Compare and contrast John Updike's story "A&P" and James Joyce's story "Araby."

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While the protagonists in "A&P" and "Araby" are described as typical teenage males, they harbor widely disparate views about the female body. 

In "A&P," the teenage male narrator (Sammy) is focused on the superficial or the corporeal aspects of femininity. His interest in the girls is thoroughly carnal in nature, and he salivates over the female form. The first girl who catches his attention is dressed in a green, two-piece bikini:

She was a chunky kid, with a good tan and a sweet broad soft-looking can with those two crescents of white just under it, where the sun never seems to hit, at the top of the backs of her legs.

Our teenage narrator focuses on the girl's sexy and partially exposed behind. Of the three girls, Sammy is most enchanted by the one he dubs "the queen" or "Queenie." This particular girl is dressed in a "dirty pink" or beige bathing suit with the straps down. It does not take long for the narrator to notice her "white prima donna legs," "white shoulders," and sun-bleached "oaky hair." The sexy image before him inflames his imagination, and he pettily compares the girl's voluptuous beauty to that of the customer he is overcharging:

She's one of these cash-register-watchers, a witch about fifty with rouge on her cheekbones and no eyebrows, and I know it made her day to trip me up. She'd been watching cash registers forty years and probably never seen a mistake before.

In "A&P," the narrative is focused on the female form, while in "Araby," the language pertaining to femininity is refined and reverent. In "Araby," the teenage male narrator becomes obsessed with Mangan's sister. She is a mysterious, ethereal creature, and her beauty transcends even the most mundane aspects of life: "Her image accompanied me even in places the most hostile to romance" and "her name sprang to my lips at moments in strange prayers and praises which I myself did not understand." 

When he does describe her form, his narrative is only mildly sensual in nature. His language alludes to the beauty of the female form, with none of the crudeness inherent in the "A&P" text. 

The light from the lamp opposite our door caught the white curve of her neck, lit up her hair that rested there and, falling, lit up the hand upon the railing. It fell over one side of her dress and caught the white border of a petticoat, just visible as she stood at ease.

Although both the male narrators in "Araby" and "A&P" appreciate the feminine form, both texts approach female beauty in markedly different ways. The language in "A&P" is more visceral in nature and is openly erotic. In contrast, the language in "Araby" is more refined and chooses to focus on the mystery of femininity and its metaphysical allure.

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"A&P" and "Araby" have a similar plot: we have a first-person narrator, a young teenage boy, describing a particular encounter with a highly attractive and desirable teenage girl; the boy has to struggle to stay focused as he works to achieve what he wants; and in the end, the boy does not get the girl in any sense or even win her attention, and the boy feels a more intense frustration than when the story began. Themes of failed gestures, failed connections, and disappointment can be found in both stories.

They also both have a similar setting in a small town where the narrators feel trapped and limited, the older adults are authoritative and unsympathetic, and there's a pervading sense of poverty and shortage. In "A&P," the narrator, Sammy, feels the impending stress that will result from his quitting his job in his awkward and unsuccessful attempt at standing up for the hot girls who got chided for coming into the store dressed only in swimsuits. Likewise, in "Araby," the unnamed narrator has only a few coins to buy a gift for his crush; it's not enough, he can't afford anything at the bazaar even when he finally gets there, and he comes home empty-handed. "A&P" ends with intense sadness ("my stomach kind of fell") and so does "Araby" ("my eyes burned with anguish and anger").

Despite these similarities, it's often more interesting to look at how two stories like these diverge. For example, even though both stories are brimming with imagery and figurative language, Sammy in "A&P" seems to use those devices to objectify the girls in the story, focusing on their body parts and the way their clothes fit, while the unnamed narrator in "Araby" uses figurative language to glorify his crush, focusing on her beauty and allure. Also, we sense a vastly different tone between the stories: "A&P" comes off as casual and cool while "Araby" is deeply serious. And though both stories build quickly to a tense climax, "Araby" does so against a background of severe religious constraint, while "A&P" touches more on the tension between social classes.

So far, we've brushed the surface of each of these aspects of both stories: plot, tone, the representation of women, etc. Both stories have such depth that they invite a closer, detailed look at any one aspect.

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