Comparing Updike's A & P and 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 difference 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...