Ireland's major religion, Roman Catholicism, dominated Irish culture, as it continues to do today although to a lesser extent. Many families sent their children to schools run by Jesuit priests (like the one the narrator in attends) and convent schools run by nuns (like the one Mangan's sister attends). Catholicism is often seen as a source of the frequent conflict in Irish culture between sensuality and asceticism, a conflict that figures prominently in Joyce's autobiographical novel A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man . In many ways, Catholicism, particularly as practiced at the turn of the century, was an extremely sensuous religion, emphasizing intense personal spiritual experience and surrounding itself with such rich trappings as beautiful churches, elegant paintings and statues, otherworldly music, and sumptuous vestments and altar decorations. On the other hand, the Church's official attitude toward enjoyment of the senses and particularly toward sexuality was severe and restrictive. The ideal woman was the Virgin Mary, who miraculously combined virginal purity with maternity. Motherhood was exalted, but any enjoyment of sexuality, even in marriage, was considered a sin, as were the practice of birth control and abortion. The inability to reconcile the spiritual and sensual aspects of human nature can be seen in the boy's feelings toward Mangan's sister in He imagines his feelings for her as a "chalice"--a sacred religious object--and so worshipful is his attitude that he hesitates even to speak to her. Yet his memories of her focus almost exclusively on her body--her figure silhouetted by the light, the "soft rope of her hair," "the white curve of her neck," the border of her petticoat. Even the image of the chalice is ambivalent, since its cup-like shape and function suggests a sexual connotation. The boy never resolves this conflict between spirituality and sensuality. Instead, when confronted with the tawdriness of a shopgirl's flirtation at the bazaar, he abruptly dismisses all his feelings as mere "vanity." Introduction of the story and the author
"Araby" is one of fifteen short stories that together make up James Joyce's collection, Dubliners. Although Joyce wrote the stories between 1904 and 1906, they were not published until 1914.Dubliners paints a portrait of life in Dublin, Ireland, at the turn of the 20th century. Its stories are arranged in an order reflecting the development of a child into a grown man. The first three stories are told from the point of view of a young boy, the next three from the point of view of an adolescent, and so on. "Araby" is the last story of the first set, and is told from the perspective of a boy just on the verge of adolescence. The story takes its title from a real festival which came to Dublin in 1894 when Joyce was twelve years old. Joyce is one of the most famous writers of the Modernist period of literature, which runs roughly from 1900 to the end of World War II. Modernist works often include characters who are spiritually lost and themes that reflect a cynicism toward institutions the writer had been taught to respect, such as government and religion. Much of the literature of this period is experimental; Joyce's writing reflects this in the use of dashes instead of quotation marks to indicate that a character is speaking. Joyce had a very difficult time getting Dubliners published. It took him over ten years to find a publisher who was willing to risk publishing the stories because of their unconventional style and themes. Once he found a publisher, he fought very hard with the editors to keep the stories the way he had written them. Years later, these stories are heralded not only for their portrayal of life in Dublin at the turn of the century, but also as the beginning of the career of one of the most brilliant English-language writers of the twentieth century. Plot
"Araby" opens on North Richmond street in Dublin,...
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