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Home » » Critical Analysis of James Joyce's Araby

James Joyce’s wonderful short story “Araby” explores boyish imagination of an adolescent protagonist and presents his eventual failure in fulfilling his long-cherished dream. Apparently the story is about the teen-aged protagonist's failure to buy a gift for his dream girl from the oriental bazaar named ‘Araby’. But, at the symbolic level, it traces the psychological development of the protagonist. It is about the boy’s quest for ideal beauty in life, which he fails to find. His mission ends in failure and frustration but in the process he learns about harsh and grim realities of life. 

The plot of the story is quite intricate and most of the actions take place in the inner regions of the boy protagonist. To develop the plot of the story, Joyce uses some of the boy’s background information, the setting, and why the boy is in ‘love’ with the girl to help the story unfold. Things start to become difficult at the point where the boy finally talks to Mangan’s sister, the object of his emotional adoration. She asks him whether or not he was going to the bazaar. He answers by telling her that if he is going to the bazaar he will bring her something. 

From that moment onward the imaginative boy starts dreaming about buying a beautiful gift for his dream girl from the oriental bazaar. In his imagination, he idealizes ‘Araby’ and dreams of coming in contact with the ideal beauty in life there. But when the boy finally goes to the bazaar, he is tremendously frustrated. Instead of it being one huge ordeal and a fascinating place, the oriental bazaar turns out to be quite small a place which hardly attracts him. He does not find anything suitable to buy. He discovers the bitter truths of life in the frustration and anger that he encounters. 

Joyce’s art of characterization is noteworthy in the story “Araby”. The author has devoted much attention to delineating the character of the protagonist; The teen-aged boy is full with all the adolescent passions and imagination. Joyce explores the psyche of the boy as be develope learning bitter truths of life. The author traces his psychological development, Joyce throws lights on the inner recesses of the boy's heart. Other characters are also meticulously drawn, The boy's uncle is depicted as a sad, depressed man who longs for nothing but happiness for his nephew and gives him all he has to show love for him. Mangan’s sister has been painted from the boy’s point of view. Her presence is ever felt throughout the story. 

Joyce uses symbolism in the story “Araby”. ‘Araby’ symbolically represents the unattainable ideal of beauty and romance and the teen-aged protagonist’s failure in realizing his dreams symbolically represents every human being’s unsuccessful quest for beauty and romance. 

Joyce uses simple language in the story. The language is marked by lucidity and simplicity. However, the author uses poetic techniques like figurative language, images and personification. An example of personification is: “When she came out on the doorstep my heart leaped”. This means his heart leaped (figure of speech) giving his heart movement. 

In “Araby” James Joyce explores the theme of frustrated love. The boy’s love for Mangan’s sister is immense though fulfillment of his love remains a mirage. The only passion in the boy’s life seems to be Mangan’s sister. But he eventually fails to establish any meaningful relationship with her. In the frustrated love of the boy the author symbolically shows common human deprivations in this harsh mundane world.  

“Araby” is a moving tale of a boy’s unsuccessful quest for beauty and romance. It beautifully traces the psychological development of an adolescent boy, whose visions are eventually shattered in the drab realities of a mechanized and commercial society. The themes of frustrated love, unsuccessful quest for beauty and romance and psychological development of an adolescent boy have been superbly explored in the story. In addition, the story fulfils all the requirements of a modern short story. 


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