In his short story "Araby", James Joyce portrays a character who strives to achieve a goal and who comes to an epiphany through his failure to accomplish that goal. Written in the first person, "Araby" is about a man recalling an event from his childhood. The narrator's desire to be with the sister of his friend Mangan, leads him on a quest to bring back a gift from the carnival for the girl. It is the quest, the desire to be a knight in shining armor, that sends the narrator to the carnival and it's what he experienced and sees at the carnival that brings him to the realization that some dreams are just not attainable.
Joyce uses the setting of the story to help create a mood and to develop characters and themes throughout the story. "An uninhibited house of two stories stood at the blind end, detached from its neighbors in a square ground." Joyce uses these words: uninhibited, blind and detached not only to describe the narrator's house, but also to describe the narrator himself. The boy lives with his aunt and uncle, not his parents. He lives on a dead end street of a lower class neighborhood. And he is hopelessly in love with his friend's sister. The reader can infer right from the beginning that the narrator is not content with his life.
The blind love that the narrator feels for Mangan's sister leads him to watch her from his window. On one "dark, rainy evening" he watches her and realizes that he can "see so little." Joyce uses this blurriness and lack of vision to represent how unable the narrator is to recognize his distorted view of reality. Even when the narrator is walking through the market with his aunt, walking by such unromantic things as "drunken men and bargaining women" and "barrels of pig's cheeks...
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...driven and derided by vanity; and my eyes burned with anguish and anger." Ironic that in the darkness of the night the narrator can see his life clearly for the first time. Finally the narrator realizes that a relationship with Mangan's sister is unattainable and that his quest for a gift was only a waste of time, money and effort. Defeated by himself, as well as society, he understands that all the internal and external forces aligned against him are too strong to overcome.
Although the narrator fails in his quest of bringing back a gift for Mangan's sister and realizes that a relationship with the girl he is in love with will never happen, he has increased his knowledge about himself, his place and role in society, and about life in general. He develops an awareness that he must start setting his priorities straight and creating realistic goals for himself.
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