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Araby Essay, Research Paper

The boy in the story Araby is intensely subject to the city’s dark, hopeless

conformity, and his tragic yearning toward the ugly reality in the center of the story.

On its simplest level, Araby is a story about a boy’s first love. On a deeper level,

however, it is a story about the world in which he lives. A world adverse to ideals and

dreams. This deeper level is introduced and developed in several scenes: the opening

description of the boy’s street, his house, his relationship to his aunt and uncle, the

information about the priest and his belongings, the boy’s two trips, his walks through

Dublin shopping and his subsequent ride to Araby.

North Richmond Street is described metaphorically and presents the first view of

the boy’s world. The street is blind ; it is a dead end, yet its inhabitants are smugly

complacent; the houses reflect the attitudes of their inhabitants. The houses are

imperturbable in the quiet, the cold, the dark muddy lanes and dark dripping

gardens. The first use of situational irony is introduced here, because anyone who is

aware, who is not spiritually blinded or asleep, would feel oppressed and endangered by

North Richmond Street. The people who live there (represented by the boy’s aunt and

uncle) are not threatened, but are falsely devout and cautious but deeply self-satisfied.

Christian symbols transforms a perfectly ordinary girl into an enchanted princess:

untouchable, promising, saintly. Setting in this scene depicts the harsh, dirty reality of

life which the boy blindly ignores. The contrast between the real and the boy s dreams is

ironically drawn and clearly foreshadows the boy s inability to keep the dream, to remain

blind. The boy s final disappointment occurs as a result of his awakening to the world

around him. The cheap superficiality of the bazaar, which in his mind had been an

Oriental enchantment, strips away his blindness and leaves him alone with the

realization that life and love contrast from the dream. Araby, the symbolic temple of

love, is profane, love is represented as an empty, passing flirtation.

Araby is a story of first love; even more, it is a portrait of a world that defies the

ideal and the dream. The boy’s feelings for the girl are a confused mix-mixture of sexual

desire and of sacred adoration, as examination of the images of her reveals. He is

obsessed at one and the same time with watching her physical attractions (her white

neck, her soft hair) and with seeing her always surrounded by light, as if by a halo. He

imagines that he can carry her image as a chalice through a throng of foes the

cursing, brawling infidels at the market to which he goes with his aunt. A strong physical

attraction and a strong pull to the holiness is missing. Thus setting in this story becomes

the true subject, embodying an atmosphere of spiritual breakdown against which a young

boy s idealistic dreams are no match. Realizing this, the boy takes his first step into


Araby is filled with symbolic images of a church as well. It opens and closes with

strong symbols, and in the body of the story, the images are shaped by the young

impressions. Succession of experiences forces him to see that his determination is in

vain. At the climax of the story, when he realizes that his dreams of holiness and love are

inconsistent with the actual world, his anger and anguish are directed, not toward the

Church, but toward himself as a creature driven by vanity.

In addition to the images in the story that are symbolic of the Church and its

effect upon the people who belong to it, there are descriptive words and phrases that add

to this representational meaning. Symbolic images in the description of the setting shows

that the boy is sensitive to the lack of spiritual beauty in his surroundings. Outside the

main setting are images symbolic of those who do not belong to the Church. The boy

and his companions go there at times, behind their houses, along the dark muddy lanes.

Here odors arise from the ash pits, those images symbolic of the moral decay of his

nation. Despite these discouraging surroundings, the boy is determined to find some

evidence of the loveliness his idealistic dreams tell him should exist within the Church.

His first love becomes the focal point of this determination.

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