Updike's "A&P" And Joyce's "Araby": A Sexual And Cultural Clash

1569 words - 6 pages

Despite their various differences, "A & P" by John Updike and "Araby" by James Joyce, have much in common. The protagonists in both these short stories stumble upon disenchantment while moving from one stage of life to another. John Updike portrays Sammy, the narrator of "A & P", as a nineteen-year-old cashier at the local A & P in a coastal town near Boston. Sammy, thru the use of daring means, fruitlessly attempts to win the attention of a beautiful girl. The narrator of "Araby" depicted by James Joyce, also, conveys his first failed love, upon reflection of his boyhood in Irish Catholic Dublin in the early 1900's. Updike's "A & P" and Joyce's "Araby" both illustrate youthful narrators who come into conflict with a sexual and cultural clash.The protagonists from both stories live in a restrictive culture antagonistic to romance. The location of Sammy's New England town offers some insights to its cultural values. When Sammy has an altercation with a lady at the cash, he reflects, "if she'd been born at the right time they would have burned her over in Salem"¦" (Updike 864). Entailing the strict moral code and little forbearance for those who do not follow them. Furthermore, the location of the A & P grocery store shines some light on the town's values. Updike places the setting for the A & P "right in the middle of the town, and if you stand out front our doors you can see two banks and a Congregational church and the newspaper store and three real estate offices"¦" (Updike 866). Cultural values and order of importance are shown by Sammy's perception of his surroundings. The banks are the first among those mentioned, an indication of the importance of capital in modern society. Followed by a Congregational church, a protestant religion, which sets a moral foundation for the town. After that the newspaper office, representing freedom of speech, sets the moral median for the town. The American dream is endorsed by the presence of the three real estate offices.All of these cultural values publicized outside, are reiterated inside the A & P, where rules, policies and routine are dominant. Although the A & P views this as efficiency, Sammy scrutinizes about the lack of spirit, " I bet you could set off dynamite in the A & P and the people would by and large keep reaching and checking oatmeal off their list and muttering"¦" (Updike 866). Nothing natural exists here, just a maze of aisles through which customers bump their carts, Sammy says, "The whole store was like a pinball machine"¦" and move collectively like "sheep pushing their carts down the aisle"¦" (Updike 866). Sammy feels the effects himself, caused by the monotony of his job, even creating a song out of the sounds made by the register. Sammy perceives the A & P as a model of the callous community filled with "sheep" following trivial limitations.Inevitably trouble occurs when three girls from the beach colony,...

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