JOHN UPDIKE'S A & P AND JAMES JOYCE'S ARABY

John Updike's A & P and James Joyce's Araby
share many of the same literary traits. The
primary focus of the two stories revolves around a
young man who is compelled to decipher the
different between cruel reality and the fantasies
of romance that play in his head. That the man
does, indeed, discover the difference is what sets
him off into emotional collapse. One of the main
similarities between the two stories is the fact
that the main character, who is also the
protagonist, has built up incredible,yet
unrealistic, expectations of women, having focused
upon one in particular towards which he places all
his unrequited affection. The expectation these
men hold when finally face to face with their
object of worship (Wells, 1993, p. 127) is what
sends the final and crushing blow of reality: The
rejection they suffer is far too great for them to
bear.

Updike is famous for taking other author's
works and twisting them so that they reflect a more
contemporary flavor. While the story remains the
same, the climate is singular only to Updike. This
is the reason why there are similarities as well as
deviations from Joyce's original piece. Plot,
theme and detail are three of the most resembling
aspects of the two stories over all other literary
components; characteristic of both writers' works,
each rendition offers its own unique perspective
upon the young man's romantic infatuation. Not
only are descriptive phrases shared by both
stories, but parallels occur with each ending, as
well (Doloff 113). What is even more telling of

Updike's imitation of Joyce's Araby is the fact
that the A & P title is hauntingly close in
pronunciation to the original story's title.

The theme of A & P and Araby are so close to
each other that the subtle differences might be
somewhat imperceptible to the untrained eye. Both
stories delve into the unstable psyche of a young
man who is faced with one of life's most difficult
lessons: that things are not always as they appear
to be. Telling the tale as a way of looking back
on his life, the protagonist allows the reader to
follow his life's lessons as they are learned,
imparting upon the audience all the emotional pain
and suffering endured for each one. The primary
focal point is the young man's love for a
completely unattainable girl who unknowingly riles
the man into such a sexual and emotional frenzy
that he begins to confuse sexual impulses for
those of honor and chivalry (Wells, 1993, p. 127).

It is this very situation of self-deception upon
which both stories concentrate that brings the
young man to his emotional knees as he is forced to
compensate for the emptiness and longing in the
young boy's life (Norris 309).

As much as Updike's rendition is different from

Joyce's original work, the two pieces are as
closely related as any literary writings can be.

Specifically addressing details, it can be argued
that Updike missed no opportunity to fashion A & P
as much after Araby as possible. For example, one
aspect of womanhood that fascinates 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 the implication is integral to
the other important story elements, particularly as
they deal with female obsession. Focusing upon the
milky softness and the white curve of her
neck(Joyce 32) demonstrates the overwhelming
interest Joyce's protagonist place in the more
subtle features; as well, Updike's character is
equally as enthralled by the sensuality of his
lady's long white prima-donna legs (A & P 188).

One considerable difference between Updike's A
& P and Joyce's Araby is the gap between the young
men's ages, with Updike's embarking upon his
twenties while Joyce's is of a significantly more
tender age. This divergence presents itself as one
of the most instrumentally unique aspects
separating the two stories, as it establishes a
considerable variance between the age groups. The
reader is more readily able to accept the fact that
the younger man has not yet gained the ability to
ascertain the complex differences between love's
reality; on the other hand, it is not as easy to
apply this same understanding to Updike's older
character, who should by all rights be
significantly more familiar with the ways of the
world by that age. The lesson that romance and
morality are antithetical, whether learned from
haunting celibates or breathed in with the
chastising Dublin air, has not been lost on the
narrator (Coulthard 97).

What does not escape either story, however, is
the manner in which the young men are transformed
into distracted, agitated, disoriented (Wells,

1993, p. 127) versions of their former selves once
they have become focused upon their