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Thread: Araby by James Joyce

  1. #1

    Araby by James Joyce

    I have recently read Araby by James Joyce and I found this story rather convolutedly written and it is hard to arrive at the exact theme Joyce had in mind. It seems this story is about putting forth his ideas about the pointlessness of love and religion, a kind of epiphany at the end of the story he had when the narrator encounters a lady promiscuously talking with two young men ignoring him at the bazaar. This is one of the few stories I have read recently and I like the plotless flow of the novel. I just want to put it for discussion since this is one of his best stories, artistically superb and indeed needing much illumination.

  2. #2
    The story symbolizes idealized love vs. the cold, hard reality. This is especially hard on a youth. But its psychologically pretty powerful, when the youth's expectations are crushed by reality. I think that's what Joyce was aiming for.

  3. #3
    I talked about this story in a seminar class full of hardboiled realists; and I thought then as I do now that Joyce wasn't as moony as his character yet wasn't such a 'realist' as my most of my classmates were. Dublin seemed to present a stark choice between brute utility and alcoholic fantasy throughout the book, but the last story offered a glimpse of a way out, I thought.

  4. #4
    In the fog Charles Darnay's Avatar
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    Araby is not only an a shattering about the idealized love, but the idealized everything. We build things up in our mind so much that they can never live up to our expectations. We hope and we dream and we try really hard to shape our world, but our world is - what? An obnoxious woman talking to two men who don't give a damn, and cheap knock-offs in a run-down bazaar. And yet....and why Araby is so great...despite all this, it is not a bleak story.
    I wrote a poem on a leaf and it blew away...

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Charles Darnay View Post
    Araby is not only an a shattering about the idealized love, but the idealized everything. We build things up in our mind so much that they can never live up to our expectations. We hope and we dream and we try really hard to shape our world, but our world is - what? An obnoxious woman talking to two men who don't give a damn, and cheap knock-offs in a run-down bazaar. And yet....and why Araby is so great...despite all this, it is not a bleak story.
    Agreed on all points except the last. What makes the story seem optimistic to you? Its as bleak as Beckett to me.

  6. #6
    In the fog Charles Darnay's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hanzklein View Post
    Agreed on all points except the last. What makes the story seem optimistic to you? Its as bleak as Beckett to me.
    I wouldn't go as far as optimism, but not bleak. First, some of the images during the build-up are so inspiring, and it is not until the end that everything comes crushing down. But even then, it's the last paragraph:

    "Gazing up into the darkness I saw myself as a creature driven and derided by vanity...."

    It does not end leaving you with the thought of "here's this poor guy crapped on by the world" but the fact that he saw the flaw in himself that led him to this situation, suggests a sort of "redemption" to use the word loosely.
    I wrote a poem on a leaf and it blew away...

  7. #7
    I wonder if the OP has read Araby within its context? Although it is a story complete in itself, it is also part of the whole of Dubliners, in which Joyce paints a portrait of the city through the people who live there: it's often regarded as a kind of novel made up of short stories. Each story represents some aspect of Life, Birth, Death, Youth, age etc. I seem to remember Araby is (Male) Youth. My favourite is Clay, a heart-breaking cameo of Death, where every detail, even down to the song the 'heroine' sings, is a symbolic facet of Death.

  8. #8
    Registered User classicpegasus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Charles Darnay View Post
    We build things up in our mind so much that they can never live up to our expectations. We hope and we dream and we try really hard to shape our world, but our world is - what? An obnoxious woman talking to two men who don't give a damn, and cheap knock-offs in a run-down bazaar. And yet....and why Araby is so great...despite all this, it is not a bleak story.
    I haven't read this story since high school, but I think you've hit a good point here.

    Part of what struck me about Araby was that despite the relatively "plotless" narrative, Joyce is playing around with so many imagistic elements that make the whole story worthwhile. We make the same assumption as the kid that by the end of the story, that there will be a complete resolution. Naturally, some of us may be disappointed, but there's so much happening along the way that the end kind of becomes a moot point.

