James Joyce's Araby - The Lonely Quest in Araby

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The Lonely Quest in "Araby"

Universality of experience makes James Joyce's "Araby" interesting, readers respond instinctively to an experience that could have been their own. It is part of the instinctual nature of man to long for what he feels is the lost spirituality of his world. In all ages man has believed that it is possible to search for and find a talisman, which, if brought back, will return this lost spirituality. The development of theme in "Araby" resembles the myth of the quest for a holy talisman.

In "Araby," Joyce works from a "visionary mode of artistic creation"-a phrase used by psychiatrist Carl Jung to describe the, “visionary" kind of literary creation that derives its material from “the hinterland of man's mind-that suggests the abyss of time sepa-rating us from prehuman ages, or evokes a superhuman world of con-trasting light and darkness. It is a primordial experience, which sur-passes man's understanding and to which he is therefore in danger of succumbing." 1 Assuredly this describes Joyce's handling of the material of "Araby." The quest itself and its consequences surpass the understanding of the young protagonist of the story. He can only "feel" that he undergoes the experience of the quest and naturally is con-fused, and at the story's conclusion, when he fails, he is anguished and angered. His "contrasting world of light and darkness" contains both the lost spirituality and the dream of restoring it. Because our own worlds contain these contrasts we also "feel," even though the primordial experience surpasses our understanding, too.

It is true, as a writer reminds us, that "no matter the work, Joyce always views the order and disorder of the world in terms of the Catholic faith...

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...world of North Richmond Street. Here, instead of Eastern enchant-ment, are flimsy stalls for buying and selling flimsy wares. His grailhas turned out to be only flimsy tea sets covered with artificial flow-ers. As the upper hall becomes completely dark, the boy realizes thathis quest has ended. Gazing upward, he sees the vanity of imagininghe can carry a chalice through a dark throng of foes.

1 Carl G. Jung, Modern Man in Search of a Soid. trans. W. S. Dell and CaryF. Baynes (New York, 1933), pp. 156-157.

2 William Bysshe Stein, "Joyce's 'Araby': Paradise Lost," Perspective, X11,No. 4 (Spring 1962), 215.

3 From Letters of James Joyce, Vol. II, ed. Richard Ellmarm (New York,1966), p. 134.

4 James Joyce, Stephen Hero (New York, 1944), pp. 210-211.

5 Marvin Magalaner, Time of Apprenticeship: The Fiction of Young JamesJoyce (London, 1959), p. 87.

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