Unsatisfied Quest modernisum "Araby", by James Joyce compared to "Bartleby The Scrivener", by Herman Melville

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Unsatisfied Quest

A "Quest" is a story in which a hero or a group of heroes seek to solve a problem. Traditionally the hero was sent by a fisher king to retrieve an object to restore the health of the kingdom. The modernist movement introduced the idea that the hero could fail his quest. This leaves the quest unsatisfied.

"Araby", by James Joyce, is a good example of a modernist unsatisfied quest. The main character is narrating his childhood. He told of his friend Mangan and when he sees his sister, he feels strangely and passionately drawn to her. The young boy dreams of Mangan's sister, who lives nearby: "Her dress swung as she moved her body and the soft rope of her hair tossed from side to side." Her image pursues him, even at night when he is trying to say his prayers. One day, she speaks to him and asks if he is going to the Araby bazaar.

She says she would love to go but won't be able to because of a retreat in her convent school that night. The boy says that if he goes, he will bring something back for her. The hero going out to get an object to improve the "kingdom" by giving it to Mangan's sister.

After a sleepless night, the boy continues to dwell on his feelings for Mangan's sister and the possibilities of bringing something back from the Araby bazaar. He asked permission from his aunt and uncle, but his uncle absentminded came home very late on the night of the bazaar. He gives him some money and agrees to allow the boy to leave for the bazaar, even though the time was running out.

The boy takes a train to the bazaar, but is disappointed to find it is...