How are the boys alike and different in A&P and Araby?  

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are several similarities and a few differences between the young male protagonists of "Araby" and "A & P."

Certainly, the two youths have a romanticized view of the girls with whom they are infatuated. The young narrator of "Araby" states that Mangan's sister's image accompanies him everywhere, even to places "most hostile to romance." He is obsessed with her, and he lies on the floor of his front parlor, watching her door, waiting for her to come out. When she opens the door and walks on the doorstep, his "heart leaps," and he experiences erotic feelings as he watches. 

Her dress swung as she moved her body and the soft rope of her hair tossed from side to side. . . . I pressed the palms of my hands together. . . murmuring, "O love! O love!" many times.

Similarly, Sammy of "A & P" describes the girls who enter the grocery store in their swimsuits in rather erotic terms. He perceives the leader, whom he romantically calls "Queenie," in this way:

With the straps pushed off, there was. . . this clean bare plane of the top of her chest down from the shoulder bones like a dented sheet of metal tilted in the light. I mean, it was more than pretty. 

Both boys imagine themselves performing chivalrous gestures. When the boy from "Araby" goes to the market, he pretends that he is a knight with the Holy Grail: "I bore my chalice safely through a throng of foes." In a similar frame of mind, Sammy feels that he should defend the girls from the verbal assault of the manager of the store, Mr. Lengel, by quitting. After this gesture on behalf of the girls, Sammy looks around for them, but they are gone. Sammy is left outside to feel regret alone in his epiphany.

My stomach kind of fell as I felt how hard the world was going to be to me hereafter.

Similarly, the boy in "Araby" feels disappointment and senses the reality of his behavior later. When he finally arrives at the bazaar, he discovers that it is hardly the exotic place that he has imagined. However, his epiphany seems more devastating to him emotionally than Sammy's does because the boy is extremely disillusioned.

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

Another difference between the boys of the two stories is that Sammy seems more independent than the boy in "Araby," who passively imagines actions more often than he performs them. Also, he must wait for his uncle to return home before he can depart, while Sammy is fully able to act independently.

jihyunkim67 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Both of the protagonists in the beginning of A&P and Araby are young teenage boys who have fairy tale-like fantasies about women around them. At the start of each story both of them are portrayed as immature and child-like characters who misconceive the emotions they feel for certain women figures as love and need for protection. They try to act romantically the way they learnt from fairy tales and movies. Both of these characters also have moments of realization, a sort of epiphany at the end and go under a phase of maturity.

The main difference between the two characters would be the narrative. The boy in Araby is portrayed as his old self in a flashback since the narrative is a much older version of the protagonist. The boy in A&P however has an instant insight which is very brief and short compared to that in Araby. The boy in Araby had his epiphany by going on a demanding quest and facing the hardships whereas the character in A&P had a moment of realization coincidentally after making a wrong decision in life.