In his brief but complex story "Araby," James Joyce concentrates on character rather than on plot to reveal the ironies within self-deception. On one level "Araby" is a story of initiation, of a boy's quest for the ideal. The quest ends in failure but results in an inner awareness and a first step into manhood. On another level the story consists of a grown man's remembered experience, for a man who looks back to a particular moment of intense meaning and insight tells the story in retrospect. As such, the boy's experience is not restricted to youth's encounter with first love. Rather, it is a portrayal of a continuing problem all through life: the incompatibility of the ideal, of the dream as one wishes it to be, with the bleakness of reality. This double focus-the boy who first experiences, and the man who has not forgotten provides for the rendering of a story of first love told by a narrator who, with his wider, adult vision, can employ the sophisticated use of irony and symbolic imagery necessary to reveal the story's meaning. The story opens with a description of North Richmond Street, a "blind," "cold ... .. silent" (275)street where the houses "gazed at one an-other with brown imperturbable faces.".(275) The former tenant, a priest, died in the back room of the house, and his legacy-several old yellowed books, which the boy enjoys leafing through because they are old, and a bicycle pump rusting in the back yard-become symbols of the intellectual and religious vitality of the past. Every morning before school the boy lies on the floor in the front parlor peeking out through a crack in the blind of the door, watching and waiting for the girl next door to emerge from her house and walk to school. He is shy and still boyish.
He follows her, walks silently past, not daring to speak, overcome with a confused sense of desire and adoration. In his mind she is both a saint to be worshipped and a woman to be desired. His eyes are "often full of tears.".(276) Walking with his aunt to shop on Saturday evenings he imagines that the girl's image accompanies him, and that he protects her in "places the most hostile to romance." (276) Here, Joyce reveals the epiphany in the story: "These noises converged in a single sensation of life for me: I imagined that I bore my chalice safely through a throng of foes."(276) He is unable to...
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... quest ends when he arrives at the bazaar and realizes with slow, tortured clarity that Araby is not at all what he imagined. It is tawdry and dark and thrives on the profit motive and the eternal lure its name evokes in men. The boy realizes that he has placed all his love and hope in a world that does not exist except in his imagination. He feels angry and betrayed and realizes his self-deception. He feels he is "a creature driven and derided by vanity" and the vanity is his own. At no other point in the story is characterization as brilliant as at the end. Joyce draws his protagonist with strokes designed to let us recognize in "the creature driven and derided by vanity" a boy who is initiated into knowledge through a loss of innocence who does not fully realize the incompatibility between the beautiful, innocent world of the imagination and the very real world of fact. In "Araby," Joyce uses the boyhood character with the manhood narrator to embody the theme of his story. Joyce, James. “Araby”. Literature and It’s Writers.
Joyce, James . “Araby.” Literature: An Introduction to Writing. Roberts, Edgar V. and Jacobs,. Henry E. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 2001.
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