It is certainly evident that life and experience occurs, and eliminates or changes the quality of human innocence. Of course, this is perfectly normal. However, frequently those undergoing such a process, can often feel suffering, loss, and perhaps confusion. This is definitely a part of human evolution. Within our text, the reading of the three pieces by Joyce, Kincaid, and Frost, all serve to illustrate this phenomenon.
“Araby” is a coming of age tale of a young Irish Catholic boy, living in early twentieth century Dublin. Clearly, at the start of the story, the young man is an idealist. Author James Joyce describes his protagonist whose disappointments prompt him to unexpected reaction. “My eyes were often full of tears (I could not tell why) and at times a flood from my heart seemed to pour itself out into my bosom.” (Joyce)
As the story is narrated by the boy now grown, the loss of innocence through remembered experience is doubly poignant and ironic. Looking back, the narrator speaks of himself as growing up in one of the worst parts of a then very blighted city. Tantamount here also is the boy’s feeling that his religion is empty, ritualistic, with no real and true care for his Maker and the rest of humanity.
However, when the boy next falls in love with the sister of a friend, “Mangan”, he briefly experiences a form of renewal. Nevertheless, he is doomed to be disappointed as his view of love is one based on piety and unrealistic romance. He does not get the girl. He mourns thus, “Gazing up into the darkness I saw myself as a creature driven and derived by vanity, (Joyce )
Finally, the last vestiges of his innocence are purged through his actual experience of visiting the Arabian bazaar and realizing that it is very different from what he’d formerly perceived. Dark, sinister, seductive, and highly commercialized, Araby epitomizes for the narrator, the real and experienced state of the world.
Next, in Jamaica Kincaid’s one-sentence short story entitled “Girl”, the loss of innocence through experience is delivered to the daughter by her mother, who provides her with a litany of advice.
Although the mother’s speech to her daughter seems motivated by love and she provides her child with information she believes the girl will need in order to survive as a women in the Western Caribbean world, it is nonetheless a loss of innocence gained via the mother’s diatribe. Although the mother gives the girl what she believes to be helpful information on all from chores to life and love, she displays a strong lack of confidence in the child.
The parent starts with telling her offspring, she should “Wash the white clothes on Monday and put them on the stone heap; wash the color clothes on Tuesday and put them on the clothesline to dry; don’t walk barehead in the hot sun. . . .” (Kincaid ) Mother then proceeds to slight the girl’s very character by telling her,
“on Sundays try to walk like a lady and not like the slut you are bent on becoming.”
The young lady appears to respond minimally, both in her defense and to acquire additional information. The daughter claims, “but I don’t sing benna on Sundays at all and never in Sunday school.” Therefore, at the end of the mother’s lengthy statement, the youngster is presumed to have left behind her childhood, and prepared to enter the adult world.
Finally, prominent twentieth century American poet Robert Frost touches on innocence, experience, and choice in his verse, “The Road Not Taken”. He claimed that the poem was originally written when he and a close friend came upon two similar paths in the woods, and were in a quandary as to which way to go. The poem appears to promote the wish that they could explore both paths and would possibly do so, if they could, but that reality would probably not permit that series of events.
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back. (Frost 149)
Lastly, the final point made by Frost is that his choice dictates his loss of innocence and subsequent reality. He speaks of a later time in which he will recall:
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference. (Frost 149)
Of course, it isn’t clear what kind of difference occurred, and whether or not, it was either positive or negative, but just experienced. Therefore, the choice precluded another experience, a type of loss.
Abcarian, Richard, Samuel Cohen and Marvin Klotz, eds. Literature: The Human Experience. Bedford Saint Martin’s 10th edition