James Joyce's Araby - The Symbol of the Church in Araby

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James Joyce's Dubliners - The Symbol of the Church in Araby

Joyce's short story "Araby" is filled with symbolic images of a church. It opens and closes with strong symbols, and in the body of the story, the images are shaped by the young), Irish narrator's impressions of the effect the Church of Ireland has upon the people of Ire-land. The boy is fiercely determined to invest in someone within this Church the holiness he feels should be the natural state of all within it, but a succession of experiences forces him to see that his determination is in vain. At the climax of the story, when he realizes that his dreams of holiness and love are inconsistent with the actual world, his anger and anguish are directed, not toward the Church, but to-ward himself as "a creature driven by vanity." In addition to the images in the story that are symbolic of the Church and its effect upon the people who belong to it, there are descriptive words and phrases that add to this representational meaning.

The story opens with a description of the Dublin neighborhood where the boy lives. Strikingly suggestive of a church, the image shows the ineffectuality of the Church as a vital force in the lives of the inhabitants of the neighborhood-the faithful within the Church. North Richmond Street is composed of two rows of houses with “brown imperturbable faces" (the pews) leading down to the tall "un-inhabited house" (the empty altar). The boy's own home is set in a garden the natural state of which would be like Paradise, since it contains a "central apple tree"; however, those who should have cared for it have allowed it to become desolate, and the central tree stands alone amid "a few straggling bushes." At dusk when the boy and his companions...

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... like Mangan's sister-her words are trivial and worldly. In a sudden flash of insight the boy sees that his faith and his passion have been blind. He sees in the "two men counting money on a salver" a symbol of the moneylenders in the temple. He allows the pennies to fall in his pocket. The lights in the hall go out; his "church" is in darkness. Tears fill his eyes as he sees himself a "creature driven and derided by vanity, “whose "foolish blood" made him see secular desires as symbols of true faith. In this moment of disillusionment he feels that he himself is at fault for being so bemused by his ideals that he failed completely to see the world as it is. He has discovered in his Church and in love (both traditional symbols of ineffably sacred loveliness) only a shoddy imitation of true beauty. Understandably his disillusionment causes him "anguish and anger."

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