The visual and emblematic details established throughout the story are highly concentrated, with Araby culminating, largely, in the epiphany of the young unnamed narrator. To Joyce, an epiphany occurs at the instant when the essence of a character is revealed, when all the forces that endure and influence his life converge, and when we can, in that moment, comprehend and appreciate him. As follows, Araby is a story of an epiphany that is centered on a principal deception or failure, a fundamental imperfection that results in an ultimate realization of life, spirit, and disillusionment. The significance is exposed in the boy’s intellectual and emotional journey from first love to first dejection, with the discrepancy in life between the real and the ideal facilitating his inexorable misery and understanding.
The story opens with a description of North Richmond Street, a “silent” street where the houses “gazed at one another with brown imperturbable faces” (Joyce). The street, being a dead end, is “blind,” yet its inhabitants are smugly complacent with the featureless exterior of the houses reflecting the same gratuitously self-satisfied attitudes of their occupants (Joyce). It is a street of fixed, decaying conformity and false devotion. A priest, the former tenant of the boy’s home, died in the back room of the house, leaving behind only old yellowed books and a bicycle pump rusting in the backyard. The deteriorating conditions of both the books and the pump serve as symbols of antiquated intellectual and religious vitality, with the house serving, overall, as a representative semblance of a lost past and a lifeless contemporary world. In this way, the street represents an idyll...
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...oy playing in the final light of childhood, to an anguished young man forced into the realization that maturity is not the fulfillment of childhood’s promises, but of its loss. From the trivialities of life the boy experiences his cardinal epiphany, a “sudden showing forth” in which his mind is flooded with light and, thereby, flooded with truth (Joyce). The young boy halts in the middle of the dark bazaar, recognizing that he will never escape the tedious delays of his environment and attain love. The uniformity and monotony of life in Dublin leads the narrator to live in a suspended state between life and death, in which he has a heartbeat but is incapable of any profound, life-sustaining action. In this way, the impulse to escape from the unhappiness and despondency of life defines Joyce’s Araby, as does the narrator’s inability to actually undertake this process.
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