Sunday, June 24, 2018

Araby by James Joyce -– Analysis

The story 'Araby' by James Joyce is part of a volume of the short stories 'Dubliners' based on the author's childhood experiences. Here are some of the features of Joyce's works which are important for understanding his prose:
- Epiphany is an ordinary moment in the present when the moment of truth is revealed;
- James Joyce used the stream-of-consciousness technique, the plot of the story would become less important than the picture of current life in the mind of the characters of the story.
- The visual and symbolic details are very important parts of the story.

In the beginning of the story, the author draws a picture of an isolated place where the main character - a teenage boy lived. The author wrote, "North Richmond Street, being blind, was a quiet street except at the hour when the Christian Brothers' School set the boys free. " The view for the world which the author expressed through the thoughts of a boy was restricted only by surrounding things and circumstances. The narrator said that the former tenant of the house, a priest, had died. He left a few books, their pages were curled and damp, and a rusty bicycle-pump.

The author dedicated an essential part of the story to the description of the boy's surroundings, his "tiny little world". The central figure of this world was a girl. Here are the first lines where she was mentioned:

"... if Mangan's sister came out on the doorstep to call her brother in to his tea we watched her from our shadow peer up and down the street. ..., her figure defined by the light from the half-opened door. Her dress swung as she moved her body and the soft rope of her hair tossed from side to side."

Her image accompanied the narrator constantly, even in places not suitable for romance. When the boy with his aunt walked through the evening’s streets full of drunken men and bargaining women, he imagined how he would protect her. The narrator said, "I imagined that I bore my chalice safely through a throng of foes.. My eyes were often full of tears (I could not tell why) and at times a flood from my heart seemed to pour itself out into my bosom."

At last, she spoke to the narrator. She asked if he was going to Araby, it would be a splendid bazaar and she would love to go but she couldn't. It was not an ordinary dialog, the author described the boy's impression, her figure in a light from outside, her hair and so on. Eventually, the narrator said, "If I go, I said, I will bring you something."

In the next days, all the thoughts of the boy were about a trip to bazar. The word "Araby" was associated for him with a mysterious Eastern enchantment. He asked his uncle to allow him to go on Saturday to the bazaar and to give some money for it. At the appointed time, the boy didn't find his uncle home. He forgot his promise. The uncle came back home later and when the narrator asked him for money for the bazaar, he joked, "—The people are in bed and after their first sleep now, he said." But the narrator did not smile. The aunt said to her husband energetically, "—Can't you give him the money and let him go? You've kept him late enough as it is."

The story can be divided into two parts: the first part is about the expectations of a young boy, the second part describes how they turned into reality. The narrator reached the bazaar, entered a shop there and stayed in front of the counter examining porcelain vases. Not far away from him a young lady was talking and laughing with two young gentlemen. The narrator unwittingly listened to their conversation.

The shop assistant asked the narrator if he wished to buy anything. The author wrote, "The tone of her voice was not encouraging; she seemed to have spoken to me out of a sense of duty. I looked humbly at the great jars that stood like eastern guards at either side of the dark entrance to the stall and murmured: —No, thank you.".

The narrator stayed a little, pretending that he was looking at other stuff in the shop and slowly started his way back. This line finished the story, "Gazing up into the darkness I saw myself as a creature driven and derided by vanity; and my eyes burned with anguish and anger."

James Joyce described in this story contrast between expectations and results. There are expressions in English such as, 'building castles made of sand', ‘having your head in the clouds’ and so on which are similar to the situation described in the story. No place for pessimism! Tomorrow the boy will see something new, exciting, his life only begins ...

This is a link to the text of the story:

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