Imagery of Dark vs Light in James Joyce's "Araby"

Essay by alla22College, Undergraduate March 2004

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The most remarkable imagery in Joyce's' "Araby" is the imagery of dark and light. The whole story reads like a chiaroscuro, a play of light and darkness. Joyce uses the darkness to describe the reality which the boy lives in and the light to describe the boy's imagination - his love for Mangan's sister. The story starts with the description of the dark surroundings of the boy: his neighborhood and his home. Joyce uses these dark and gloomy references to create the dark mood and atmosphere. Later, when he discusses Mangan's sister, he changes to bright light references which are used to create a fairy tale world of dreams and illusions. In the end of the story, we see the darkness of the bazaar that represents the boy's disappointment. On the 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 inimical to ideals and dreams.

This imagery reinforces the theme and the characters. Thus, it becomes the true subject of the story.

The prevailing imagery of darkness shows that the boy's spiritual environment is musty and dark.. "Araby" begins at dusk and continues through the evening during the winter. He chooses gloomy setting to be the home of a young boy. The houses in the street where the boy lives have "brown imperturbable faces" (40) ,his home has "gloomy rooms"(44) and the gardens where they play are dark. In this darkness only the boy and his laughing and shouting companions "glow". They are still too young to have succumbed to the spiritual decay of the adult inhabitants. But the boys must play in "dark muddy lanes," in "dark dripping gardens," near " dark...