after quitting his job at the grocery store. All in all both characters from the stories share a similarity, they both are trying to distinguish the reality from the fantasy of adulthood.…...

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