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Jay August

Children are often taught by their parents, but sometimes they must learn things on their own. When coming of age we learn many important lessons that are critical for a successful future. Sometimes the most significant learning experiences are traumatic and painful. In The Lucid Eye in Silver Town by John Updike, Jay August is an intellectual, but inexperienced individual that must overcome difficulties of frustration and disappointment to realize his childhood immaturity.

The character of Jay August is developed throughout the story with dialogues that capture his psychological traits more frequently than his physical traits. During the story, Jay reveals his childhood naivet repeatedly. By saying, I was sure that only stupid people took an interest in money (Updike 490) he reveals that he has not yet learned that money is necessary in life. Throughout the story, he refers to objects with concern for aspiration and beauty, but does not realize that it takes wealth to obtain these objects. To him, New York is the silver town, Shimmering buildings arrowed upward and glinted through the treetops Towers of ambition rose, crystalline within me (Updike 493). He does not realize that ambition and shimmer are associated with money and wealth. Jay shows naivet again when his uncle pretentiously takes his father and him to the Pickernut Club, an adult lounge. He orders ice cream and is disappointed with the selection especially when the cheap drugstore at home had fifteen flavors (Updike 491). Jay does not realize that children do not normally attend the Pickernut Club. Jay comprehends towards the end of the story that he cannot get everything that he wants and that he is not as smart as he thinks he is. Throughout the story Jay s character grows and develops by going through significant learning experiences that are essential in life.

Jay is an individual who is influenced differently by both his mother and his father. Jay relates closely to his mother because they share a love of art and aesthetic values, disdain for crass and selfish values, and a similar way of thinking. He respects his father, Marty, but is also annoyed by him because of the way he agrees with everyone and does not stick up for himself. Marty continually tells Jay how smart he is and how successful he will be one day. Towards the end of the story Jay begins to realize and appreciate the man that Marty is. He finds that even though Marty is not a successful businessman, he has been successful in raising a family and providing for them. Marty is there to assist Jay in growing up. He has been through it before and knows of the disappointment. Jay begins to respect and value how and where he lives. He gains newfound priorities and values that will help to shape his life for the better.

The chief conflict that Jay August is confronted with is when an eyelash falls into his eye and obstructs his lucid vision. He shows his loss of lucid vision when he doesn t act as precociously and acts more as a child. When Jay s Uncle Quin calls for a doctor, Marty insists on trying to remove the eyelash himself. Jay, trying to take on the role of big city life, repulses him. Jay s reaction causes him to be unable to purchase the Vermeer book. Later, Jay realizes that he would not have been able to buy the book with only a modicum of money anyway, It d be cheap at fifteen dollars, even secondhand, with the pages all crummy and full of spilled coffee (Updike 496). Sometimes, it is the trivial things, like the eyelash, that have a big effect on the way a situation turns out. If the eyelash had not fallen into his eye, the trip would not have been as significant in Jay s life because of the lesson he learns from it. The eyelash serves as a symbol for situational irony because, occasionally, it is life s details and personal weaknesses that thwart success.

As Jay learns more about himself and others he begins to change psychologically. He realizes his childhood naivet and his loss of innocence. Jay is disappointed that he is not able to look at the Vermeer book, but he learns a valuable lesson in not being able to get everything that he wants. Jay also learns that money is necessary for certain things in life when he is not able to purchase the book that he wants. These are critical lessons to learn when coming of age. Even though Marty still annoys Jay, he gains more respect for his father when he understands Marty s priorities and values. He looks at him in a more mature way. The mental changes that Jay goes through show that he is maturing. These learning experiences cause a conflict within Jay that eventually help him to understand the real world and adult values.

Jay s first trip to New York City serves as an important catalyst for change. His perception of himself and the people around him change during this trip to the big city. Jay August overcomes the small obstacles of frustration and disappointment and learns more about himself. These lessons coincide with many small, but important lessons that everyone must learn in order to succeed in life.


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