Coming of age and making the transition from child to man is one of the most difficult experiences a person ever lives through. One of the hardest elements about this is that it is the first major change. There is no former frame of reference to look back on. There is no concept that the smallest of errors will not have lifelong consequences. There also is no understanding of how thoughts, whether acted upon or not indirectly shape our actions.
Araby by James Joyce and Nobody Said Anything by Raymond Carver both address that transition, and the attendant feelings of success and failure that boys experience as they mature. Both contain elements of awakening and adventure and disillusionment. The challenges the boys face are different in each story. The conflicts the boys face and how these conflicts affect how they see the world, as well as the worlds they see are different as well. Never the less, both boys experience a change in viewpoint and come away from their adventures with fresh realizations at the end.
In Araby by James Joyce a young boy is infatuated to distraction by a neighborhood girl to the point where it affects his schooling because “by day in the classroom her image came between me and the page I strove to read.”. Finally, he has the opportunity to interact with her by bringing something home from the Araby Bazaar. Through a string of misfortune, oversight and inaction he fails. Instead of coming home in triumph with a gift for his girl the story ends as it began, on the dead end of North Richmond Street, in Dublin, Ireland. .
The boy in Nobody Said Anything by Raymond Carver also faces a string of events that starts when he overhears his parents arguing in the morning and then argues with his brother to keep quiet so he can hear what his parents are fighting about. He fails in that and feigns illness so he can stay home. After his parents leave he packs a lunch, grabs his fishing pole and heads out to a nearby creek.. On the way he gets a ride from a woman, this ends up building sexual tension as he later fantasizes about her. At the creek he catches a small fish by himself. This small triumph is followed by a string of small battles as he strives with another boy to land a big fish, then against the same boy to take home the most prized portion. . As in Araby the story comes around full circle when the boy arrives back home to find his parents arguing again. He displays his prize only to receive disapproval, and no one says anything about his transgressions in taking the day off to fish. .
Both Araby by James Joyce and Nobody Said Anything by Raymond Carver start out at the boys’ homes, but there the resemblance ends. The setting on the dead end of North Richmond Street, in Dublin, Ireland is one in a neighborhood of bleak poverty. Dublin at that time is clearly under English oppression as can be seen by the speech and actions of the stall keepers at the Araby Bazaar. This is part of what angers the boy and keeps him from buying anything. However, the whole neighborhood in which the lad lives is suffering from a seemingly permanent state of degradation and depression. One of the realities that the local residents face is that they cannot afford the English goods. It is this final element that keeps him from making a purchase. He just does not have the money to buy something fine. This poverty, combined with pride is what drives him back to his home on the dead end of North Richmond Street. .
In contrast, the setting in Nobody Said Anything is lush and green with fish to be caught in the clear running stream. This sense of clean water is brought home doubly when consideration is given to how easily the boys can see that trophy sized fish they want to catch. . There are no dirty streets or impoverished neighbors. The poverty in this story is in the affections of the parents who are caught up, each in their own world of emotion that leaves the boy on the outside. The only time they are united in feeling is when the chase him and his fish out of the house, essentially discarding both the boy and his emotions. In other circumstances he could expect to be soundly reprimanded for taking a day off from school to go fishing. However, even though he was told to stay home and study, no distractions, no television, no one saw through to recognize his transgretions.
Both Araby by James Joyce and Nobody Said Anything by Raymond Carver address the transition, and the attendant feelings of success and failure that boys experience as they mature. These stories both start and end at the boys homes, although the homes and communities are far different in location and character. Never the less coming of age and making the transition from child to man is the common theme and examines the difficult experiences a boy goes through on the way to becoming a man.
A common element in these two stories is that the boys are both trying to elicit emotional responses from others and in their minds fail. Part of the problem is that an adolescent boy is going through his first major change and has no frame of reference to look back on. The boy in Nobody Said Anything by Raymond Carver does not realize that he cannot distract his parents and stop them from arguing with the gift a prize fish. His parents’ problems run deeper than that. This is the realization he has while standing on the porch, half a fish in his hands. That is his moment of realization that leads to his final disappointment. . When pride keeps the protagonist in James Joyce’s Araby from making a purchase at the bazaar it is the action that leads to his final disappointment. A boy on his way to manhood has no concept that the smallest of errors will not have lifelong consequences. In a sense they can but not in the way most boys imagine. By returning empty handed this young man might have early learned a lesson about rash pride that will save him from many future mistakes.
The element of sexual tension and romance is also present in both these stories, abet in different ways. Most of the boy’s actions and emotions are ruled by his infatuation with a girl in his neighborhood. His spends his time trying to get her attention, times his walk to school so he can follow, then pass her. He spends his time in class thinking about her instead of his schoolwork; yet when he finally has the opportunity to impress her his pride gets in the way and he fails. In Nobody Said Anything the hormonal driven tension is derived from an encounter with an older woman who gives the boy a ride to the creek. He has sexual fantasies about her that are far different from the full romantic distraction the young girl provides in Araby. Never the less, this element is part of what drives the story and builds tension and the sense of transition into manhood that both boys are going through. These are not just stories about childhood adventures, and misadventures there are more adult sexual and romantic elements as well.
There also is no understanding of how thoughts, whether acted upon or not indirectly shape our actions.
Boys experience feelings of success and failure as they mature that is what both Araby by James Joyce and Nobody Said Anything by Raymond Carver are about. Mixed into that transition are elements of awakening and adventure and disillusionment. This is universal, depending on where they are boys face different challenges and every boy has his own story. That every boy does have his own story is part of what is the same for all. Everyone has to face and overcome conflicts affect how they see the world. From these conflicts and resolutions children experience changes in viewpoint and come away from their adventures with fresh realizations at the end.
Carver, Raymond. "Nobody Said Anything." Carver, Raymond. Will You Please be Quiet . McGraw Hill, 1987.
Joyce, James. "Araby." The Dubliners. Dublin, Ireland, 1913.
McDermott, John A. "American Epicleti: Using James Joyce to Read Raymond Carver." The Raymond Carver Review 3 (n.d.). <http://dept.kent.edu/english/RCR/issues/03/1%20RCR%203%20pdf%20files/5%20McDermott.pdf>.