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Araby Analysis


In reality it is quite impractical for the weather to change with your given mood or your surroundings to reflect your current station in life. This hard practicality, however, is completely ignored in literature where such literary devices as setting and perspective are key to a deep understanding of the intention of the author. Authors write while envisioning their characters in whatever situations they deem to put them in; consequently, it should come as no surprise that they take setting and other such literary devices and warp them to the perspective of the character they are writing about. James Joyce’s "Araby" must be looked upon as no exception. Therefore, as the narrator in "Araby" gradually loses his innocence, the setting, perspective, and mood of the story gradually shift to reflect upon the narrator’s understanding of life.

Araby begins in unrelenting blindness that is mercy only to the Christian Brothers’ School releasing the boys. It should come as no surprise that Araby starts out blind, stuck in a "wild garden… [that] [contains] a central apple-tree" (609). However this literal Garden of Eden is certainly not the imagined biblical paradise that Adam and Eve lived in, there were no rusty bicycle pumps in the bible version anyway. The wild garden is not the lush beautiful forest of green that it can be mistakenly associated with. Instead the garden seems to be weeds left to their own devices. Scene analysis aside, the story begins with a beautiful and pervasive apple tree in the middle of a most hostile, dark, and unwelcoming North Richmond Street. This apple tree is the figurative representation of the narrator’s innocence, or rather ignorance, as it stands undaunted by the darkness. Literally however, such an apple tree cannot exist and this is shown through the wild garden of weeds and rusty bicycle pump that litter an otherwise perfect illusion of beauty. This simple irony foreshadows a cruel end of innocence, which does indeed take place. Just as the setting implies innocence, so does the perspective. Simple naivety, such as liking books based on the color of their pages, or thinking a priest charitable because, "in his will he had left… the furniture of his house to his sister" (609), is akin to the narrator’s understanding of life. One must think, when the narrator looked upon his princess with a wanton innocence, did the blind he used to hide himself skew his view? The narrator clearly thinks he loves the dear girl, but why then does he look upon her in "confused adoration", or think about her in such sexual connotation as his body being a "harp and her words and gestures were like fingers running upon the wires" (610). These imageries only help deepen the confusion that the narrator must be feeling, and allow the reader a glimpse at the adolescent going through the first phases of maturity.

Yet the youthful innocence and hope that the narrator has for going to Araby nearing the beginning of the story must be shattered, for the narrator’s image of Araby is pure imagination and is characterized by the lightness that is originally associated with it. As the narrator grows to understand that the world does not revolve around him, his uncle forgetting about Araby bringing this change about, the coming confrontation with what he was hoping to be a magical experience dawns. The narrator finally arrives at Araby where he notices that "nearly all the stalls [are] closed and the greater part of the hall [is] in darkness" (611). This darkness contrasts the original light and shows how the narrator progressively replaces his ignorance with knowledge and life experience. This change is not only characterized by darkness, however, it also becomes clear that the church loses its hold and power over the narrator as well. For in the cheap and false Araby the narrator "[recognizes] a silence like that which pervades a church after a service" (611) This final release from the church has, as foreshadowed, releases the boy and in turn replaces him with a growing man with a changing perception of the world around him. As the story comes to a close, the narrator enters a shop remembering what he had originally come for. As he looks at various porcelain, supposedly from the East, he hears the background chatter of a girl, presumably a tease, with two men. The narrator at this point loses all preconceptions that he ever had about Araby and lingers to make his interest in her wares seem real, "though [he] knew [his] stay was useless" (612). At this point the light goes out and the hall goes "completely dark" (612). All the narrator’s dreams are effectively replaced by reality, all innocence turned into knowledge, all light setting turned into darkness.

From what we know of circuses, they are happy places where it is possible to go from stall to stall and buy things. In the daytime, the beginning of our lives, when these activities are done there seems to be a certain magic permeating through the air, convincing us that the wares we buy are not just the junky things we see, and that they will not fall apart when we get home. However, what would happen if we visited at night, nearing the end of our lives. Alone while the stalls are closing up—would there be that magic? Araby can only exist when we are blinded by too much light, and cannot see reality for what it is. However is Joyce trying to tell us that there is no hope, no magic at all to our existence? Perhaps he is instead trying to tell us that there is a balance: of dreams and reality, hope and acceptance, light and darkness.



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