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"Araby," written by James Joyce




Overview/Summary

The narrator of "Araby," written by James Joyce, proves to be both an easily distracted and vulnerable young man in the midst of his first experience with love. The boy is still adventurous and careless, showing that he is still somewhat ignorant of the cold, unassuming world that he will grow up to be a part of.

The fact that a generous priest once lived in the boy's house seems to be of much value to him, further showing his boyish interest in seemingly magical and mysterious things. Later in "Araby," he plays with other young boys in his neighborhood, which involves hiding from the boy's uncle and spying on Mangan's sister. The boy is still quite immature and easily entertained, so it is appropriate for the reader to assume he is young in age.

The boy in "Araby" finds a simple joy in entertaining his romantic obsession with Mangan's sister, a relationship that never ends in physical or spoken contact. He speaks of how he likes to wait for the girl until she leaves her house in the morning, in order to follow her until she begins to take a different direction. When she turns, he likes to brush past her in the street, as if shy and embarrassed. The boy is constantly occupied with childish thoughts of this girl, even when at the market with his aunt.

When the boy and Mangan's sister finally speak, she tells him that she is upset because she is going to miss the bazaar due to a retreat at her convent. The boy decides to go to the fair in order to bring Mangan's sister something back, as if to buy her affection. He continually reminds his uncle that he wishes to go to the bazaar. On the day of Araby, a Middle-Eastern inspired fair, his uncle forgets about the event and inadvertently makes the boy late. The boy's aunt then convinces her husband that he should give the boy some money anyway and allow him to continue on to the fair without any further draw-backs.

By the time the boy arrives, the bazaar is mostly closed, and there are not many selections of venders in which he can find a gift for Mangan's sister. There are a few booths still open, but the boy does not buy anything because it is now unclear to him as to why he decided to come. The boy realizes that it was useless to come to the bazaar, and he becomes upset and angered by his decision because he realizes how silly of an idea it was for him to go to the bazaar, especially at such a late hour. He realizes that Mangan's sister will not develop feelings for him, regardless of whether he brings something back for her, because she does not care for him in a romantic way.



A commercial for the film adaptation of "Araby," written by James Joyce.




Themes/Symbolism:

The dominant theme of "Araby" is the crushing impact of reality that occurs when innocence is lost due to a child's realization that a first love is really only a meaningless crush that will soon be forgotten by all those involved. This realization for the boy in "Araby" only adds to the tired coldness of the community in which he lives in. The boy's aunt and uncle are strictly working class, and therefore, they do not have the time to nurture him. Seeking solice, the boy turns his attention to Mangan's sister. She proves to do the same, showing the boy that his love means nothing.

The bazaar depicted in "Araby" symbolizes the harsh reality that the boy has been brought up to be a part of, along with exposing the falsehood that his childish love for Mangan's sister. The priest that used to live in the boy's house represents the idea of religion, further hinting that religion is a dying concept because it cannot be relied upon to provide the necessities for life in the cutthroat Irish community, such as food and shelter.




Important Characters:


Narrator: A young boy who is trying to grasp the concept of love. He tries to act more like an adult in order to show his attraction to Mangan's sister, but he is still a child who does not understand what love truly is. His experience of what he initially thinks of as love changes from peaceful youth to joyfulness to frustration to loneliness.

Mangan's Sister: The girl that the narrator is in love with. She talks to the narrator about the bazaar. Likes to see new and exotic places

Key Concepts:

The boy's love for Mangan's sister proves to be an escape from reality for him. In order to get away from the drudge of schoolwork and his family, the boy finds entertainment through thinking about the girl and what possibilities she could bring. He does not know much about her, or any girl other than his aunt for that matter, further adding to his curiosity. Although the boy's surroundings are not beautiful, Mangan's sister is. Through the boy's eyes, it is as though she is foreign and mysterious, much like the bazaar which poses an adventure for the boy.




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James Joyce, born on the second of February in 1882, proved to be one of the most notable writers of his time. Joyce's life proved to be rather tumultuous, due to constantly being uprooted because of events such as his studies, his mother's death, and World War One. Much of his reality influenced his writing and it was common for James Joyce to project his real life into his works of literature, "Araby" seems to be a possible reflection of Joyce's childhood and the harsh realities that he had to grow up in the midst of.


Works Cited:

"Araby." YouTube.com. Web. 26 Apr 2011. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z3pUH1MfC9I>.

"Araby Bazaar Handbill 1894." daithaic.blogspot.com. Web. 26 Apr 2011. <http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_Nf5FfHNth64/SFaoPpkashI/AAAAAAAABQQ/eMdGoM8QKkk/s1600-h/Araby.jpg>.

"James Joyce." outskirtspress. Web. 26 Apr 2011. <http://www.readprint.com/author-52/James-Joyce-books#anchor_biography>.

O'Connor, Kate. "A Brief Biography of James Joyce." The James Joyce Centre. The James Joyce Centre, 2011. Web. 26 Apr 2011. <http://www.jamesjoyce.ie/detail.asp?ID=19>.