Reality and the Main Characters in James Joyce’s “Araby” and “Evelyn”

            People constantly formulate ideals and create perfect images of things in their minds and most often they get carried away with the imagined scenarios so much so that they fail or refuse to understand that nothing on earth can ever be perfect - Reality and the Main Characters in James Joyce’s “Araby” and “Evelyn” introduction. They stubbornly cling to the belief that all dreams can come true especially since stories abound in the media about people who lead lives that the average human can only imagine. Sometimes, however, a certain situation or event wakes them up to the realization on the discrepancy between an idealized life and reality. This moment of truth is revelatory and it can change the overall outlook of the individual from that day onwards. This type of epiphany is what happens to Eveline and the unnamed narrator in James Joyce’s short stories, “Eveline” and “Araby,” respectively.

            In “Araby”, the ideal is symbolized by the young boy’s expectations on the female sex and this is connected to the exoticism of the East that the Araby bazaar is supposed to sell. The narrator harbors a secret admiration for a friend’s sister who lives next door. He worships her, hiding himself every morning in the front parlor and waiting for her to come out. The first time that she addresses her, it leaves him stumped for words. Somehow, in the conversation, he promises her he would go to Araby and bring something special back for her. He wants to give her the perfect gift and thinking about it conjures beautiful images of Araby in his mind. However, on the day he is to go to the bazaar, his uncle who is to give him the money comes home late, the train moves slowly, he arrives late at the bazaar and the only store left open when he gets there is a stall selling cheap wares. Reality, in the form of these factors which makes his trip to Araby a bad experience, disillusions the young boy. He is left “with anguish and anger” (Joyce) and these will affect all that he associates this trip to Araby with, specifically his infatuation with an idealized female in Mangan’s sister. The experience will stop him from creating ideals in the future and he will perceive life as bleak, imperfect, and full of disappointments as his trip to Araby has been.

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            In “Eveline”, fate is giving the heroine a chance to change her life in the person of Frank, a sailor who falls in love with Eveline and wants to bring her to Buenos Ayres.  Home means working hard to feed younger siblings and an abusive father. This is Eveline’s reality. Meanwhile, marriage to Frank means “people would treat her with respect…She would not be treated as her mother had been” (Joyce). Frank is kind, he loves her, and Eveline has to quarrel with her father to meet Frank. Frank and being married to him is the ideal life that is very disparate to her present reality and she would very much like to live this better life. However, at the very moment when Eveline is to ride the ship that would take her away from her drab and hard life, she hears her mother’s voice in her mind, and she gets cold feet. She chooses to stay. This moment of epiphany on Eveline’s character illustrates to the reader how sometimes, the victim can drown in an abusive existence so much so that even if an opportunity to save him presents itself, he would choose to stay behind. The chains of her reality, in the form of her old life, cling so tightly that Eveline cannot find the courage to be free from them. As a result, Eveline will continue to live the life she has been living and may continue to do so until old age and even death.

            Both the nameless boy and Eveline in Joyce’s stories embody pessimistic characters that are changed for the worse after their respective single experiences. The boy loses his fascination for women and the promises that life can give a young man after his trip to Araby does not turn out as he plans. Eveline loses the chance to live the life she dreams after she chooses not to ride the ship that would have taken her from her old life to an ideal one.  Of the two, however, Eveline loses more when she makes her choice because of her status and the constriction that society has for women during her time. She is stuck in a life of hard work, supporting her family, and single. The young boy, meanwhile, still has a chance to experience another epiphany that could alter his present view of things and which could even redeem him from the effects of his experience when he goes to Araby.

Joyce, James. “Araby” and “Eveline”.


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