Literature "Araby" FINAL
Literature “Araby” (draft)
James Joyce’s “Araby” reflects a coming of age story told through reminiscence - Literature "Araby" FINAL introduction. This narrative synthesis of memory and experience allows for a powerful probing of themes of initiation and adolescence as well as themes of nostalgia and spirituality. Joyce’s brilliant use of inference, rather than direct exposition, throughout the story adds to the believability of the narrator’s arc of development, while also evoking a sense of the living past which excites emotion in the reader. The central theme of innocence versus experience in “Araby” evolves out of the multi-textured narrative and avails itself of the narrative’s dualistic vision of time to contrast dramatic oppositions of subjective experience, all occurring within the same psyche.
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The essential innocence of the narrator as an adolescent is demonstrated by his numerous romantic projections: first and foremost upon the young girl, Mangan, to whom his very soul seems destined. Mangan becomes something of a Virgin Mary figure, but one which conforms as much to the adolescent longings of a young boy as to the dogma of the Church. “Her name sprang to my lips at moments in strange prayers and praises which I myself did not understand. My eyes were often full of tears (I could not tell why) and at times a flood from my heart seemed to pour itself out into my bosom.” (Joyce)
The narrator holds Mangan as a sacred vision: he waits for her appearance, but dares not to speak to her. He dreams of her until his heart seems to burst with longing and at last, he enters a spontaneous ritual of adoration: “Some distant lamp or lighted window gleamed below me. I was thankful that I could see so little. 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.” (Joyce)
The narrator’s youthful innocence allows him to view his world in simplified, heroic terms. Rather than being subjugated to the menial chores and devotions of his daily life, he is given a sacred quest when Mangan at least speaks to him. Their conversation, quite ordinary in reality, is transformed to a heroic geas in the mind of the youthful narrator. In this way, it becomes apparent to the dutiful reader that Mangan represents something quite worthy of religious devotion for a restless young boy. She represents his freedom from boredom, obligation,, and normalcy. In a larger sense she represents the narrator’s youthful rebellion against religious orthodoxy. By elevating his feelings for Mangan to a religious zeal he is in effect substituting a matriarchal for a patriarchal godhood. “What innumerable follies laid waste my waking and sleeping thoughts after that evening! I wished to annihilate the tedious intervening days. I chafed against the work of school. At night in my bedroom and by day in the classroom her image came between me and the page I strove to read.” (Joyce).
In fact, the narrator’s romantic projection onto ordinary events and objects (as recollected and recounted by his older self) begin to expose themselves as ultimately tenuous and ephemeral impulses when the word Araby” itself falls under the youthful narrator’s projections.This devotion even to the simple word “Araby” itself, the place-name of the bazaar that Mangan tells him about while admitting that she, herself, cannot attend: “The syllables of the word Araby were called to me through the silence in which my soul luxuriated and cast an Eastern enchantment over me. I asked for leave to go to the bazaar on Saturday night.” (Joyce)
The duplicity of the narrator’s vision described previously allows for each of the events involving the narrator’s romantic projection to be simultaneously understood by the alert reader as indicating the precise opposite of what the youthful narrator is projecting onto his experience. In the case of Mangan, the conversation between her and the narrator decidedly short and decidedly without romantic portent or heroic inference. She tells the narrator that she must miss the bazaar to attend a retreat in her convent. This highly relevant fact seems to be construed by the narrator merely as a justification for his utter devotion to the menial task of visiting the bazaar and purchasing something for Mangan. By this point in the story, the gentle irony that is generated between the dualistic narrative visions begins to foreshadow a more serious, spiritual dimension. Similarly with the word “Araby,” and the bazaar itself, every indication throughout the narrative foreshadows what the bazaar will actually be in contradiction to the narrator’s romantic visions. The narrator’s family infers to him not to get his hopes up, they seem to suspect he has fallen into some kind of daydream, they eventually show their compassion by allowing him to attend the bazaar.
When the narrator recounts his experiences as the bazaar, the melding of the previously disparate narrative voices: one of the youthful narrator, and the other of the experienced narrator begins to reveal itself. The description of the bazaar and the events there is conspicuously devoid of romantic projection. Instead, everything is seen through a clear, realistic and precise lens as though the narrator’s previously intense day-dreams had simply evaporated. “I walked into the centre of the bazaar timidly. A few people were gathered about the stalls which were still open. Before a curtain, over which the words Café Chantant were written in coloured lamps, two men were counting money on a salver. I listened to the fall of the coins.” (Joyce) In their place is a place of barter and commerce, without romance or heroicism, simply a world of money and goods, the very world of ordinary toil and attainment he had longed to escape.