Analysis of “Araby” by James Joyce

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Summary of “Araby”

“Araby” is a short story by James Joyce, initially published in his collection of short stories “Dubliners” in 1914. The story is set in Dublin, Ireland, in the late 19th century and is narrated by a young boy who lives with his aunt and uncle in a small house on the street lined with drab, brown houses. The boy’s neighborhood is full of sights, sounds, and smells that fill him with wonder and excitement. However, the story’s central focus is the boy’s infatuation with his friend’s sister and his attempt to buy her a gift from a bazaar called Araby.

The boy is deeply attracted to his friend’s sister, who he watches from afar as she comes and goes from her family’s house. He imagines her as a goddess-like figure and becomes increasingly infatuated with her. One day, she speaks to him briefly, asking if he plans to go to the Araby bazaar. The boy eagerly tells her he does and promises to return her a gift.

The boy becomes obsessed with the idea of buying a gift for his friend’s sister at Araby. He waits eagerly for the day of the bazaar to arrive, imagining himself impressing her with his gift and winning her affection. However, when the day of the bazaar finally arrives, the boy’s plans are thwarted. His uncle is late coming home from work, which delays the boy’s departure, and by the time he arrives at Araby, most of the stalls are already closed.

The boy rushes through the remaining stalls, searching desperately for a gift, but he finds only a few trinkets that do not meet his standards. Disheartened, he realizes he has no gift for his friend’s sister. He leaves Araby feeling disillusioned and defeated, realizing that his romantic dreams will never be realized.

The story concludes with the boy realizing that his infatuation with his friend’s sister was a childish fantasy. He understands that the world is a harsh and unfeeling place and that his own hopes and dreams are insignificant in the face of the greater forces of the universe. The boy feels isolated and lonely as he reflects on the futility of his romantic aspirations.

“Araby” is a poignant and beautifully written story that explores the themes of youth, love, disillusionment, and the harsh realities of life. Joyce’s vivid descriptions of the boy’s neighborhood and his experiences at the Araby bazaar create a vivid and emotionally charged sense of place. The story’s exploration of the boy’s hopes and dreams, and his ultimate realization that they will never be realized, is both heartbreaking and deeply affecting. “Araby” is a powerful meditation on the nature of love, loss, and the human condition, and it remains a classic of modern literature to this day.

Analysis of “Araby”

“Araby” is a coming-of-age story that follows a young boy’s infatuation with a girl and his disillusionment with the world around him. The story is narrated by an unnamed young boy who lives in Dublin with his aunt and uncle. He is infatuated with a girl who lives across the street from him, and he spends his days watching her from his window. He imagines himself saving her from various dangers and dreams of one day buying her a gift at the bazaar called “Araby.”

The boy’s infatuation with the girl is a classic example of the first stages of love, which are often idealized and unrealistic. He imagines his love for her is pure and destined to be fulfilled. However, as he starts to explore the world around him, he realizes that his love is not as pure as he had thought. He sees the world as dark and corrupt, and his faith in his love and the world around him starts to falter.

The bazaar, which he had been so excited to visit, is a disappointing and disillusioning experience. The boy arrives late, and most vendors are packing up to leave. The few remaining stalls sell cheap, tacky items far from the exotic and glamorous goods he had imagined. The boy realizes that his dreams of love and adventure are illusions and that the world is much darker and more complex than he had thought.

Joyce uses various literary techniques to convey the boy’s disillusionment and create a sense of tension and foreboding throughout the story. The use of symbolism is particularly effective. The girl the boy is infatuated with represents the idea of love and romance, while the bazaar represents the world’s harsh reality. The bazaar’s dark and dingy setting contrasts the bright and vibrant image that the boy had of it in his mind, and this contrast highlights the gap between the boy’s ideals and the harsh reality of the world.

Joyce also uses language to create a sense of tension and foreboding throughout the story. Using short, choppy sentences and repeating certain phrases, such as “gazing up into the darkness,” creates a sense of unease and tension. The use of vivid imagery, such as the description of the “dark muddy lanes” and the “faintly lit streets,” also contributes to the sense of tension and unease.

Major Themes in the Story

James Joyce’s short story “Araby” is a rich and complex work exploring various themes. Here are a few of the key themes in the story:

  1. Coming of Age: “Araby” is a classic coming-of-age story, as it follows a young boy’s journey from innocence to experience. The protagonist begins the story with a childlike fascination with his neighbor, Mangan’s sister. Still, as he becomes increasingly fixated on her, he becomes aware of the adult world around him. By the end of the story, he has learned some harsh truths about the nature of desire and disappointment.
  2. Love and Desire: At its core, “Araby” is a story about love and desire. The protagonist’s infatuation with Mangan’s sister drives the narrative, and his desire for her motivates him to go to the bazaar in the first place. However, the story ultimately suggests that desire can be cruel and unfulfilling and that pursuing love can lead to disappointment and disillusionment.
  3. Religion and Spirituality: Religion is pervasive in “Araby,” The story is steeped in Catholic imagery and symbolism. The protagonist attends a Catholic school, and his religious education informs his worldview. However, the story also suggests that religion can be confining and oppressive, as the protagonist feels trapped by the strictures of his faith.
  4. Escape and Imagination: The protagonist’s love for Mangan’s sister is an escape from his mundane and oppressive reality. He imagines a romanticized version of the girl and their relationship, and his trip to the bazaar represents a chance to escape the confines of his everyday life. However, the story ultimately suggests that escape and imagination can be dangerous, as they can lead to disappointment and disillusionment.
  5. Disillusionment and Disappointment: Perhaps the most prominent theme in “Araby” is disillusionment and disappointment. The protagonist’s journey to the bazaar is ultimately fruitless, as he discovers that the object of his desire is unattainable and that the bazaar itself is a tawdry and unremarkable place. The story suggests that life is full of disappointments and that pursuing happiness and fulfillment is often futile.

Conclusion

In conclusion, “Araby” is a powerful and poignant story that explores the themes of love, disillusionment, and the world’s harsh realities. Joyce’s use of symbolism, imagery, and language creates a vivid and compelling narrative that captures the reader’s attention from beginning to end. The story’s ending, in which the boy realizes that his dreams of love and adventure are just illusions, is a powerful reminder of the complexities and uncertainties of life. “Araby” is a timeless classic that resonates with readers today.

Suggested Readings

“Signs and Symbols” by Vladimir Nabokov

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

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