How does the narrator's age in "Araby" and "A&P" affect the understanding of the "initiation"?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

"A&P" is a short story about a teenage cashier at a local grocery store. The story was written by John Updike in 1961.

"Araby" is a short story featured in Dubliners, a collection of stories by James Joyce. The book was published in 1914. The story centers on an adolescent boy's social development in the city of Dublin.

Both stories are considered coming-of-age and center on male youth, and their relations with girls and the adults around them.

In "A&P," the main character, Sammy, becomes attracted to girls who walk into the grocery store he works at. He observes them as they peruse through the store. When the girls see that Sammy's and another male cashier's lanes are open, Sammy wonders if the girls will choose him.

Sammy can be seen as a little arrogant, believing the cashier job is beneath him, but he chooses to stay to keep himself busy. This level of self-awareness differentiates Sammy from the main character in "Araby."

In "Araby," the main character, an adolescent boy, is still curious about the adult world. The narrator and his adolescent friends are not yet jaded by the post-adolescent life at the beginning of the story. However, like Sammy, the narrator in "Araby" eventually becomes cynical towards the adults around him when he observes their bad behavior.

Sammy and the "Araby" narrator's age difference is evident in how they approach the girls they are attracted to, respectively. Sammy is more self-conscious, whereas the narrator in "Araby" does whatever he can to impress her. The main character in "Araby" still has lower inhibitions, compared to the teenage Sammy, who deals with insecurities.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial