4 March 2013
The Dark and Dreary Colors of Araby
Araby appears as the third story in the Dubliners, a collection of fifteen short stories by James Joyce set in Dublin, Ireland. Each of the stories in Dubliners contributes to the degrading experience of existence. Robert Fuhrel points out that Joyce's story reflects his urban upbringing, education, and the purposes expressed in letters Joyce wrote attempting to get Dubliners published. Araby is set in the Dublin of Joyce's youth, and the setting and plot are based on the author’s experiences (173). The story is told through the eyes of a young and innocent boy who is stuck in a world of darkness. Araby is about a young boy ...view middle of the document...
The darkness is used to symbolize how the narrator sees the world as a dark and lonely place. It is a street of fixed, decaying conformity and false devotion. The boy’s house contains the same sense of a dead present and a lost past. The former tenant, a priest, died in the back room of the house. Joyce states, “The other houses of the street, conscience of decent lives within them, gazed at one another with brown imperturbable faces” (122). The people ignore the blind or dark side of the street and instead calmly look at each other. The boy's house, while not clearly identical with the uninhabited house at the end of the blind street is presumed as an enclosure of negativity, of death, and of wasted space and lives. Margot Norris confirms, the houses on “North Richmond Street” engage in both sober self-analysis and discreet censoriousness. The story's position and narrow-mindedness is figured by the opening topography of “North Richmond Street” as "blind," as a cul de sac and dead end from which escape is baffled (309).
Light is used as a symbol in the story is to describe Mangan’s sister, who becomes the only buoy of light that surrounds the boy’s sea of darkness. Light gently envelops Mangan’s sister’s whole being and transforms the character’s image into something greater than a mere first romantic interest. The light the boy sees Mangan’s sister in is used to create a joyful atmosphere. Joyce states, “The light from the lamp opposite our door caught the white curve of her neck, lit up her hair that rested there and, falling lit up the hand upon the railing It fell over one side of her dress and caught the white border of a petticoat, just visible as she stood at ease” (124). Defined by the light, Mangan’s sister is a symbol of the boy’s hope and longing for warmth and intimacy. The boy is fascinated by Mangan’s sister’s image and it worries the boy day and night. John Lyons believes the light seems to trace something like a marble statue and perhaps thinks of the convention with which the Virgin is represented. The subject is in a border world where worship and devotion are confused with worship and passion. In each case feminine attraction carries religious suggestion (130). The remaining descriptions of Mangan’s sister include the color brown reflecting the dark cruel reality of the world. Mangan’s brown figure, like the somber houses on the boy’s street is never furnished with the thought and feeling that would make Mangan’s sister come to life.
The boy’s quest to Araby is no brighter. The tedious events that delay the boy’s trip indicate no room exists for love in the daily lives of Dubliners, and the absence of love renders the characters in the story almost anonymous. The boy arrives at the bazaar only to encounter flowered teacups and English accents, not the...