The Decline Of Chivalry Explored In Araby And A&P

1202 words - 5 pages

Romantic gestures have been seen as a useful motive to win hearts of women for centuries. However, as society constantly changes, the effectiveness of these chivalrous acts has diminished. In James Joyce’s “Araby” and John Updike’s “A&P”, this theory is explored, both telling the story of a boy whose efforts to impress the girl of their desires fail. As said by Well’s in his critical analysis of these stories, “Both the protagonists have come to realize that romantic gestures—in fact, that the whole chivalric view [sic] --- are, in modern times, counterproductive”. These stories, despite the differences between the two characters, clearly show that the character’s world is changing, with chivalry becoming more obsolete.

“Araby” tells the story of a young boy who romanticizes over his friend’s older sister. He spends a lot of time admiring the girl from a distance. When the girl finally talks to him, she reveals she cannot go to the bazaar taking place that weekend, he sees it as a chance to impress her. He tells her that he is going and will buy her something. The boy becomes overwhelmed by the opportunity to perform this chivalrous act for her, surely allowing him to win the affections of the girl. The night of the bazaar, he is forced to wait for his drunken uncle to return home to give him money to go. Unfortunately, this causes the boy to arrive at the bazaar as it is closing. Of the stalls that remained open, he visited one where the owner, and English woman, “seemed to have spoken to me out of a sense of duty” (Joyce 89) and he knows he will not be able to buy anything for her. He decides to just go home, realizing he is “a creature driven and derided with vanity” (Joyce 90). He is angry with himself and embarrassed as he discovers that his failed romantic gesture won’t impress the girl. To her, he is just her little brothers friend whose chivalrous ways go unnoticed because they are not needed. In short, the experience at the bazaar caused the boy to realize that chivalric gestures will not benefit him.

In the story “A&P”, Updike tells a more modernized version of “Araby” depicting a scene where a young boy, in an attempt to impress a female customer, stands up for her against authority, which fails. Sammy, the cashier of the store is in awe of the three girls who enter in nothing but bathing suits. He watches them from afar and is especially taken with the “queen” of the group, stating her to be “more than pretty” (Updike 33). The store manager then calls out the girls for their inappropriate attire, and like in Araby, Sammy seizes the opportunity to show the girls his chivalrous ways. He manages to get “I quit” (Updike 35) in before the girls are out the door, in the hopes that they will stop to listen to him. They, however, keep going and Sammy is left to finish what he started. He is now faced with following through with his actions, and losing his job. It is from this experience that Sammy learns that as the world modernizes,...

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