The Ironic Narrator of "Araby"
Although James Joyce's story "Araby" is told from the first per-son viewpoint of its young protagonist, we do not receive the impression that a boy tells the story. Instead, the narrator seems to be a man matured well beyond the experience of the story. The mature man reminisces about his youthful hopes, desires, and frustrations. More than if a boy's mind had reconstructed the events of the story for us, this particular way of telling the story enables us to perceive clearly the torment youth experiences when ideals, concerning both sacred and earthly love, are destroyed by a suddenly unclouded view of the actual world. Because the man, rather than the boy, recounts the experience, an ironic view can be presented of the institutions and persons surrounding the boy. This ironic view would be impossible for the immature, emotionally involved mind of the boy himself. Only an adult looking back at the high hopes of "foolish blood" and its resultant destruction could account for the ironic viewpoint. Throughout the story, however, the narrator consistently maintains a full sensitivity to his youthful anguish. From first to last we sense the reality to him of his earlier idealistic dream of beauty.
The opening paragraph, setting the scene, prepares us for the view we receive of the conflict between the loveliness of the ideal and the drabness of the actual. Descri...
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...rious wares, is tended by uncaring people who leave him even more alone than he had been before; the young lady who should have waited on him ignores him to joke with two young men. The young lady’s inane remarks to the young men have a ring in the memory of the mature narrator reminiscent of his adored one's remarks. Both are concerned with the material, the crass.
The narrator can, with his backward look, supply us with two apprehensions: one, the fully remembered, and thus fully felt, anguish of a too sudden realization of the disparity between a youthful dream of the mystic beauty of the world and his actual world; and two, the irony implicit in a view that can see the dream itself as a "vanity."
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