Compare & contrast "Pushcart Man" by Langston Hughes & Dubliners by James Joyce.

Expert Answers
accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

These are two very interesting texts to compare. On the face of it, "Pushcart Man" is a rather simplistic poem about the pushcart man who gives his name to the title of the poem and who brings with him a sense of happiness and makes the speaker realise how happy he is. As the speaker sees the pushcart man, "pushing shadows away," he seems to undergo a kind of epiphany whereby he realises how happy he is. Metaphorically, this is described through the description of a garden and fresh vegetables:

Look! Springtime I've found...

I've got a garden all day.

Carrots and string-beans,


Brocoli's like a bouquet!

The "garden" that the reader discovers is internal, and the verdant vegetables, that are compared to flowers are representative of his own happiness and joy in life. The reference to "Springtime I've found" clearly indicates the way in which the sight of the pushcart man has triggered off some inner-realisation of how happy the speaker is.

The central comparison that this poem has with Joyce's collection of short stories is that of epiphany. Whereas in "Pushcart Man" the epiphany is one of happiness, generally in these short stories the epiphany is one of great sadness. Consider the narrator in "Araby," for example, who spends most of the story lost in his own illusions about his relationship with Mangan's daughter and his romantic view of the bazaar he goes to. When he gets there, however, he sees himself for who he really is:

Gazing up into the darkness I saw myself as a creature driven and derided by vanity; and my eyes burned with anguish and anger.

The narrator of this text realises certain things about himself that bring self-knowledge but also immense pain. This is the chief point of comparison with "Pushcart Man" as both texts involve epiphanies but the nature of that epiphany is very different.