“Araby” by James Joyce Literature Analysis Essay

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“Araby” is a short story written by James Joyce; it focuses on an Irish teenage boy who is emerging-from adolescent fantasies into the unkind realities of each day life in his homeland. He doesn’t reveal his identity but he narrates his story in 1st person viewpoint. For readers who are familiar with Joyce’s literary work, it is obvious that he symbolize the author. In the story the boy goes through disillusioning moment that distorts his ideals.

Those experiences alter his viewpoint concerning the world around him. The boy is discovering his deep emotional feelings towards a woman for his first time; he is fantasizing and noticing the women around him. The boy’s involvement with a woman is evident from his fantasies and imagination; he is experiencing intense sexual desires.


The author concentrates largely on his characters instead of the plot to disclose the ironies inbuilt in self-deception. From a different perception, the short story is a commencement of a boy’s pursuit for the ideal. This pursuit however fails but brings about an inner consciousness and a step to adulthood.

From another perspective the short story involves a mature man recalling his experiences: because the short story is narrated in retrospect by a grown man who remembers a specific moment of profound insight and meaning. Per se, the experience of the boy is not limited to youth’s first love encounters. Instead, it is a depiction of an ongoing problem throughout the life: the inappropriateness of the ideal, of the fantasy as one desires it to be, with the drabness of reality. This dual focus; the first experiences of a young boy and a mature man who remembers these experiences create dramatic depiction of a short story.

The character of the boy is obliquely revealed in the opening setting of the short story. He was raised in the back-wash of a vanishing city. Symbolic images portray him to be a person who is insightful to the fact that the vivacity of his city has faded and left remains of empty piousness, the weakest echo of passion, and merely symbolic reminiscences of a vigorous concern for people and God. Even though the young boy can’t understand this rationally, he believes that the street, the city, and Ireland have become dull and self-satisfied. It is a world of religion stagnation, thus, the boy’s viewpoint is very limited. He is uninformed and thus innocent.

Alone, imaginative, and secluded, he lacks the comprehension needed for appraisal and perception (Milesi, 47). He is initially as blind as the world he lives in, but the author prepares the readers for his ultimate understanding arousal by confiscating his blindness with an unconscious rebuttal of the world’s spiritual stagnation. The way of thinking of the boy is also apparent in the opening scenes. Spirituality controls the lives of North Richmond Street people, but it is a fading religion and gets only lip service. However, the boy getting into the new understanding of first love, he discovers his glossary within the experiences of his spiritual training and the passionate tales he has read.

The outcome is a naive and puzzled understanding of love founded on quasi spiritual terms and the descriptions of romance. This fusion of two mythologies, i.e. the Christian with sacrifice and hope symbols and the Oriental with its delicate heroism symbols and escape, combine to create in his mind a deceptive world of spiritual and idyllic beauty.

This combination, which forms an “epiphany” for the young boy as he escorts his aunt through the bazaar, allows the reader to experience with unexpected enlightenment the thoughts and texture of his young mind (Müller, 9). The reader sees the vainness and obstinacy of his quest. He interprets the world blindly through his dreams’ images.

The boy is unusually infatuated, and from his naive romanticism and obduracy. He must wake up to the hassle of the world surrounding him and respond. Hence the first half of the short story foreshadows (as the grown man later comprehends) the awakening and disenchantment of the boy (Books Llc, 48). The boy has gone through so many changes as the author takes us through his boyhood and manhood. His boyhood is filled with great imaginations and fantasies and when he is a grown man he remembers then all realizes all the disillusionments. Most of these changes are taking place in his mind and formed images in his naïve mind.


The story of the boy’s vain quest stresses on his lonely romanticism and his facility to acquire the viewpoints he now has. The pursuit ends when he gets at the marketplace and realizes with gradual, tormented clearness that Araby is not in any way what he expected or imagined. It is gaudy and murky and succeeds on the profit motive and the undying allure its name stirs up in people. The boy realizes that he put all his optimism and love in a world that is not real except in his innocent imagination.

He feels irritated and betrayed and realizes he has been deceiving himself. He thinks he is a being driven and disdained by his own vanity. The man, recalling this surprising experience from his teenage years, remembers the time he understood that living this dream was no longer a possibility. At the end of the short story, Joyce allows the readers to discover “the creature driven and derided by vanity.”

Works Cited

Books Llc. Short Stories by James Joyce: The Sisters, Araby, the Dead, a Painful Case, a Little Cloud, Eveline, Clay, a Mother, an Encounter, New York, General Books LLC, 2010. Print

Müller, Sarah. Adolescence, Love and Sex in James Joyce’s Short Stories “Araby” and “An Encounter,” USA, GRIN Verlag, 2009. Print

Milesi, Laurent. James Joyce and the difference of language, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2003. Print

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