James Joyce's Araby as a coming-of-age story

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Jenna Hecker

Moss, Analysis and Interpretation of Literature

Analysis of Araby


Araby, by James Joyce is a story about a young boy experiencing his first feelings of attraction to the opposite sex, and the way he deals with it. The story's young protagonist is unable to explain or justify his own actions because he has never dealt with these sort of feelings before, and feels as though someone or something totally out of the ordinary has taken him over. The boy can do nothing but act on his own impulses, and is blind to the reasoning behind him.

Araby is such a powerful study on childhood because of the way Joyce so vividly recounts the frustration a child feels when they are unsuccessful at trying to be an adult too fast. The story begins with images of blindness, a symbol of the boy's youth and ignorance. Joyce describes the street the boy lives on, North Richmond street, as being "blind."

It is from these blind shadows of the boys ignorance that the object of his affection, his friend Mangan's sister, emerges. Joyce describes her figure as being "defined by the light of the half-open door" (Joyce, 27) a symbol of the boy becoming enlightened by these new, adult feelings. As she enters the story, the images change from darkness to light and his feelings change from immature childhood concerns to those of an adolescent. Eventually, the boy's language becomes more poetic and adult, and his thoughts turn completely to her. "Her image accompanied me even in places the most hostile to romance," he admits "her name sprang to my lips at moments in strange prayers and praises which I myself did not understand."

The boy idealizes Mangan's sister, obsessing over her, and is overcome with joy when she speaks...