Analysis of James Joyc's Araby

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Araby: As Guth & Rico (2003, pp59-60) note, James Joyce wrote most of his work set in a certain time and place, late 19th century and early 20th century Ireland. Araby is no exception. The plot to Araby is surprisingly thin: a boy develops a crush on a girl, goes to a bazaar called "Araby" to buy her a present, and finds himself disappointed when he finds that the supposedly grand and exotic bazaar is noting but cheap, tawdry English merchants. Seeing this, he realizes his own illusions about the girl are similarly pointless. Much of what makes the story work is the rich, multi-layered sense of time and place. To an extent, we have to know something about Joyce himself, and how most of what he wrote about was poor Irish people around the turn of the 20th century. But also the many things Joyce tells us, the many rich textures he shares, give us a sense of that time. Without telling us, we realize from the that small amounts of money are hard to come by for this family, and how traveling third class on a train is normal for these people. When the boy reaches "Araby," we learn that he is crushed by what he sees. A little detail is dropped by Joyce: the merchants here are English and, as The Literary Link (2005) notes, poor Irish generally despised the English in the days when Joyce was writing. Throughout the story, we are treated to a rich tapestry of descriptions: houses that "gazed at one an-other with brown imperturbable faces;" the boy grows up in a musty house where a priest had died, books with yellowed pages his only property left behind; the bazaar is described as "a big hall girdled by half its height with a gallery," but within it he feels a "silence like that which pervades a church after a service." In almost every paragraph we can feel where we are, the environment the boy inhabits and how it affects him—or perhaps even how his mood influences how he notices what is around him and how he describes them. In short, we can learn a great deal about...
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