Theme of Facing the Reality in James Joyce Coming of Age Story Araby and Junot Diaz's Novel How to Date a Brown Girl

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As children, we are innocent in all that we do. We do things that are justified as kids that we know adults would not commit. Our innocent nature grows on us over a period of time, and as a result of time, we mature. This period of time can be called a person’s “coming of age.” A coming of age story can be defined as the time period where a character begins innocent and throughout the story, they fall into a painful awareness of the truth, and possibly becomes corrupt with knowledge of the external world. An example of this “coming of age” story is “Araby” by James Joyce. We see in the story a young boy, who we can assume to be twelve or thirteen years old, has a crush on his neighbor; she also happens to be his friend’s older sister. As the story progresses, he begins to become aware of the world as it truly is, rather than how is appears in his head. In Junot Diaz’s “How to Date a Brown Girl,” we see the same corruptness in the main character over time. This recently published story features a young boy who has the intention of “getting in bed” with a girl. However, the story is written to describe situations for certain races. The young man has a plan set for each girl, but as the story advances, it reaches a point when he realizes that the plan might not work, and he becomes conscious of the realities. In this essay, we will discuss how children become corrupt over time because of experiences in life.

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In James Joyce’s Araby, The young boy is going through emotions he has never felt before, and is confused by them. The reader can infer that because of his age, he is going through puberty. Because of the words the boy uses in the story such as “adoration”, “prayers”, and “praise”; it can be assumed that he is in a state of love that isn’t necessarily sexual. But even at a young age, the young boy focuses on the body of the girl. “Her dress swung as she moved her body,” (Joyce 38). The story moves past his adorations of the girl to when he has an interaction with the girl. Even here, the boy begins to change, though it is not fully clear yet. They talk about an event that the girl wanted to attend called Araby, but she can not because of a retreat in her convent. The young boy then goes on to say that if he goes, he will bring her something back. This act is something like a prince who makes a promise to a princess, and goes on this extravagant journey to achieve his goal of winning the girl’s heart. At this point in the story, the young boy believes that the “adventure” will go perfectly. He still has his innocent, naive behavior, and he still believes in fairy tales. But the real world begins to “unveil” itself.

When he gets home, his uncle had not yet returned, but he was still hopeful as “it was still early.” His day went from going “as planned” to slowly going down the drain. When he finally makes it to that “magical place,” he passes into the building, and notices that it is quiet, much like a church after service. The boy has trouble remembering why he’s there. This is a major point in the story where we see the boy’s expectations start to become less heightened. The lady came over to the young boy in “a tone that wasn’t encouraging”, and asked him if he wants to buy anything. Here we see the boy’s fairy tale was shattered. “I lingered before her stall, but I knew my stay was useless.” Finally as he looks up, he says his eyes burned with anguish and fear. We see throughout the story, the boy goes from being naive, to full of anger. His coming of age was evident when he said his “lingering before her stall” was pointless. This phrase is very mature for a pre-teen.

He no longer had the desire to please the girl, and he was faced with the reality that everything in the world isn’t going to happen as planned.

In Junot Diaz’s How to Date a Brown Girl, a young boy has plans to sleep with a girl, but is faced with the challenge of figuring out what to do for each race of girl: Black, White, and a “Halfie.” Unlike “Araby”, there is always a hint of corruption in his innocence. He goes through steps to impress the girls in order to accomplish his goal. He hides the food that was provided by the government. The reader can assume that he does this to hide the fact that his family isn’t very wealthy. As usual, things don’t always work as planned. “But usually, it won’t work this way.” This is a critical point in the story where his plan falls apart. The interesting thing here to think about is if the boy had the failure of his plan, in his plan. With this failure installed in his plan he hopes to reveal his true innocence within himself. The entire final paragraph is about how the young boy’s expectations diminished, and we see the level of innocence rise in the boy. “Watch the shows you want to watch, without a family around to debate you. Don’t go downstairs. Don’t fall asleep. It won’t help. Put the government cheese back in its place before your moms kills you.” We see at the end of the story, the boy seems to be at peace with all that occurred in the story. He is able to watch tv and relax. It can be inferred by the reader that his ability to relax is because he is satisfied with knowing he still has the innocence of a young man.

Both stories show how characters are coming of age. They begin as innocent characters who are very naive, and as the outcome is the main character becomes corrupt with the awareness of the world. The fairy tale story that was told as a kid, are no longer in existence in reality; therefore, we lose a lot of our innocence. But in some cases, we hope that failure will teach us a lesson that success can’t.

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