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Insights into Coming of Age in James Joyce’s “Araby”

In James Joyce’s narrative “Araby”, the nameless, very first person main character states at the end, “Looking up into the darkness I saw myself as an animal driven and derided by vanity; and my eyes burned with anguish and anger” (Joyce, page? ).

He reaches this insight just after allowing the things of his desire, Mangan’s sibling, to overtake his dreams, his thoughts, and his entire life, describing such sentiments as seeing “the soft rope of her hair tossed from side to side” (Joyce, page?) to the night he speaks to her about the Araby celebration in the light from the porch which “caught the white border of a petticoat, just visible” (Joyce, page? ).

By the time he finally reaches the market and discovers it closing up for the night, he realizes that his quest to please the woman is not only illogical, but has caused him to forsake things such as his education, describing it as “ugly dull child’s play” (Joyce, page? ). He had no look after his uncle, stressing just that the uncle would be in house in time so he could go to the festival.

The storyteller experiences such a let down when he comes to Araby that an abrupt truth emerges: he is unable to please Mangan’s sibling and to enable this desire to overrun his life is both pointless and an exercise in vanity. In this respect, the narrator of “Araby” is much like Sammy in John Updike’s “A&P”. Sammy, too, begins the story by relating his interest in “Queenie”, the bikini-clad girl who is shopping in the A&P supermarket where he works.

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After Sammy witnesses the other patron’s shock and his manager’s disrespect, he is figured out to stand up for the lady and her friends in the hope she will see his bravery.

In the end, however, the girls are long gone by the time Sammy quits his job and leaves the store. Sammy, much like the narrator in “Araby”, realizes his desire should not be the deciding force in his life, but rather it is his own convictions and beliefs which should dictate his behavior, determining “how hard the world was going to be to me hereafter” (Updike, 36). A key difference between the two main characters is the level of their devotion. The narrator in “Araby” necessarily exhibits a more distant, but more deep, level of emotion for the object of his desire, based on the time period and setting of the story.

Because he is less worldly, he does not imagine anything more tantalizing than what her hair feels like or what her knees might look like beneath her petticoat. Sammy, on the other hand, is more desirous of seeing a lot more flesh and less interested in behaving romantically. Again, this is certainly due to the difference in years between the stories as well as the acceptable society norms of their respective time periods, but it also illustrates how much deeper a more innocent love can be.

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Insights into Coming of Age in James Joyce’s “Araby”. (2017, Mar 30). Retrieved from

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