Professor: Hyewon Shin
Student: Oscar Carvalho-Neto
"Araby" - James Joyce
One of the most intriguing works by Irish writer James Joyce is "Araby" in which a young boy, who is the narrator, leads a carefree life in a Dublin neighborhood before falling in love with his friend's sister. He is always watching her steps, every single morning. When they finally speak, the girl mentions the existence of an exotic bazaar in town, named "Araby". The narrator then becomes obssessed with the idea of going to the bazaar to bring the girl a present. Nevertheless, disappointment is an important theme of the novel. The young boy is ultimately faced with reality when he goes to Araby and realizes that he cannot afford the things that are sold there. In others words, Joyce deals with the dichotomy of fantasy versus reality in "Araby", giving it a rather pessimistic approach, where reality and its negativity prevail.
In order to better comprehend Joyce's "Araby", it is important to understand the author's biography and the time in history in which "Dubliners" was written. Joyce was born in a poor family in February of 1884. His father had several jobs and his mother was a devout Catholic. A young Joyce eventually moved to Paris, where he worked as a teacher and journalist, and later, during World War I, he took refuge in Zurich, Switzerland. Since Joyce spent great part of his adult life outside of Ireland, "Dubliners" is written through the eyes of a "refugee", as a member of Dublin's society who is also an outsider.
Through "Dubliners" and its short stories, including "Araby", Joyce describes life in Dublin, how religion influenced and dominated Irish society and how a national identity came to be. At that time, Ireland, a country that had suffered the horrors of the Great Famine in the past along with the death and emigration of millions of its people was now struggling culturally and politically to create its own identity and breakaway from British political control and cultural influence. The conflict between Catholics and Protestants was at its peak, as the entire island was under United Kingdom's rule. In other words, Ireland and its society were going through a turbulent period in history, which affected Joyce's use of language in "Dubliners" as well as the themes cointained in his works, such as religion, the hardships of reality and Anglo-Irish relations.
"Dubliners" is a unique compilation of stories because it follows a chronological pattern. "Araby" falls in the category of "childhood", because its narrator is a young boy and also due to the fact that one of its central themes is growth and maturity. In order for such growth to take place, "Araby" follows a clear sequence of events, which is described by William York Tindall in "A Reader's Guide to James Joyce" as "illusion, disillusionment and coming to awareness" (19). These three elements that result in the character's growth are well defined in the story. Mangan's sister and the bazaar both represent illusion. Disillusionment is present when the narrator goes to "Araby" and realizes that it is not what he had expected. Finally, disillusionment is shown in the end, when he comes to the conclusion that he is not able to buy Mangan's sister a gift, which in turn, leads to the final moment of epiphany, a concept that will be further discussed.
Another essential aspect to "Araby" is the presence of images and symbols throughout the story, in particular those with religious conotations. Since religion and the church played an important role in Irish society and Joyce was Irish himself, religious themes are abundant in some of Joyce's works, "Araby" being one of them. Religious imagery is present in the very beginning of the story, when the narrator mentions that the former tenant of the house where he lives was a priest. The house itself also contains religious symbol, in this case, in the garden: " The wild garden behind the house...