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Araby Essay, Research Paper

Araby : How the light and dark Reinforces the Theme and Characters

In “Araby” using the imagery of light and darkness emphasizes the theme and the characters. The experiences of the boy in James Joyce’s “Araby” illustrates how people often expect more than everyday reality can provide and then feel disillusioned and disappointed at such a realization. The author uses dark and obscure references to make the boy’s reality of living in the gloomy town of Araby more vivid. He uses dark and gloomy references to create the mood or atmosphere, and then transitions to bright light references when discussing Mangan’s sister. The story is told through the eyes of the boy who is, in the beginning, young and na ve and stuck in a world of darkness with only the light of Mangan s sister to give him a sense of joy. Joyce uses this light and dark contrast as a tool to show the reader how in the dark that the boy really was.

Darkness is used throughout the story as the prevailing theme. James Joyce s story begins at dusk, when the short days of winter came dusk fell before we had eaten our dinners (728) and continues through the evening, I passed out on to he road and saw by the lighted dial of the clock that it was ten minutes to ten (731). There is mention of daytime in Araby, but most of the significant parts of the story happen at night. When Joyce describes the boys career of play (729), he uses descriptions such as: dark muddy lanes dark dripping gardens dark odorous stables (729). He uses such a dark and gloomy setting to be the young boys home because he wants the reader to see what a dull and boring life the boy leads. Joyce uses darkness to make the boy’s reality more believable through more vivid, precise descriptions.

By becoming infatuated with Mangan s sister, the boy is able to escape his drab surroundings and loneliness into a fantasy romance, but all the while remains in darkness. The boy lives in a house in which the former tenant, a priest, had died (728) and one night he goes into the drawing room where the priest had died and says, “Some distant lamp or window gleamed below me. I was thankful that I could see so little. All my senses seemed to desire to veil themselves I pressed my palms together until they trembled, murmuring O love! O love! (729). He was glad that he could see so little and likes being in the dark because if he saw the light then he would realize that his love was simply an adolescent infatuation or fantasy romance.

Bright light is used to create a fairy tale world of dreams and illusions. Joyce uses the bright light when describing Mangan’s sister, the boy’s infatuation, she was waiting for us, her figure defined by the light from the half-opened door (729). The thought of Mangan s sister brings joy into the boys drab life and when she talks to him about the bazaar he describes the light from the lamp opposite our door caught the white curve of her neck, lit up her hair that rested there (730). The way he describes her in that instance almost gives her a heavenly angelic presence with the light seeming to shine off her body as if she is a perfect vision of beauty. The protagonist, the boy, is infatuated with his neighbor’s sister and he imagines that he will heroically bring her something back from the bazaar, If I go, I will bring you something (730). He is so taken aback by her presence that he doesn t even realize that he means nothing to her and that a gift will not change that status. The light that the boy sees Mangan s sister in is used to create a joyful atmosphere.

The ending of the story is filled with images of darkness and light. When he arrives at the bazaar nearly all the stalls were closed and the greater part of the hall was in darkness (731). It is almost as if the light, the joy that he felt about Mangan s sister, was dying out or about to be turned off. Joyce uses the lights of the bazaar to illustrate the boy’s confrontation with reality. He was so blinded by her light that he didn t realize that it wasn t love that he felt but, again, it was simply an adolescent infatuation. The bazaar lights are almost all off because the bazaar is almost closed. This is significant because the boy wants the bazaar to be bright and open, but it is dark and closed. This is when the boy finally realizes that life is not what he had dreamt it to be and he finds himself angry at life and disillusioned.

Joyce uses the setting to symbolize a key concept of the story. The dark disillusion the boy experiences is all part of growing up. The boy is no longer young and naive, he realizes that he was a creature driven and derided by vanity” (732). He loved Mangan s sister so much that he was going to buy her a present to win her affections, but he didn t realize that for all intense purposes, he might as well be dead to that other person. Perhaps as he gazed up into the darkness (732), he experienced the painful empty feeling many adults find in life when a relationship ends. In the boys mind, he was having a romance with Mangan s sister, but essentially he was in the dark the whole time as to how insignificant he really was in her eyes. Araby” shows how we all get ideas about how things are and will be and then feel disappointed with ourselves when things don’t work out as expected. So, as Joyce started the beginning of the story in darkness he so ends it in darkness with a voice call from one end of the gallery that the light was out (732).


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