The Decline of Chivalry Explored in Araby and A&P

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Romantic gestures have been seen as a useful motive to win hearts of women for centuries. However, as society constantly changes, the effectiveness of these chivalrous acts has diminished. In James Joyce’s “Araby” and John Updike’s “A&P”, this theory is explored, both telling the story of a boy whose efforts to impress the girl of their desires fail. As said by Well’s in his critical analysis of these stories, “Both the protagonists have come to realize that romantic gestures—in fact, that the whole chivalric view [sic] --- are, in modern times, counterproductive”. These stories, despite the differences between the two characters, clearly show that the character’s world is changing, with chivalry becoming more obsolete.

“Araby” tells the story of a young boy who romanticizes over his friend’s older sister. He spends a lot of time admiring the girl from a distance. When the girl finally talks to him, she reveals she cannot go to the bazaar taking place that weekend, he sees it as a chance to impress her. He tells her that he is going and will buy her something. The boy becomes overwhelmed by the opportunity to perform this chivalrous act for her, surely allowing him to win the affections of the girl. The night of the bazaar, he is forced to wait for his drunken uncle to return home to give him money to go. Unfortunately, this causes the boy to arrive at the bazaar as it is closing. Of the stalls that remained open, he visited one where the owner, and English woman, “seemed to have spoken to me out of a sense of duty” (Joyce 89) and he knows he will not be able to buy anything for her. He decides to just go home, realizing he is “a creature driven and derided with vanity” (Joyce 90). He is angry with himself and embarrassed as he...

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... prove how romantic gestures become obsolete as time progresses. As shown above, Sammy and the boy went to great lengths to impress the girls. However, their quest failed simply because it did not matter to the girls. This goes to show that as society develops through time, these chivalrous gestures become more and more useless.

Work Cited

DiYanni, Robert. Literature: Approaches to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama. Boston: McGraw Hill. 2008. Print.

Joyce, James. “Araby.” The Norton Introduction to Literature, Shorter Eighth Edition. Eds. Jerome Beaty, Alison Booth, J. Paul Hunter, and Kelly J. Mays. New York: W.W.Norton.

Updike, John. "A&P." The Bedford Introduction To Literature. Ed. Editor's Name(s). Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin, 2005.

Wells, Walter. "John Updike's 'A&P': a return visit to 'Araby.'" Studies in Short Fiction 30, 2 (Spring 1993)

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