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Literary Analysis: James Joyce

By deeball Oct 19, 2012 2057 Words
James Joyce and “Araby”
The uses of poses and style in Joyce’s writing have been critically acclaimed throughout the world. He has been praised for his experiments with language, symbolism, and his use of stream of consciousness. He is still considered one of the great writers of his time. The view of James Joyce has been immortalized through his personal history, interpretations of his stories, and is well analyzed by the literary community. “James Joyce was born on February 2, 1882, the oldest of ten children born to John and Mary Joyce” (Araby 2). He was raised in a suburb of Dublin, Ireland called Rathgar. His family was a middle class family, but suffered from major financial decline because his father “was a drinker who wasted the family’s resources” (Araby 2). Because of the family’s money problems they moved around a lot during Joyce’s childhood. It was believed that this was what gave Joyce such insight into Dublin life which he would write about a great deal later in life. He was educated at the best Jesuit schools which were supposed to prepare him to be a priest. He had to finance his education mostly through scholarships. Joyce excelled in his education and won many awards for his work during his school years. He attended University College in Dublin. During his college years he started to rebel against his Catholic upbringing and became more disillusioned in the Church. Soon after leaving school he met Nora Barnacle, but he did not believe in the institution of marriage, so they did not marry until 1931, and only did so because he was scared that she would be left with nothing when he died. Also because they were not married they could not stay in Catholic Ireland, so they moved to Paris, France. After this point Joyce “spent most of his life in self-imposed exile “(James (Augustine Aloysius) Joyce 198) from his homeland only returning to take care of his sick mother and then leaving again. Early on he had a lot of problems getting published, so he worked odd jobs as a English teacher and a tax collector. He “remained in Paris and wrote what he called ‘Epiphanies’” (Charters 752), these were thoughts or over heard conversations that he would later use to write his fictions. Joyce moved around continental Europe and lived in a few countries. While living in Trieste, Italy, the couple welcomed two children, Giorgio and Lucia. Joyce published many stories during his life, some of the most popular being “The Dubliners” and “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man”. In his later life Joyce had many problems with his eyesight and he had to have several surgeries to correct the problem. Even with all his efforts, he was almost blind before he died. “Joyce took ill while living in Zurich, Switzerland, with a perforated duodenal ulcer” (Fargnoli). He had surgery to try to fix the problem. “Initially it seemed to have been a success, but early in the morning of January 13th, less than three weeks before his 59th birthday, Joyce died”(Fargnoli). Joyce was considered one of the great writers of his time, and “even though he cut himself off from his country, his family, and his church, these three are the basis upon which he structured his art” (James Joyce)

