15 October 2014
The Comparisons and Contrasts between Araby and The Horse Dealer’s Daughter in The Uses of Perspective and Symbolism
In James Joyce’s Araby and D.H. Lawrence’s The Horse Dealer’s Daughter, a lot of psychological states are embodied by the means of using “symbolism.” Symbolism, which “enriches the narrative by pulling its message to the level of our unconsciousness and open to different ineffable associations,” (Lu 6) plays an important role in modernist literature. This essay will discuss both similarities and differences in terms of the ways both authors apply symbolism, as well as will analyze the erspectives of the characters, especially how they react to the symbols written in both stories. The symbols of colors can be observed in Araby and The Horse Dealer’s Daughter. In Araby, the narrator, the boy who loves Mangan’s sister, describes the houses on North Richmond Street. “The other houses of the street, conscious of decent lives within them, gazed at one another with brown in imperturbable faces,” in which the “brownness” stands for the atmosphere of Dublin which is barren and dreary. The symbol of color also illustrate the psychological states of the characters. The “brown” used to describe the houses coincides with the physical appearance of Mangan’s sister, as the narrator says “I kept her brown figure” always in my eyes.” Furthermore, the dreary nature of brown is also applied to the description of her personal character. The boy “had never spoken to her, except for a few casual words,” which demonstrates the lack of communication and mutual understanding between them. Besides, the “yellow” color of the pages of the “paper-covered book” reflects the sexuality and profanity rooted in the boy’s, or every human being’s, nature. In The Horse Dealer’s Daughter, Lawrence uses darkness and blackness to refer to “death.” “The doctor’s quick eye detected a figure in black passing through the gate of the field, down towards the pond,” in which “figure in black” symbolizes the spiritual death of Mabel, while “grey” also symbolizes the sense of hopelessness that both the doctor and Mabel experience, as we observe that the doctor cannot escape from the daily routine which is “constant hastening from dwelling to dwelling among the colliers and the iron-workers,” while Mabel fails to get rid of the responsibility inherited from her mother – to sustain the family. Despite the fact that both Joyce and Lawrence use colors to symbolize the psychological states of the characters, they are different in terms of how the protagonists respond to the psyches of their own. In Araby, although the readers can sense the brown of the houses and the implication of desire conveyed by the yellow color, the boy simply cannot feel the dreariness of Dublin until the occurrence of epiphany, which reveals the “gulf between appearance and reality” (Stone 355), and until when, the boy does not know that his desire for Mangan’s sister stems merely from the “self-deluding blindness” and “self-inflating romanticism.” (Stone 355) The sudden revelation and realization only happen at the end of the story. Conversely, at the very beginning of the story, Lawrence already makes the two protagonists in his story experience the psychological states to which the colors correspond, as he writes “(daily work) wore him out, but at the same time he had a craving for it. It is a stimulant to him to be in the homes of the working people…His nerves were excited and gratified,” which implies the inescapability from the dilemma from which the doctor suffer. On one hand, the doctor complains about immutability and boredom of his job. On the other hand, he can only rely on this job to have his “nerves stimulated.” The sort of inescapability is equivalent to hopelessness in this sense. Stewart (13) even depicts the doctor as a “masochistic” individual, stating that “the incitement Fergusson feels is really a perverse gratification in his own self-destruction.” The symbols of religion are also the characteristics that are worth discussing. Both Joyce and Lawrence apply religious imageries in their stories. In Araby, the death of the priests, the few of paper-covered books, the central apple tree and the bicycle pump are the objects having symbolic function in relation to the Catholic Church, while in The Horse Dealer’s Daughter, the object for symbolism is the grave in the church. However, Joyce’s symbolism demonstrates the boy’s sense of alienation from religion while Lawrence’s illustrates the connection that Mabel builds with the dead world which is depicted by religious doctrines. In Araby, the boy claims that he likes the last book of the paper-covered books only because the leaves are yellow, and he does not have knowledge of, and is not aware of, the contents of these books. Stone states that “he gaze upon the things that attract or repel him, but they are blurred and veiled by clouds of romantic obfuscation: he likes The Memoirs of Vidocq best not because of what it is… but because he finds its outward appearance, its yellow leaves, romantically appealing.” (353-354) On the other hand, the central apple tree and the bicycle pump and the death of the priests symbolize the loss of credibility of Catholic doctrines. The apple tree is compared to the tree in Eden, while the bicycle pump is to the snake which tempted Adam and Eve. The bicycle pump and the apple tree are located at the garden behind the house where the priest dies, which seems the invasion and suspicions against the religious doctrines.
On the contrary, Mabel tries to establish the connection between herself and the world of the dead through the grave in the church. “She felt in immediate contact with the world of her mother. She took minute pains, went through the park in a state bordering on pure happiness, as if in performing this task she came into a subtle, intimate connection with her mother.” The death drive motivates Mabel to build that connection, as Mabel is considered to be spiritually dead. Furthermore, unlike the boy in Araby who is indifferent in why and how the priest dies, Mabel actively engage in the interaction with the dead.
It is worth noting that the boy, Mabel and the doctor have the point of “transformation” as the stories proceed. However, Joyce’s transformation is the boy’s sudden realization of the difficulty in getting rid of social constraints composed of such as the English accent that people in Araby speak with, the forgetfulness of the boy’s uncle, the inability of the girl to accompany the boy due to the retreat, etc. The pursuit of love is ultimately refrained by lots of external factors. By contrast, Lawrence’s “transformation” is the rebirth and new life. The water symbolizes death when Mabel tries to commit suicide, but it later symbolizes baptism and rebirth, and fire symbolizes passion and love. Thus Mabel and the doctor ultimately can get rid of the life that is boring and pointless.
In conclusion, in Araby and The Horse Dealer’s Daughter, both Joyce and Lawrence utilize symbolism of various kinds, such as the symbolism of colors, the symbolism of the religious objects, as well as the symbolism of characters’ transformation. However, they also use symbolism of the same category in different ways, and the ways are different in terms of how the characters react to, and interact with the objects which have symbolic functions. Reference
Lu, Xiu-ying “For the Sake of Themes: Symbolism in In Another Country and The Horse Dealer’s Daughter” US-China Foreign Language 5.4 (2007): 6, 8. Print. Stone, Harry “Araby and the Writings of James Joyce” The Antioch Review 71.2 (2013): 353-355. Print. Stewart, Jack F. “Eros and Thanatos in ‘The Horse Dealer’s Daughter’ ” Studies in the Humanities 12 (1985): 13. Print.