A Gay and Lesbian Interpretation of James Joyce's "Araby"

Topics: Sexual orientation, Homosexuality, Gender identity Pages: 2 (426 words) Published: April 11, 2007
"Araby" is a bit of an antiquity because it is so far removed from our own modern culture, where we don't experience the same climate of religious oppression nor do we inhabit the same traditional world where strict gender distinctions are made. And if false piety exists, most people today don't care about it. Therefore, the story loses much of its relevance to contemporary readers.

Gay and Lesbian theory is a great way to bring "Araby" into the 21st century. Here's the pitch: the boy is so caught up and confused by cultural expectations (romance novels) and religious oppression, that throughout the story he is deceiving himself—suppressing his true sexual identity. Throughout the story, he is in a perpetual state of confusion and internal struggle; he doesn't know whether he should perceive her as an ethereal angel or a woman, but his is really a subconscious expression of his battle for another sexual identity. His quest for Mangan's sister is spiritual, but his epiphany at the end is a SEXUAL one, wherein he embraces his homosexuality, realizing that his search for the girl was a vain attempt to conform to prescribed social norms.

Throughout the story the boy is DISPLACING his struggle for sexual identity. It is the climate of sociocultural expectations and religious oppression that is causing the boy to feel so conflicted in the first place, and he displaces his feelings into that exact social framework. So instead of battling with homosexuality vs. sociocultural expectations, as he should, he only understands how to battle with religiosity vs. sinful desire, or adult falseness vs. youthful idealization. It is in this way that his feelings of internal tension, confusion, etc. are really an expression of his true struggle for sexual identity. Perhaps a psychoanalytical flavour is added to this analysis by the imposition of gay and lesbian literary theory, but perhaps that's unavoidable.

I imagine that, interpreted this way, many young gay and...
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