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An initiation in James Joyce’s story “Araby”

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    Many times in life, people set unrealistic expectations for themselves or for other people. This is not a very wise thing to do because people often feel disappointed and embarrassed for getting their hopes up so high. One good example of this is the narrator in the short story “Araby” by James Joyce. In his brief but complex story James Joyce concentrates on character rather than on plot to reveal the ironies within self-deception. On its simplest level, “Araby” is a story about a boy’s first love.

    On a deeper level, it is a story about the world he lives in that is full of ideals and dreams. “Araby” is a story of initiation, of a boy’s quest for the ideal where the quest ends in failure, but results in an inner awareness and a first step into manhood. The protagonist of the story lives through a particular sort of experience which reformulates him into a different person. He faces up the harsh reality for which his previous experience has not prepared him.

    The story shows how the impact of the neighborhood and culture of Dublin influenced the boy’s life ideas, and how the circumstances the boy had to face up with made the him revalue his attitude towards his life. The story opens with a description of North Richmond Street: “North Richmond Street, being blind, was a quiet street … An uninhabited house of two storeys stood at the blind end, detached from its neighbours in a square ground. The other houses of the street gazed at one another with brown imperturbable faces. ”(p. 32) From the very first line it becomes obvious that Joyce doesn’t want the readers to be amazed by the setting of the story. He, probably, on the contrary wants to draw readers’ attention to the fact that there is nothing attractive that can be noticed on North Richmond Street.

    The only feeling that may occur after such a description is loneliness, boredom, and disgust. This is the first thing that leads the boy to his inaccurate view of life, which is as blind, dull, and dark as the street is. The second thing that has an impact on protagonist’s life view is the culture and life in Dublin.

    But on the rest of the people from this city. Children have to go to Christian school, where the discipline is strict. That can be inferred from the very first sentence of the story:” North Richmond Street, being blind, was a quiet street except at the hour when the Christian Brothers’ School set the boys free. ” Another thing that can be noticed about the boy’s religious belonging is in the way he acts: “All my senses seemed to desire to veil themselves and, feeling that I was about to slip from them, I pressed the palms of my hands together until they trembled, murmuring: ‘O love!

    O love! ‘ many times. ”(p. 434) This sentence can be interpreted as though he does the thing he is used to do every time he happens to be in difficult situation. These facts play a huge role in the forming of this boy’s character and his life. Overvalue of boy’s attitude towards life in “Araby” is supported by the circumstances the boy had to face up with that are used as imagery of light and darkness. Darkness is used throughout the story as the prevailing theme. The boy is young and naive and he leads a dull and boring life.

    Joyce uses dark and obscure references to make the boy’s reality of living in the gloomy town more vivid. Darkness, in addition to despair, represents the reality and truth in the narrator’s circumstances. The author uses dark references to create the mood or atmosphere , but then changes to bright light references when discussing Mangan’s sister. Joyce uses the bright light when describing Mangan’s sister, the boy’s infatuation. Light is used to create a joyful atmosphere. Light is used to create a fairy tale world of dreams and illusions.

    Joyce uses light to represent not only hope, but unrealistic idealism and illusion. The narrator is infatuated with his friend’s sister. He hides in the shadows, peering secluded from a distance trying to spy her:” Every morning I lay on the floor in the front parlour watching her door. The blind was pulled down to within an inch of the sash so that I could not be seen. I ran to the hall, seized my books and followed her. I kept her brown figure always in my eye and, when we came near the point at which our ways diverged, I quickened my pace and passed her.

    This happened morning after morning. ” (p. 433). The girl in the story is used as a symbol of light to a boy. She is used as someone who will lift him out of darkness. He fantasizes about her, how bringing her a gift from the bazaar will capture her heart. Araby is used as a symbol of something very desirable, almost holy, that is definitely going to change the course of the narration. And here occurs the situation that exposes boy’s ideas towards his life. He finds Araby much like North Richmond Street, empty and dark with few people.

    The young lady at the booth ignores him while she flirts with the men. As the woman turns and walks away, he realizes the opportunity of winning his friends sister through gift has slipped away. In the end, anguish burns in his eyes as the cold grip of reality takes hold of him and the light changes into darkness again. Now it is clearly seen that Joyce uses light and darkness as a symbol for the clash between fantasy and reality that takes place within the narrator. The statement that perhaps gives the most insight into the narrator’s thoughts and feelings is found at the end of the story.

    Gazing up into the darkness I saw myself as a creature driven and derided by vanity; and my eyes burned with anguish and anger. ” (p. 436) The experiences of the boy in James Joyce’s “Araby” illustrate how people often expect more than ordinary reality can provide and then feel disillusioned and disappointed, but aware of how harsh and unjust life can be. 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.

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    An initiation in James Joyce’s story “Araby”. (2017, Feb 15). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/an-initiation-in-james-joyces-story-araby/

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