Paralysis: the inability to act or function in a person, organization, or place (New Oxford American Dictionary).
James Joyce made the conscious decision to flee from Dublin because he felt trapped by society and the routine that existed there. It is clear that in both Araby and An Encounter, Joyce really uses his past to his advantage, as he tells two stories in which paralysis is a key theme. Each story has it’s own unique way of demonstrating how paralysis drives the protagonist. Regardless of the plot, paralysis manifests itself within the protagonist’s background, and it influences their decisions which in turn, each story revolves around.
Araby recounts the story of a young boy’s infatuation with a girl whom he does not even know. She is everything to the boy as he says, “I had never spoken to her, except for a few casual words, and yet her name was like a summons to all my foolish blood” (Joyce 25) Araby. He spends so much time thinking about her and desiring her. It is almost as if the boy is reaching out to her, yet he cannot touch her. He is simply trapped within his own obsession for her.
The boy finally decides to try and break free from this self-imprisonment and routine of just thinking about the girl from inside his home. He decides that he wants to go to the bazaar and buy the girl a gift to express his love for her. He waits and waits for his uncle to return home so that he can go. The uncle becomes tied up in his own routine, however. When the boy finally arrives at the bazaar, it is too late. This is an example of paralysis being something that is too strong to overcome, ending in disappointment.
The Essay on The Short Story “Araby” by James Joyce
At the beginning of the short story “Araby,” by James Joyce, we are brought back to a time when the author was just a young boy living on the described to be boring and dead North Richmond Street in Dublin, Ireland. In this town, the kids would find entertainment in the use of their imagination that insisted on playing outside “till their bodies glowed.” (Pg. 1173) Even though their play brought ...
Much like the boy in Araby, the boy in An Encounter yearns for an interlude from the dull yet harmless routine of school. He encourages a friend of his to skip school with him. The boy lets his curiosity get the better of him. Before they know it, they find themselves listening to a peculiar old man rambling on about disturbing and uncomfortable topics: “His attitude on this point struck me as strangely liberal in a man of his age” (Joyce 19) An Encounter. To both boys, school is a safer, more comfortable environment than being in the presence of the old man.
The boys were paralyzed by the daily routine of being in school. They set out out in search of adventure and that is exactly what they got. However, it was not the kind of adventure that either boy had been hoping for. In fact, they could not leave the old man fast enough: “I went up the slope calmly but my heart was beating quickly with fear that he would seize me by the ankles” (Joyce 21) An Encounter. On a day that was supposed to be an escape from routine, the boys experienced something that made them wish that they were in school.
In both stories, paralysis plays the same role. It serves as disappointment. In both instances, the protagonists get their hopes up only to have them come crashing down on them. It is depressing as it can be literally interpreted that in Dublin, there is no promise, no opportunity for success. While joy may be something very much within sight, it is just a tease if it is in the city of Dublin.