Imagery in “Araby” Analysis

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In the story “Araby”, written by James Joyce, there is plenty use of imagery. James Joyce emphasizes imagery in such a subtle yet profound way. The story is about a boy’s infatuation to a girl who is known only as “Mangan’s sister” and his promise that he will buy her a present at the bazaar(called Araby). Joyce expresses the theme of the boy’s exaggerated desire through the images which are colorful.

The theme of “Araby” is a boy’s desire to have what he cannot obtain. Throughout the story there are various uses of imagery such as the image of Mangan’s sister, the light and darkness, and the North Richmond street.

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Throughout the story you see the narrator fantasize over his friend Mangan’s sister. He thinks of her constantly throughout the story, depicting her in many ways. The narrator always seems to describe her as a thing of beauty glimmering in the light, showing his love for her is in a visual aspect. “She was waiting for us, her figure defined by the light from the half-opened door”. He sees Mangan’s sister as someone who stands out in the old, dark North Dublin streets and is captivated by her physique. The light from the lamp opposite our door caught the white curve of her neck, lit up her hair that rested there and, falling, lit up the hand upon the railing”.

Joyce uses the imagery of Mangan’s sister to show how the narrator gets lost in this fantasy of love, thinking she’s the perfect girl, only to succumb to the unfortunate reality that it was all vanity.

The imagery of light and darkness shows the narrator’s feeling of difference from his friends. He feels ostracized and solitude, since he is the only one that is in love. “Her brother always teased her before he obeyed, and I stood by the railings looking at her”. The narrator sees the darkness as a place of hiding. “If my uncle was seen turning the corner, we hid in the shadow until we had seen him safely housed”. The boy uses the shadow to hide in and to watch from a distance at Mangan’s sister; his goddess glimmering in the light.

The darkness is also being used to reflect the boy’s solitude. The boy is standing in the shadow while his friends are playing in the light. In his perspective, the darkness there is related to how full of hopelessness and loneliness he is because he is the only one in love.

Lastly, Joyce uses imagery to depict the dullness of the North Richmond street. “North Richmond Street, being blind, was a quiet street except at the hour when the Christian Brothers’ School set the boys free”. In this story you see how the narrator describes the street as empty and colorless. When Mangan’s sister appears her presence shines out to the narrator from the old streets.

The street being a hopeless and almost a sad setting. The setting kind of relates to the narrator, being an empty, depressing place with the desire for light; light being Mangan’s sister. Joyce depicts the utter dreary backdrop of Dublin, showing the unfortunate reality where the narrator lives his life.

“Araby” is a classic story, every detail carefully placed portraying detailed imagery. Joyce uses the imagery in this story to show the harsh truth, which is reality. Throughout the story he uses imagery for the narrator’s crush, the darkness and light, and streets of Dublin. The imagery in the story gives the reader a true understanding of how we get lost in our imagination by false hope and vanity.

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Imagery in “Araby” Analysis. (2016, May 05). Retrieved from

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