The young boy, as the narrator in this story, gives the writing an edge because he is telling of his physical and emotional journey from a leisure childhood to the reform and loneliness of adulthood. In the beginning of the story the narrator has just moved into a new house that Joyce describes as “ An uninhabited house of two storeys stood at the blind end, detached from its neighbours in a square ground” (Joyce (326). In relation to that statement the boy also uses words such as “musty,” “damp,” and “rusty” to describe the different aspects of the house and items that surround him. Joyce sets a dark tone to “Araby” when he uses those words to describe the house in which the boy lives. Joyce’s use of descriptive words for the boys’ school adds to the darkness in which the story takes place. “ North Richmond Street, being blind, was a quiet street except at the hour when the Christian Brothers’ School set the boys free” (Joyce (326). Joyce uses the word blind to describe the street on which the school resides as well as to describe the house as stated previously. His use of blind gives a meaning of drab or lack in physical appearance to give the setting in “Araby” an unpleasant feeling when introduced to its atmosphere. Joyce also refers to the Christian Brothers’ School as setting the boys free. He is referring to the school as being prison-like by saying they were set free. Schools are not commonly described as being prison-like and Joyce is able to direct attention to the conform of the school system at Christian Brothers’ School and further the dark tone that the story is continuing in.
Joyce moves the tone of the story to an unfamiliar feeling when he introduces Mangan’s sister. Up until this point in the story, everything has been spoken about as dark and ominous until the light is seen through Mangan’s sister, whom the narrator is in love with. The tone changes to an optimistic one as he says, “ Her image accompanied me even in places the most hostile to romance” (Joyce (327). Before that point the narrator did not have a bright outlook on life, but when Mangan’s sister appears the darkness is over powered by the light that she is radiating in his eyes. Despite the fact that she has turned down his offer to visit Araby, he still thinks of her as angelic. “ The light from the lamp opposite our door caught the white curve of her neck, lit up the hair that rested there and, falling, lit up the hand upon the railing. It fell over one side of her dress and caught the white border of a petticoat, just visible as she stood at ease” (Joyce (328). Joyce’s use of the word white, while describing Mangan’s sister, shows how he thinks of her from just a glimpse. White, when used to describe something, is more often used to describe something that is pure or angelic like, which is how he describes Mangan’s sister. When he is in the darkest of times and places his thoughts that drift back to her keep him feeling happy. He looks at her as though she is the only one for him, the only woman he will ever love, because for him, its the only love that he’s ever truly felt.
The young boy’s journey to adulthood continues as he makes his trip to the majestic bazaar, Araby. Despite the fact that Mangan’s sister has declined his invitation to attend Araby with him, he has promised her that he will bring her something back if he attends. The boy is exhilarated at the thought of making the journey. However, he must overcome the obstacle of his uncle, who has promised to give him money to go. His uncle does not return home until late on the Saturday night he is supposed to go to Araby and has frustrated the boy by delaying his travels. He must get to the bazaar to buy something for Mangan’s sister to prove his love for her. When he gets on the train to the bazaar he is hopeful, with that of a child. However, when leaving the train and making his way to the bazaar his attitude changes. The boy becomes anxious. “Nearly all the stalls were closed and the greater part of the hall was in darkness. I recognised a silence like that which pervades church after a service” (Joyce (329). Joyce painted a picture, through his words, of the bazaar. The young boy’s journey has ended, especially when he is treated with such attitude by a woman who speaks to him with order-like intentions. “Gazing up into the darkness I saw myself as a creature driven and derided by vanity: and my eyes burned with anguish and anger” (Joyce (330). His journey is ended when all he can feel is anger and outrage at how he has been treated and with no greater outlook on life
Within this story it is not uncommon to want to dig beneath the surface and insert ideas to better understand the boy’s feelings. However as formal analyzing explains, it is a big “don’t” when it comes to reading the story. “Araby,” at times, may require a little deeper thought and understanding when it comes to the boy’s journey. Growing up emotionally, from child like feelings, to a deeper knowledge and understanding of how angry the world can make him feel at the end of the day, is not an easy journey to handle, as shown in this story. The safest interpretation you can make from “Araby” is that adulthood isn’t always as great as children seem to think it may be but more often it is lonely and leaves less space for immature dreams to grow and come true.
Dobie, Ann B. “Formalism.” Theory into Practice: An Introduction to Literary Criticism. 3rd ed. Australia: Wadsworth, 2012. 33-49. Print.
Joyce, James. “Araby.” Theory into Practice: An Introduction to Literary Criticism. Ann B. Dobie. 3rd ed. Australia: Wadsworth, 2012. 326-330. Print.