Epiphany

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World War I and World II are basically the same, right? If so, Araby, written around WWI by James Joyce, and The Flash, written around WWII by Italo Calvino, are also the same, no? Indeed, these short stories have many similarities. At the same time, both stories have many differences. Thus, it is difficult to compare both stories when considering all the details. If the subject of comparison is more specific, such as epiphany, then more emphasis and effort can be put into the comparison. In Araby, the protagonist falls in love with a girl, but love deceives him. In his moment of epiphany, “[g]azing up into the darkness [he] saw [himself] as a creature driven and derided by vanity; and [his] eyes burned with anguish and anger” (Joyce 1). In The Flash, the protagonist suddenly grasps a reality, but only for an instant: “[He] stopped, blinked: [He] understood nothing. Nothing, nothing about anything. [He] didn’t understand the reasons for things or for people, it was all senseless, absurd. And [he] started to laugh” (Calvino 1). The comparison between the epiphanies of both short stories reveals the relationship amongst the similarities and differences regarding theme, symbolism and setting.
Most importantly, comparing the themes of both epiphanies reveals they can simultaneously be similar and different. An important common theme in both epiphanies is facing reality. In Araby, the protagonist realizes “[his] stay was useless” (Joyce 6) since the young lady only “spok[e] to [him] out of a sense of duty” (Joyce 6). Likewise, in The Flash, the protagonist realizes he “accepted everything: traffic lights, cars, posters, uniforms, monuments, things completely detached from any sense of the world, accepted them as if there some necessity, some chain of cause and effect that bound them together” (Calvino 1). Both characters face the reality and randomness of the world. Even so, each epiphany implies each protagonist faces a different sort of reality. The protagonist of Araby faces the reality of love and “[sees himself] as a creature driven and derived by vanity” (Joyce 6). On the other hand, the protagonist of The Flash faces the reality of existence and hopes “[he] shall grasp that other knowledge” (Calvino 2). Therefore, reviewing the theme similar to both epiphanies leads to discovering different themes as well.
Conversely, looking at the differences in the symbolism of each epiphany hints at a comparable aspect of symbolism.

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The epiphany of Araby symbolizes the protagonist escaping into a dark world when he enters “[t]he upper part of the hall [which] was now completely dark” (Joyce 6). In contrast, the epiphany of The Flash symbolizes the protagonist entering a spiritual and existential world of “hope that perhaps this will be [his] moment again, perhaps once again [he] shall understand nothing” (Calvino 2). Still, both epiphanies symbolize a mutual world which is full of evil. The protagonist of The Flash “shout[s], ‘there’s something wrong! Everything’s wrong! We’re doing the absurdist things! This can’t be the right way!’” (Calvino 1). Once again, the epiphany of Araby symbolizes a dark world where the protagonist plays in: “the dark muddy lanes...the dark dripping gardens... the dark odorous stables” (Joyce 1). In conclusion, the differences of each epiphany’s symbolism points to a mutual symbolism between the two epiphanies. The two epiphanies symbolize a time full of hate and sorrow, much like the times of the First and Second World War.
Indeed, the similarity between each epiphany’s settings is that they both originate from a time during the World Wars. Additionally, each epiphany indicates an era of rage and suffering. For example, in Araby, the protagonist is in a setting which causes “[his] eyes [to burn] with anguish and anger. Moreover, in The Flash, the protagonist annoys the crowd and “ma[kes] off amid their angry glares” (Calvino 1). Even though the times of both epiphanies are similar, it is obvious they occur in two completely different wars. This indirectly suggests the locations of each epiphany are different. The epiphany in Araby occurs in “the bazaar” (Joyce 5), whereas the epiphany in The Flash occurs “at a crossroads” (Calvino 1). Unlike theme and symbolism, the relationship between the similarities and differences of each epiphany’s setting is not as obvious.
The comparison of the theme, symbolism and setting of the epiphanies in Araby and The Flash indicates the direct relationship between their similarities and differences. To repeat, both epiphanies begin with a major common them of facing reality and then branch off to separate sub-themes. On the contrary, both epiphanies’ diverse symbolisms form a connection to provide an analogous symbol of an evil world. Afterwards, the symbolism allows the piecing together of the unforeseen relationship between the two epiphany’s settings. Thus, the trail of comparisons leads back to World War I and World War II. Just as the two different short stories link together, do the two wars ultimately link to each other in terms of action, thought and outcome?



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