In her story, "Araby," James Joyce concentrates on character rather than on plot to reveal the ironies inherent in 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 the story is told in retrospect by a man who looks back to a particular moment of intense meaning and insight. 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 dramatic 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 boy's character is indirectly suggested in the opening scenes of the story. He has grown up in the backwash of a dying city. Symbolic images show him to be an individu...
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...ossibility. That sense of loss is intensified, for its dimension grows as we realize that the desire to, live the dream will continue through adulthood.
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" both a boy who is initiated into knowledge through a loss of innocence and a man who fully realizes the incompatibility between the beautiful and innocent world of the imagination and the very real world of fact. In "Araby," Joyce uses character to embody the theme of his story.
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