Sybolism in Araby

Topics: Dubliners, James Clarence Mangan, James Joyce Pages: 6 (2407 words) Published: June 1, 2007
James Joyce's short story "Araby" is filled with symbolic images of religion, materialism and paralysis. The story opens and closes with a strong sense of symbolism that is continually alluded to throughout the story. As seen in the body, the images are shaped by the narrator's experience of the Church and the stagnation of Dublin. The protagonist is fiercely determined to invest in someone within this Church the holiness he feels should be the natural state of all within it, but a succession of disillusioning experiences awakens him to see that his determination is in vain. At the climax of the story, when he realizes that his dreams of holiness and love are inconsistent with the actual world, his anger and anguish are directed, not toward the Church, but toward himself as "a creature driven by vanity" (p33). By analyzing "Araby's" potent use of symbolism and the inherent meanings divulged through this method of discourse, we are able to see how the symbols are actualized to provide the reader with insight and depth into a story, whilst also encapsulating the narrator's experience. It is this experience that drives the narrative's momentum forward to the epiphany. The story begins with a description of North Richmond Street, an enclosed street within Dublin. "Being blind" (p27) the street represents Dublin's paralysis, the personification of the houses gazing "at one another with brown imperturbable faces" (p27) symbolizing the complacency with which the street has come to accept its stagnation. The elements of the church are described as oppressive with the boys needing to be ‘set free' from the quiet Christian Brothers' School. This opening paragraph discloses the ineffectuality of the Church through the portrait painted. This seeming lack of religious adherence is a contextualization of 20th century Ireland. The religious undertones of North Richmond Street are symbolically alluded to in the composition of the houses which mirror the construct of pews and a now un-inhabited altar. The narrator's own home conjures up images of the Garden of Eden with its "central apple tree" (p27); however, religion's presence has long ceased and those who should have tended to it have allowed it to become wild, the central tree standing alone amid "a few straggling bushes" (p27). These bushes suggest that the remnants of religion left in Dublin are but mere stragglers. Stone describes the imagery of the ruined Eden as having to do with "man's downfall and his knowledge of good and evil: fundamental themes aroused through the story of "Araby" (1965, p378). Thus the introductory descriptors with their inherit symbolism convey to the reader the nature of the fable to be told. The deceased priest's collection of books serves to arm the narrator with language and motivation within the story as well as "objectify the boy's confusion" (Stone, 1965, p379). The Abbott by Walter Scott tells of a hero who idolizes from a distance a "harlot queen" and seeks to free her from her disposition. The Devout Communicant by Friar Pacificus Baker is noted for its verdant pious language and The Memoirs of Vidocq, written by Francois-Jules Vidocq was a story about a thief who uses deception to evade capture. The relevance of these texts, one being of religious and romanticized notions, one of pious language and the other a tale of deception provide a summation of the actions and experiences of the protagonist. It is through the boy's self-deception and human fallibility that his introduction into manhood is fully recognized. When Joyce describes North Richmond street as a dead end it is "a simple statement of fact"; (Roberts, 478) the blindness in which the street has been contextualized serving as a metaphor for the protagonist in his own blindness. Thus the metaphor suggests that the boy too is blind as unconscious of his own self deceit he unravels the lie that is his ‘decent life,' and in doing so slowly begins to realize his relation to the paralysis...

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