"Araby" and "A Sunrise On The Veld"
"Araby" by James Joyce and "A Sunrise On The Veld" by Doris Lessing are both short stories in which the protagonists gained a consciousness that was beyond themselves. The main characters are both initiated into new realities and truths of which they were not previously aware. Both short stories will be examined with reflections according to the type of initiation that was experienced, the nature of the narrators, the similar and dissimilar aspects of both characters and various components of the short stories.
In the two stories, both characters were experiencing an initiation or awareness of new actualities that were outside of themselves. The main characters both painfully learned that this initiation was beyond their control. It was impossible for them to ignore the new realities which they both came to understand. The new found awareness was so powerful that it changed each boy's entire outlook and they both began to see the world through new eyes. The type of initiation both characters had was a distressing journey from innocence to knowledge and experience.
The two narrators had different attitudes and reactions to the initiation experience.
In Araby, the reader learns of the boy's initiation in the final sentence:
"Gazing up into the darkness I saw myself as a creature driven and derided by vanity; and my eyes burned with anguish and anger."1 The character had a negative reaction to his new awareness. His realization caused him to have feelings of shame, anguish and anger. He was possessed and controlled by his passion for Mangan's older sister.
His ideals of the girl were not realistic but were futile and vain. The girl drew out feelings in him and he discovered that feelings must be reciprocated and the downside that love can also be painful. He had a difficult time accepting his own weakness. He was in distress because he had stopped for a moment and gazed up into the darkness and realized that his previous feelings were wonderful but the only reality existed in his feelings. It had no existence beyond how he felt and the understanding of this was painful for the character.
The protagonist of A Sunrise On The Veld was more accepting towards his experience of initiation than that of the character in Araby. The boy's attitude was stoical:
"...this is how life goes one, by living things dying in anguish."
His feelings were of acceptance.
In the beginning, the boy felt in control of himself in every way, and came to feel in control of the world in which he lived. This attitude changed completely after his encounter with the dying buck. He accepted the fact that there was nothing he could do to help and that some things were not in his power and were beyond his ability to control. He came to an awareness of his own limitations and accepted the inevitable. The character suffered however and felt anger, but also he was satisfied with what he realized about the cruelty of nature and life.
There were several similarities and differences between the central characters. The two protagonists were both male and were young in age. Each was overcome and enthusiastic towards their feelings of delight and became aware of the negative side to joy. The boys were imaginative and romantic about their individual passions. They were both prompted by something or someone outside of themselves.
The characters held an appreciation for beauty. The type of beauty the boys appreciated differed. The character in Araby felt emotional about a human being and the boy in A Sunrise On The Veld felt a love for nature. Both characters experienced an impatience and eagerness towards their obsessions. The boy in Araby could not wait to visit the bazaar as the boy in A Sunrise On The Veld was eager to wake up and go into the vast fields of nature. One character was overcome by the morning, the nature and was exhilarated to be a part of it all. Similarly, the boy in Araby had the ! same feeling, however he was falling in love with a girl. One had a connection with nature and the other felt a connection with a person. They felt a oneness with the object of their love. They tried to break down the boundaries of their isolation. Both passions brought them out of their aloneness and loneliness.
A difference in characters was that the boy in Araby was passive, inactive and reflective about his passion. The focus was on himself and how he felt about his friend's sister. He was an introvert while the character in the second story was an extrovert being active and involved in his love for nature; he was more aware of what he was doing. In addition, the boy's pride in Araby took over his feelings for the girl which were destructive and almost destroyed him. The girl had a ruinous influence on him as she occupied his mind taking him away from his sleep and school work. She haunted his mind when he was not around her. In A Sunrise On The Veld, the character had a purposeful obsession. One that taught him valuable lessons about life, for example, that nature can be hostile and not to take it for granted.
There was a difference in what the boys learned from their experiences. The boy in Araby learned something about himself. He learned that his love for the girl was one-sided, unreal and its only basis was in his feelings. It was not a mutual feeling and therefore may have destroyed what he felt for her. However the boy's joy for nature in A Sunrise On The Veld probably did not go away even after witnessing the buck being devoured by ants. He learned about death and that existence is finite.
There is a difference also, in the sources of the characters' pain. One felt and empathized with a buck's suffering and the other boy felt his own pain from within himself. One exceptional similarity between both characters was that they both felt pain deeply and both suffered.
Both authors incorporated techniques for developing the general idea of the short stories through the settings and images. The setting in Araby was in Dublin, in a conventional, quiet neighborhood. The boy lived in a prison-like house. The air was musty and nothing was taken care of. The gardens were growing wild, the books in his house were in a state of ruin and a priest, the former tenant of the house, had died in one of the rooms. The atmosphere was dark, dismal and depressing. The character lived in a run down district where street gangs existed. It was the winter season and street lamps were weak which gave additional images of darkness. These examples suggested images of decay, death and imprisonment. There was an opposing image that existed in the form of the boy's friend's older sister and the bazaar in Araby. This gave images of escape and hope as well as opposing images of Dublin and Araby, darkness opposing light.
Araby, written in the third person, had tones in which were illusory and subjective. The character is dealing with his feelings and with the relationship that exists there and is mostly imaginary. The setting and images of this story offered a mood that was bleak. The boy's mood and the external surroundings were in sympathy with each other. For example, at the end of the day when the stalls were closing down and there was not enough time, this provided an external mood that was in harmony with his inward mood.
The setting of A Sunrise On The Veld took place in an open, grassy areas or as the title indicates, in an actual veld. The season is winter in this story, early morning, approximately two hours before sunrise. The air smelled new and fresh, it was the beginning of a new day. There were descriptions of nature, for example: the wall of trees; the grass was described as tall; and there was a river around him. The narrator described the beauty and variety of nature. The character had dogs running along with him, and so the atmosphere suggested life and energy.
The story, written in the first person, had a tone of objectiveness. The objects were real, in front of him, and existed outside of his mind. There were several notable images. In one image, the description of his home compared to the vastness of the veld, his home was described as low and small under a brilliant sky. This projected man's insignificance compared to the vastness of nature.
At one point after he leaped in the air over rocks and shouted as he ran, he stopped for a moment and reflected that he could have broken his ankle at any moment. His enjoyment could be disturbed as suddenly as had happened for the buck. He learned that his joy was precarious and fragile and could be taken away at any given time. He described bitter odors after encountering the dying animal, and the atmosphere became depressing. There was suffering, sickness and anger. There was a sense of the shortness of time and the character realized that he too was mortal. He got a fore ta! ste of his own death and the idea that he too will die one day.
There was a contrast between the beauty of the surroundings and the newness of the early morning and the death of the buck; it stood out in contrast.
In the short stories, through all components, confrontations and experiences both characters were brought out of themselves for a brief period and then forever saw the world in a different and more realistic way. They became more aware of the collective nature of existence, and of how their own lives were affected by outside influences, beyond their control.