Mirror Contrasts in Araby
“Araby”, a short story written by James Joyce, is a very descriptive tale that includes a lot of symbolism through its inner surroundings. Joyce writes about a young teenage boy that seems to have a slight crush on his neighbor. The scenery of the story shifts multiple times and gives off different emotions in each area. Through Joyce’s use of multiple settings, we can see that the narrator’s feelings and characteristics mirrors the neighborhood, the house, and the bizarre.
The very beginning of the story starts off with the narrator telling of the surrounding houses. He tells of North Richmond Street and how it was blind. By blind, Joyce refers to the street being a dead-end and how it was quiet until school lets out. That tells that the neighborhood is not very populated and it seems to be dull. In paragraph three Joyce writes “The career of our play brought us through the dark muddy lanes behind the houses where we ran the gauntlet of the rough tribes from the cottages, to the back doors of the dripping gardens where odors arose from the ashpits, to the dark odorous stables where a coachman smoothes and combed the horse or shook music from the buckled harness” (403).
That gives a contrast to the surrounding lifestyle of the narrator. He lives in a small town in Dublin where not much goes on. There, his experiences seem to be limited and his personality seems to be mellow and sort of lonely. He is not really exposed too much, so that accounts for his simple lifestyle.
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The house seems to be ran down and raggedy. Joyce wrote “Air, musty from having been long enclosed, hung in all the rooms and the waste room behind the kitchen was littered with old useless papers” (403).
The house seems to be rather large and old. One night he describes a moment of him being in a back room of the house. He watches outside as the rain comes down hard, but no sound being in the house. He could hear the rain hitting the ground and he could see a distant lamp through a window. It was so dark and he was happy to be able to see that much. This setting gives off a mirror for his secret happiness. The reason for his happiness is that he has a tremendous crush on Mangan’s sister who is described as beautiful. During the days, he basically stalks her in a way by waiting for her to leave the house. He eventually leaves his house to catch up to her and walks past her every day, rarely saying anything to her. She asks him if he will be attending the bazaar, and he says yes in hope to get her a gift. He has a confused adoration for her and really wants to talk to her, but he does not know if he can. His lack of confidence to talk to girls seems to be a result of not having self confidence, which overall is a mirror from his sheltered life. His simple environment plays a huge role in his personality traits, which affects him deeply socially.
After waiting for many hours for his uncle to get home, he sets off to the bazaar very late. He arrives and pays extra to get in the main hall. Inside the bazaar is a bunch of closed booths and a few that are open. He goes up to one of the last open ones and likes the merchandise, but does not buy anything. He walks down the hall and the lights start turning off. The last line of the story Joyce writes, “Gazing up into the darkness I saw myself as a creature driven and derided by vanity; and my eyes burned with anguish and anger” (408).
The boy’s sudden anger is coming from stress that has built up. He is extremely angry because he really likes the girl and wants to do something nice for her and he can’t because his uncle arrived home too late to give him a florin. He feels like nothing he does is right and lives a depressing life.
The story “Araby” has a lot of symbolism throughout the settings of the story. James Joyce purposely tells limited information about the boy, but through the stories settings, the reader can grasp a mirror connection between the two. The short story is very detailed throughout with its surroundings, and paints a vivid picture of the places within the story. The mirror contrast between the settings and the boy shows a stressful, depressing life and helps the reader see it through different ways.
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