    I hate to bring up the cliche, but it's kind of like "the journey is more important than the destination." Joyce just makes so many wonderful allusions along the way that it's easy to get lost in the details. I still remember the moment the kid hands the driver two coins, a moment that IMO was really evocative of handing two coins to Charon to enter Hell. The devil is in the details. :P

    I'd have to read the story again to say anything more specific, but I think we should revel in Joyce's prose and draw our own conclusions. The story is as much a creation of reality as a deflation of it, and we're creating it through our interpretation. The kid isn't just at the bazaar to browse its vast wares and get lost in its expansive system of inventory management—he is there to be engulfed by the world and its many spectrums. I don't think the story can ever be reduced to a simplistic juxtaposition between expectation and reality because there's so many unconscious things happening that merit our attention. As Kafka said, "Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet."
    Last edited by classicpegasus; 10-31-2011 at 11:20 AM.

  9. #9
    The entirety of Dubliners has a structure, I think, that comes together in the last story. The ties throughout are loose, but they're there.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by kasie View Post
    I wonder if the OP has read Araby within its context? Although it is a story complete in itself, it is also part of the whole of Dubliners, in which Joyce paints a portrait of the city through the people who live there: it's often regarded as a kind of novel made up of short stories. Each story represents some aspect of Life, Birth, Death, Youth, age etc. I seem to remember Araby is (Male) Youth. My favourite is Clay, a heart-breaking cameo of Death, where every detail, even down to the song the 'heroine' sings, is a symbolic facet of Death.
    Maybe you are right and of course I have to read it in the entire context in which all of his stories were written that might have mirrored different cultural fabrics of Ireland and some aspects only the Dubliners or those close by could comprehend. Being an outsider I might have little ideas about the history or cultural and religious backdrop of Ireland. Notwithstanding all this I enjoyed the story. Maybe I might not have fathomed the theme the author had yet I enjoyed some other aspects of the story, his experiment with a new style of telling story devoid of plot and some other important aspects of the story, one being his capacity to write a story without plot

  11. #11
    It must be said that 'Dubliners' wasn't published all at once. Some of the stories had been written at least as early as 1905 or something (but this reader admits he doesn't remember the specific publication history of 'Araby'). And it should also be pointed out that Joyce probably didn't regard the piece as analytically/philosophically as it is in academia (maybe there've been schematics for 'Ulysses,' but is there such evidence for these stories? - Aside from their arrangement in the collection).

    The story works for this reader because of it's humanity. The posture of the narrator suggests time and distance between the telling and the actual events.

    The 'gnomon' or the 'epiphany' isn't clearly spelled out. This reader takes the epiphany in a more holistic way than just the 'shattering of idealistic love.' Just consider what's going on in that little bit of story;

    -The narrator has been waiting all day for his uncle to come home so he can go to the bazaar. By the time this happens, it is very late.

    -By the time he arrives, it's closing up. There's a sense of desperation and for what end? What does purchasing a gift for Mangan's sister actually accomplish?

    -The narrator doesn't have enough money to buy the wares. This embarrasses him, already in a tense situation, in front of the female shop tender.

    -He observes the shop tender's interaction with the English boys. His reaction to this is left mostly unstated but when compared with his worship of his love interest it might be safe to make some conclusions (ie, he doesn't fully understand what he's doing).

    This reader regards this story as mostly intimate and personal expression, not as a manifesto about how love or religion actually exists in the world (though any mention of Ireland, at the time, would fall short if religion wasn't mentioned in terms of the environment).


    To conclude, this reader will say that the specifics probably won't be grasped with the kind of precision the logical mind desires, but so it goes; part of the story is emotional appeal. But the overarching theme can definitely be said (with a high degree of confidence) to be in the realm of adolescence/loss of naivete/etc.





    J
    Last edited by Jack of Hearts; 11-19-2011 at 06:43 AM.

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