A Romantic Quest In Araby By James Joyce
Life is an unexpected combination of ups and downs. This continues to be true and evident in James Joyce’s short story “Araby”. This story is centered on a young, unnamed boy who is undergoing many challenges. These include family issues, first love, and growing up in a town that is not the most ideal. In this somber tale, Joyce is examining the young boy’s coming of age and the epiphany that occurs for him.
The setting of this short story is Dublin, Ireland at the beginning of the twentieth century. This is a key detail used by Joyce to explain to the readers the main character’s life and how he personally viewed it. The cities description from the eyes of the boy was not a happy one. In many examples the narrator, who is also the young boy, used dark imagery to paint a picture of Dublin during that time. As said by Professors Hal Blythe and Charlie Sweet, “The setting is the poor side of Dublin…where the boy literally resides on a dead end street”. This is an important observation because it explains in some sense why the descriptions within the story are so dismal and bleak. The narrator further proves this point when he explains walking through the streets as, “Flaring streets, jostled by drunk men and bargaining women, amid the curse of laborers…”. Living in such a poverty stricken area did not seem to have a positive effect on the boy or make his home life much better.
The young boy does not seem to view his family or other adults in a different light than he views the setting. Joyce did not give much information about the boy’s family, however it is known that he lives with his aunt and uncle. The narrator stated, “If my uncle was seen turning the corner we hid in the shadows until we had seen him safely housed”. This quote does not give off the impression of happiness or love, but more cold and separated which seems to be how his home life is portrayed. Not having a good and loving connection at home further makes the boy want and need a change.
A considerable change in the story and in the boy’s life appears in the form of a girl, Magnan’s sister. When she is mentioned the tone of the narrator changes as he says, “She was waiting for us, her figure defined by the light of the half opened door. . . Her dress swung as she moved her body and the soft rope of her hair tossed from side to side”. This description is completely different then the way he describes everything else, making her seem like his light amongst the darkness. Thus his infatuation and what is now his first love is made clear. However, they have not spoken at this point which further fuels his obsession to be near her.
The boy’s first conversation with Magnan’s sister leads him on a journey he was not expecting. “At last she spoke to me. When she addressed the first words to me I was so confused that I did not know what to answer,” the narrator states regarding the beginning of the conversation. Following this she asked if the boy was going to Araby and said that she could not, which led the boy to say, “If I go, I will bring you something”. This led to the beginning of the quest to win the girl by purchasing her a present while at the bazaar, Araby. His upcoming journey to Araby was all he could think about and he began leaving his old ways behind, like playing with his friends and focusing on his school work.
The quest of going to the bazaar and Araby itself led the boy to an important epiphany in his life. His uncle, which was late getting home, had only given him a small amount of money to buy his love, Magnan’s sister, the present he had promised her and then the train ride was not a romantic journey as he had predicted. Since his uncle was late, the bazaar was almost closed and he had to find a booth that wasn’t closed yet. As written by Professor Rokeya, “Only a few stalls were open. It is really too late for any adventure. He senses the failure of his romantic quest which he nourishes at the core of his heart”. His experience at Araby leads the boy to disappointment and defeat realizing that his views of Magnan’s sister and Araby, itself were nothing but dreams. These realizations push the boy into maturity, leaving his kid-like desires and imagination behind and replacing them with reality.
In conclusion, life is not always how it may seem. It is disappointing and eye opening, which the main character of this story comes to realize too well as he enters into maturity. The failure of his romantic quest to get the girl of his dreams led to his epiphany, which pushed him to grow up and leave his fantasies behind.
- Blythe, Hal, and Charlie Sweet. 'The Romance of ‘Araby’. ' Short Story Criticism, edited by Lawrence J. Trudeau, vol. 198, Gale, 2014. Literature Resource Center, http://link. galegroup. com. ezproxy. cpcc. edu/apps/doc/H1420117991/LitRC?u=centralp&sid=LitRC&xid=cfb8fbe3. Accessed 12 June 2019. Originally published in Eureka Studies in Teaching Short Fiction, vol. 9, no. 2, 2009, pp. 103-108.
- Joyce, James, Robert Scholes, and A. W. Litz. dubliners. Penguin Books, New York, 1996.
- Khorsand, Golbarg1, golbarg_cm@yahoo. co. “Paths to Paralysis: Symbolism and Narratology in James Joyce’s ‘Araby’ and ‘Eveline. ’” Epiphany, vol. 7, no. 2, June 2014, pp. 92–104. EBSCOhost, search. ebscohost. com/login. aspx?direct=true&db=hus&AN=101165075&site=ehost-live&scope=site.
- Rokeya, Ms, and Zunayet A. AK. 'A Shattering Epiphany in James Joyce’s “Araby”. ' Advances in Language and Literary Studies, vol. 8, no. 5, 2017, pp. 140-144. ProQuest, http://ezproxy. cpcc. edu/login?url=https://search. proquest. com/docview/2188085014?accountid=10008, doi:http://dx. doi. org/10. 7575/aiac. alls. v. 8n. 5p. 140.