James Joyce’s “Araby” is about a young unnamed boy who lives in Dublin, Ireland in a priest’s old house. He tells us about life on his street and in his home. He falls in love with his friend and neighbor’s, Mangan, sister, but he is too shy to spark up a conversation with her. When he finally builds up enough courage to talk to the girl, they speak about a local bazaar called the Araby which the girl desires to attend. She is unable to go because she has a previous commitment, so the boy says that he will go and get her something nice. By the time the boy gets there it was late and most of the stalls are closed, so he is not able to get a trinket for the girl. He is gravely disappointed by the situation. In Joyce’s “Araby”, there are multiple themes and symbols. One possible theme is the loss of innocence of the young boy. He is disillusioned by the harsh realities of love in the adult world. When he states,”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 379), readers see the pain that the loss of a dream can bring to a child. The boy is caught up in the childhood fantasy of what love should be. He is caught up in the delusion that by getting the token of love for the girl she will be his. He becomes dejected when his hopes fall apart and the reality of life becomes clear to him for the first time. The readers can feel the change in the attitude of the boy as he matures through the story and losses his childhood naivety. He comes to realize the pain of humiliation that comes with foolish romance and idealism. At the beginning, the boy is lost in the childhood wonder of the unknown. He is just coming into his sexuality and feeling the changes that he is going through. He is starting to realize that his priorities are changing, and begins to want the object of his desires more than anything. When he realizes what that will take, he grows within himself. Another major theme of the story is religion and the role that it plays in the boy’s life. As readers see he is still very caught up in the ideas of his schooling and is unsure how to deal with his new feelings in regards to it. The boy says,” I imagined that I bore my chalice safely through a throng of foes”(Joyce 377) readers can see that he views his mission to get the trinket as a crusade of goodness, and he imagines himself as almost a religious hero. The chalice can represent the church and the throng of foes as the obstacle that he has to face to reach his realization. Mangan’s sister is given the attributes of the holy Mary and put up on a pedestal. He states, “Her image accompanied me even in places the most hostile to romance” (Joyce 376). The girl becomes his reason for facing the unknown. She is in his mind the only reason that he can be brave. She becomes the Holy Grail in the boy’s crusade. In the end he faces the fact that he is just a normal boy longing for a normal girl and there is nothing special or heroic in this action. He is conflicted though between his feelings for the girl and the dogma of the Catholic Church that he has been taught his whole life. He does not realize that what he is feeling is normal and is hurt by the thought of going against his beliefs. One of the major symbols in the story is the Bazaar. It represents foreign and unknown things because it is suppose to be set up like the orient which is a foreign and mysterious place to the boy. He is having all the new feelings of adulthood approaching, and it is scary and different for him. Through the use of theme and symbolism Joyce portrays the conflicts that are prevalent in a child’s life and the fears of facing the reality of the world. Many critics have analyzed the works of James Joyce. In the first that I read I realized that the critic picked up on the same points that stood out to me in the story. He points out that “’Araby” tells that story of an unfortunate fall from innocence, as a young boy comes to recognize the sorry state of the world in which he lives”(Patton). This is what I believed was the main point to the story, but as the critic points out there are many themes. He brings up the point that the story is written about Joyce’s own childhood, but it is not autobiographical. The critic touches on the religious aspects of the story, and how the boy is caught between his own joy in the quest he has set out on but the setting and singers still bring in the reality of life. The somberness of the setting in “Araby” makes it seem as though the people are always under the watchful eye of the church. The boy is trying to hold on to his “romantic idealism that is gradually stripped from him by the decidedly unromantic world” (Patton). The boy uses the book left in his home by the dead priest to fuel his imagination. The last point that the critic brings up is Joyce’s choice of narrative style. This gives us insight not only into the boy’s mind, but the reader can also tell that the narrator is an older man reflecting on his past. I believe that this critic is accurate and has made great points for people to gain more of an appreciation for the work. Another critic states that, “the antagonist of the story is not the hackneyed reality of a tough world but a repressive Dublin culture, which renders hopes and dreams not only foolish, but sinful” (Coulthard). This critic argues that the story is not about a naïve boy but of a say and repress adult looking back and realizing how foolish he had been to try in have dreams in this dark world. “The still-sensitive narrator has become embittered rather than wiser” (Coulthard). The writer believes that the Dublin life is so harsh that there is no possibility for hope to flourish. They allude to the boy even becoming the dead priest. The Critic believes Joyce wants the readers to see the old bitter man rather than the still dreamy young man. I disagree; I think that Joyce wants the reader to see the juxtaposition in the two. The last critic that I read argues that the quest for Mangan’s sister is actually just a search for the boy’s own identity. He states, “the result of each quest will seem fraudulent or disappointing, but the person will never admit that it is his or her identity that is actually deficient” (Leonard). He believes that the boy is trying to assert dominance over the girl, but he is faced with his own lacking when he meets the girl at the stall. I can see this point of view and it is a new idea to think about because it is the identity that is lost. He is trying to correct the incongruence of his view of himself and what the world sees him as. Joyce is still accredited with being one of the most influential writers of his time based on his innovative use of symbolism, prose, and style. He draws readers in through his use of his own life experiences in his writing. Both students and critics alike are still trying to deceiver the meanings of his work. Future generations will again be fascinated by his life and his work.

Works Cited
“Araby”. Short Stories for Students. Detroit: Gale Research, 1997. Print. Charters, Ann. The Story and It’s Writer. Boston: Bedford/St.Martin’s, 1999. Print. Coulthard, A.R. “Joyce’s Araby.” Explicator 52(1994): p97. Literary Reference Center Plus. Web. 25 Oct, 2010 Evans, Robert. Short Fiction: A Critical Companion. Montgomery: Robert C. Evans, 1997. Literary Reference Center Plus. Web. 25 Oct 2010. Fargnoli, A. Nicholas and Michael Patrick Gillespie. “Joyce, James.” Critical Companion to James Joyce: A Literary Reference to His Life and Work, New York, Facts on File, 2006. Bloom’s Literary Reference Online. Web. 25 Oct 2010. “James (Augustine Aloysius) Joyce.” Short Story Criticism. Detroit: Gale Research Inc., 1989. Print. “James Joyce.” Encyclopedia of world Biography. Detroit: Gale, 1998. Gale Biography in Context. Web. 25 Oct 2010. James, Joyce. “Araby.” Literature Reading Reacting Writing. Wadsworth Cengage Learning. 7th Edition. Boston: Michael Rosenberg, 2010. P 375-379. Print. Patton, Brian. “ Araby”. Fact on File Companion to the British Short Story. Facts on File Inc., 2007. Bloom’s Literary Reference Online. Web. 25 Oct 2010.

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