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Araby, by James Joyce Essay

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In his short story “Araby,” James Joyce describes a young boy’s first stirring of love and his first
encounter with the disappointment that love and life in general can cause. Throughout the story Joyce
prepares the reader for the boy’s disillusionment at the story’s end. The fifth paragraph, for example,
employs strong contrasts in language to foreshadow this disillusionment. In this passage the juxtaposition
of romantic and realistic diction, detail, and imagery foreshadows the story’s theme that, in the final
analysis, life ends in disappointment and disillusionment.

The romantic language, details, and imagery of the passage create a rapturous and sensual tone.
Drawing from the religious, chivalric, and emotional realms, Joyce blends words and details, the
connotations of which convey the boy’s romantic, but naïve concept of love. The naïve narrator describes the object of his “confused adoration” (to whom he has not even spoken) in terms strongly suggesting religious worship. As a religious adherent carries a saint’s medal or other religious relic as constant protection and reminder, on his pilgrimages “in places most hostile to romance.” the boy carries with him “her image”— a figure celestially, angelically backlit “by the light from the half-opened door.” Like a guardian angel, “her name” (although it is never revealed in the story; he simply calls her “Mangan’s sister”) inspires in him “strange prayers and praises.” The “prayers and praises” grow out of his unrestrained, youthful adoration of this enchanting older girl, who, for him, has become a holy presence worthy of this devotion and reverence. Such religious connotations impart to his love a perfection and fervor far beyond the level of a m...


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...s and gestures were
like fingers running upon the wires.” Although this simile has both the romantic connotations of beauty
and gentleness and the spiritual associations of the angel’s harp, it also describes metaphorically what the
boy feels physically. Despite his attempt to idealize his emotions, he feels the adolescent stirrings of
sexual desire. His body is truly an instrument upon which the sexual stimulation of the girl plays.

By presenting the contrast between the romantic illusions of the boy and the realistic truths of the
streets, Joyce foreshadows the boy’s eventual disillusionment. This foreshadowing prepares the reader for
the story’s epiphany. Although the boy learns the truth only after experiencing Araby’s tawdriness,,
Joyce builds toward this climactic revelation through his careful choices of words, details, and images.



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