Essay about Interpretive Questions for Araby by James Joyce

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Araby – Interpretive Questions

1. Joyce is not subtle in describing the setting as desolate and the adults as cold. There is a lifelessness that surrounds the boy: “musty…. waste littered… somber houses… cold…. … silent street… dark muddy lanes.” Adults are ghosts: “the boys are surrounded by “shades of people” whose houses “gazed at one another with brown imperturbable faces.” Joyce evokes an image of the Irish soul as cold and the street as uninhabited and detached, with the houses personified and more alive than its residents.

2. One allusion is the reference to “Araby” suggests a romanticism and world (Arabia) remote from the immediate situation. This mysterious and exotic world contrasts with the mundane physical setting of the story.

The boy’s own home is set in a garden, which is an allusion to the Garden of Eden, since it contains a “central apple tree.” This contrasts with the physical setting as it stands alone amid “a few straggling bushes” and is overshadowed by the desolation of the garden.

The three books that the former tenant, a priest who died in the boy’s house,
allude to a past that once had religious vitality. This contrasts with the lack of spirituality in the immediate situation.

3. From the main character’s point of view, Mangan’s sister beauty contrasts to the drabness and dullness of the setting. Images of her white neck, her soft hair and the movement of her figure suggests that she is a saint. She is always surrounded by light, as if by a halo. This choice of imagery contrasts with the darkness and lack of beauty in the physical setting.

4. The main character’s actions towards Mangan’s sister are shy and immature. He follows her, walks silently past he...

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...the story. The boy, entering the new experiences of first love, has an idealistic and confused interpretation of love. Despite all the evidence of the dead house on a dead street in a dying city, he is determined to carry the girl’s image as a “chalice” through the “throngs of foes” and protect her in “places the most hostile to romance.” His quest ends when he arrives at Araby and realizes with great torment that it is not at all what he imagined. There was no enchantment at Araby. The boy has placed all his love and faith in a world that does not exist except in his imagination. He feels angry and betrayed. He realizes his own vanity (meaning the futility of life in Dublin), his own foolishness and waste of time, finally seeing himself as “the creature driven and derided by vanity.” He realizes that he has been blinded by an ideal of love and faith.

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