Analysis of “Araby”
In many cultures, childhood is considered a carefree time, with none of the worries and constraints of the “real world.” In “Araby,” Joyce presents a story in which the central themes are frustration, the longing for adventure and escape, and the awakening and confusing passion experienced by a boy on the brink of adulthood. The author uses a single narrator, a somber setting, and symbolism, in a minimalist style, to remind the reader of the struggles and disappointments we all face, even during a time that is supposed to be carefree.
The setting of the story plays a very important role. The story takes place in the winter, traditionally considered to be a time of darkness and nature’s slumber. The location is Dublin, under English rule at the time the story takes place. In his opening sentence, Joyce offers a view of North Richmond Street, described as a “blind” street. The symbolism of the “dead-end” street seems purposeful, and is quite effective, particularly as the story progresses. The description of the house the protagonist lives in provides the reader with the information that the family’s finances are lower-middle-class. This element plays an important part, as conflicts are introduced.
Joyce’s character development is intentionally minimalist. There are very few “voices” in this story. The dialogue in the story is limited to minimal interaction between family members and a few minor characters. In his description of their time playing in the street, there is little or no differentiation between the narrator and his friends. He offers very little information about his characters, with one very important exception, that being Mangan’s sister. Although we never learn he...
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...painful reminder works to drive home his frustration at his inability to escape his mundane life. The fact that he does not have the funds to purchase a gift for Mangan’s sister makes him realize that there is no exotic escape available to him.
Although he had endured trials and tribulations to attend the bazaar, he soon finds that, exotic name withstanding, he is still in Dublin, is still impoverished, and his dreams of Araby were merely that, dreams. Our narrator remains a prisoner of his environment, his economic situation, and painful reality. North Richmond Street, the dead-end street described in the first sentence of “Araby” is more than a street. It is a symbol for the way that our protagonist views his life.
Gardner, Janet E. Literature: a Portable Anthology. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2009. Print.
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