James Joyce's "Araby": Summary of an Epiphany

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Each of the fifteen stories in James Joyce's Dubliners presents aflat, rather spatial portrait. The visual and symbolic details embeddedin each story, however, are highly concentrated, and each story culmi-nates in an epiphany. In Joycean terms, an epiphany is a momentwhen the essence of a character is revealed , when all the forces thatbear on his life converge, and we can, in that instant, understand him.Each story in the collection is centered in an epiphany, and eachstory is concerned with some failure or deception, which results in re-alization and disillusionment. "Araby" follows this pattern. Themeaning is revealed in a young boy's psychic journey from first love to despair and disappointment, and the theme is found in the boy'sdiscovery of the discrepancy between the real and the ideal in life.

The story opens with a description of North Richmond Street, a"blind," "cold ... .. silent" street where the houses "gazed at one an-other with brown imperturbable faces." It is a street of fixed, decaying conformity and false piety. The boy's house contains the samesense of a dead present and a lost past. The former tenant, a priest,died in the back room of the house, and his legacy-several old yel-lowed books, which the boy enjoys leafing through because they areold, and a bicycle pump rusting in the back yard-become symbolsof the intellectual and religious vitality of the past. The boy, in themidst of such decay and spiritual paralysis, experiences the confusedidealism and dreams of first love and his awakening becomes incom-patible with and in ironic contrast to the staid world about him.

Every morning before school the boy lies on the floor in thefront parlor peeking out through a crack in the blind of the door,watching and waiting for the girl next door to emerge from her houseand walk to school. He is shy and still boyish. He follows her, walkssilently past, not daring to speak, overcome with a confused sense ofsensual desire and religious adoration....
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