How does comparing and contrasting the settings in the stories "A & P" and "Araby" help us understand gender issues?
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"Araby" and "A&P" feature adolescents realizing that their romantic quests with pretty, unattainable girls is futile. The boys see their romantic ideas and gestures as counterproductive and of no consequence.
The settings in both stories are sites of commercialism or materialism, both of which operate in tension with the romantic notions of the protagonists. In A&P, the setting is a grocery store, where Sammy describes people as "sheep,' shelves line up with food, and the sound of the cash register signifies the monotony of the work. Araby is also materialistic, but in a more tawdry way. The protagonist hears there the sound of "the fall of the coins," and hears women gossiping in a meaningless way. Someone speaks to him out of a sense of duty rather than real interest. Just as Sammy quits his job to seem a hero to the girls, wanting to show them that he is different than other workers, that he is a hero, so the narrator in Araby concludes he is "a creature driven and deried by vanity." Sammy leaves the A&P into the harsh light of day; the protagonist leaves Araby "gazing up into the darkness."
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