Some people say that the first love is the purest and the most beautiful, and that we fall in love for the first time when we are teenagers. In many cases, however, people lose their first love. I think the reason might be teenager immaturity and a lack of experience. The first time we experience love, we do not know how to understand it. Two short stories, “A&P” by John Updike and “Araby” by James Joyce, use teenage boys’ love as their subject. The two boys grow into an adult world through their failures in love. “A&P” and “Araby” are much alike, not only in the subject, but also in the theme, the plot, and the points of view. However, the protagonist of each story shows different characteristics. For example, Sammy in “A&P” is not as impressionable as the boy in “Araby,” and he takes the initiative, unlike the boy in “Araby,” who is passive towards his growth.
The boy’s love in “Araby” is more holy than the boy’s love in “A&P,” and the boy is fascinated by his love interest. The boy’s blind and ardent love toward Mangan’s sister is showed through his narration. He does not mention his name, age, appearance, or anything about him. Moreover, he does not depict minutely Mangan’s sister who is the object of his affection, but her figure is described in the abstract, such as ‘her dress swung as she moved her body and the soft rope of her hair tossed from side to side'(124) and ‘the white curve of her neck'(125). These sentences are all descriptions about her in the story. We do not know the girl’s exact appearance. But we can see how intensely the boy likes her and sincerely hopes to get love. In his imaginary world, he likened himself and her to a harp and fingers running upon the wires(125), and to him her name is like a summons to all his foolish blood(124). The girl becomes like Venus, the goddess of his love and the most important part in his life now. However, the girl seems be far away from him where he never can reach her. I think the boy put more emphasis on his feelings of love than on the girl, who is the concrete object of his love.
Whereas the boy in “Araby” carried away by his feeling, Sammy in “A&P” is more perceptive than the boy in “Araby.” Even though Sammy quit his job impulsively in the last of the story, he knows himself and his surroundings well than the boy in “Araby.” Sammy gives a full explanation about his surrounding environment and people. He is a 19-year-old boy and works at a small grocery store that is located in a small town of Boston. He describes the three girls’ appearances, the way when they walk in the store, manner of walking, and even the colors of swimming suits in detail. However, the explanations about the girls, customer, and his co-worker, Strokesie, are not excited, but prosy.
We can see that how things in the A&P are arranged and who Strokesie is through Sammy’s eyes and notice Sammy’s feelings and thoughts. He spends an insipid daily life at the small store as a cashier. He depicts customers as ‘cash-register-watchers'(266) and ‘the sheep pushing their carts down the aisle'(268). He is not satisfied with his job instead he looks annoyed. He seems to not want to be a manager of the small store in the small town where five miles from the beach like. Sammy is not impressionable like the boy in the “Araby,” but he is aware of his surrounding environment and people. His tasks are simple and repetitive, and the people in his work make him tired. The girls are attractive and catch his eye, but there are no a fervent desire of love.
Two young boys make decisions that are Sammy quit the store and the boy in “Araby” goes to bazaar. The decisions lead them to be frustrated and make them to grow up. The girls play an important role to make up the boys’ mind. The boys are forced to grow into manhood by their surroundings. However, Sammy’s decision is more aggressive to change his life than the boy’s decision in “Araby.” Sammy decides to quit his job when the manager embarrassed the girls, dressed in bathing suits, saying that to cover their shoulders is store policy. As Sammy mentions in the story, his decision is an attempt to draw the girls’ attentions as their hero. His wearisome day in the A&P is another major reason that makes him want to escape from the changeless small world. He faced off against with his manager who is a friend of his parents, and is represented as the old generation. Quitting the store was an impulsive decision without deep consideration and his resignation did not win the girls’ favors. Finally, he realized the real world in front of him how that is cruel, but he obviously has taken a step forward to adult by making decision by himself.
There is Sammy’s own will to change his life with quit his boring job in “A&P,” but in “Araby,” the boy grows in a natural way without any exertion. The boy in “Araby” cares nothing for the bazaar until the Mangan’s sister asks him. He is determined to go to the bazaar when he is asked. His trip to the bazaar was decided by the girl’s hope, not of his own will. He acted passively, for example he murmured ‘O love’ many times alone(125), watched his love interest secretly every morning, but he had never spoke to her(124). His trip to the bazaar was entirely for her, because he wanted to bring something to her to make her happy. He arrived at the Araby at late night because his uncle had come home late and the train going to bazaar was delayed. Most of the stalls in bazaar were already closed. There was calm and dark. While these things happened, the boy had nothing to do. He just waited and accepted it. At the end of the story when he understood his ideal and pure love that made him infatuated with the girl was a mistaken belief, he was frustrated and was angered at himself. He accepted again everything that was happened to him and then got new understanding. Even though his growth followed as a matter of course and was forced by his surrounding, he grew up through his experiences.
John Updike and James Joyce made the boys’ love to fail to help their growing into real world. James Joyce didn’t say the boy’s age but we can guess that Sammy is older than the boy in the “Araby.” Sammy knows his surrounding environment and what he wants or what he does not want. And he has grown up by trying to deal with his own situations in front of him actively. The boy in the “Araby,” however, was guided to growth without any effort to against with every thing he has been faced. He was fully influenced by his misconception with the girl and his feelings completely consumed by his feelings. The ending of these two are miserable unlike the thoughts people believe teenagers’ love are beautiful. Because the boys have grown up at the cost of their love, the world in front of them seems harsher, especially to the boy in “Araby” who is more sensitive and young.