James Joyce's Araby - An Analysis of Araby
Length: 528 words (1.5 double-spaced pages)
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"Araby" is a short complex story by Joyce that I believe is a reflection of his own life as a boy growing up in Dublin. Joyce uses the voice of a young boy as a narrator; however the narrator seems much more mature then the boy in the story. The story focuses on escape and fantasy; about darkness, despair, and enlightenment: and I believe it is a retrospective of Joyce's look back at life and the constant struggle between ideals and reality.
I believe Araby employs many themes; the two most apparent to me are escape and fantasy though I see signs of religion and a boy's first love. Araby is an attempt by the boy to escape the bleak darkness of North Richmond Street. Joyce orchestrates an attempt to escape the "short days of winter", "where night falls early" and streetlights are but "feeble lanterns" failing miserably to light the somberness of the "dark muddy lanes"(Joyce 38). Metaphorically, Joyce calls the street blind, a dead end; much like Dublin itself in the mid 1890s when Joyce lived on North Richmond Street as a young boy. A recurrent theme of darkness weaves itself through the story; the boy hides in shadows from his uncle or to coyly catch a glimpse of his friend Mangan's sister who obliviously is his first love.
Araby is about escaping into the world of fantasy. The narrator is infatuated with his friend's sister; he hides in the shadows, peering secluded from a distance trying to spy her "brown figure"(Joyce 38). She is the light in his fantasy, someone who will lift him out of darkness. I see many parallels to my life as a boy growing up in the inner city of Jersey City. We looked for escape also, a trip uptown to Lincoln Park, or take a train ride to New York City where we would gaze at the beauties on 7th Ave.
The boy sees the bazaar at Araby as an opportunity to win her over, as a way to light the candle in her eyes. However, the boy is more awkward then shy, his adolescence is an impediment to his quest and he lost for words to speak. I vividly recall those times in my young life, driven by desires and struggling with the lack of experience to get through the moment.
He fantasizes about her, how bringing her a gift from the bazaar will capture her heart.
He has promised her a gift and he anguishes over his uncles late return home and his forgetfulness. Nevertheless, he is undeterred and catches an empty train to reality. 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. When she finally approaches, he freezes in stare, transfixed by his awkwardness. 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 as he fumbles with the coins in his pocket.