Friday, September 28, 2012

Disillusionment in Joyce's "Araby" - A Posting by Students Dan C., David R., & Caitlin W.

"The syllables of 'Araby' were called to me through the silence in which my soul luxuriated and cast an Eastern enchantment over me."

Some Thoughts on "Araby" by Dan C., David R., and Caitlin W.

"Araby" concerns the infatuation of a young boy with the girl next door, yet mirrors a heroic monomyth more than it does a simple romance. The boy, our narrator, does not describe Mangan’s sister beyond her “white... neck” and “brown figure” nor does he even tell us her name. This story shows the boy’s epiphany at discovering, perhaps, his own sexuality and attraction to someone he had not previously thought of in that manner. For this reason he is unable to describe her very well; he is only able to say that he is in love with her and cannot even really explain why himself. The lack of description implies a sort of transient, immature love - this is definitely his first. His love is of the idealized, youthful form - he says “O love!” to himself over and over and cries without knowing why, perhaps showing that he is emotionally developing. At the same time that he makes this discovery, he also makes the discovery that he is too paralyzed by various factors in his life to be in love. For one thing, he nearly does not make it to Araby because of his Catholic aunt; he also has too little money to buy anything of value; finally, the bustling bazaar that he had pictured is in reality a small, quiet affair. Perhaps then disillusionment is the story’s theme - after all, the narrator cannot stop thinking about Mangan’s sister and how great it will be to win her heart, but realizes by the end that his quest was for naught. He may not have realized the general immaturity of his infatuation, but it is likely that he will soon afterwards.

Questions to answer:
1. What would you have done were you in the narrator’s situation?
2. Do you think the narrator’s goal of buying a gift from the bazaar to endear himself to Mangan’s sister realistic? In other words, does he actually have a chance of getting in a relationship with Mangan’s sister? Does he understand what constitutes a relationship?
3. Are there factors outside of the narrator’s control, excluding those that prevent him from buying a gift, that keep him from loving Mangan’s sister?
4. While Dubliners’ main themes are considered to be epiphany and paralysis, Araby seems to show disillusionment as well. Could this be considered a third theme?


  1. To take a shot at answering number 2, I think the answer is complicated. Firstly, we must remember that this is a story of a boy and a girl, not a man and a woman. As seniors we are likely several years older than the characters of this story, and thus, we cannot judge them by our standards. Does he have a chance of getting into a relationship with Mangan's sister, maybe. It depends on how mature she is. Does the boy understand what constitutes a relationship, probably not. But this is a story told from a naive point of view about naive characters, and ultimately this is less about lost love a more about a missed opportunity.
    Jonathan C.

  2. I agree with what Jonathan says about a "missed opportunity". I think our young protagonist has the power to do everything in this story. He can go to Araby, buy a trinket, present it to Mangan's sister, and begin courting her. This would be the fine launching point for a courtship. But as in Eveline, we see the protagonist paralyzed into not acting, not being an active force in their own life. At first, the boy succeeds; he goes to Araby in defiance of the restraining forces of Fortune. But ultimately, the boy is paralyzed from the inside out, just as characters in other stories are (Eveline and the Boarding House come to mind). I think his disillusionment with Araby is an excuse for him to take the easy road out and be inactive. Ultimately the boy's inhibition is entirely born of his own self.

  3. I tend to read the boy's love as sincere, rather than to see it as simple infatuation or a misguided blinding in the face of beauty. To answer NMacchiavelli, I belive that he does intuit in his heart what a relationship is even if he does not exactly understand it. It is the rare person, I believe, that loves moderately their first love. The paralysis, then, is an earned one, a shockingly mature one, a tragic one (one in which he suffers into wisdom) my opinion.

  4. Charles H. says:

    "I feel that the narrator in Araby is paralyzed by himself. There is nothing stopping him from simply talking to Mangan's sister and yet he remains passive. It is only through a chance reference that he gets the idea to go to the market and is spurred into action. Even then, he hesitates and almost allows excuses to keep him from his journey altogether. It takes the reality of the market to bring about his epiphany that his professed "love" was as real as the necessity of buying the girl something to start a relationship.

    The disillusionment found in Araby, and indeed much of Dubliners, might be inextricably linked to the paralysis and epiphany already found in it. The type of paralysis one finds in Dubliners is often of the mental variety and frequently stems from a negative or erroneous view of something."

  5. I think disillusionment could be considered a third theme throughout Dubliners. It is definitley found in Araby in that disillusionment sort of comes with his epiphany. This may also be the case in a few of the other stories in Dubliners. Perhaps the disillusionment in Dubliners is a reflection of Joyce's own disillusionment throughout his life.

  6. The idea of Disillusionment could be another theme in most of Joyce's stories, especially Araby. The boy realizes that no matter what he could purchase at the bazaar it still would not show the so called love he felt towards the girl or that their was no actual love to begin with but more of an physical attraction this boy had never felt before.

  7. Perhaps it was customary in his culture to initiate a relationship with a gift, but the numerous circumstances imposed by the city hindered his endeavor. The items available at the time of his arrival were probably much too expensive, and thus and that respect, Dublin had hindered him. That is not to say there would be no opportunity in the future, but the purpose was to symbolically convey the plight of the Irish people who are equally paralyzed in other aspects. Dublin is ill with the disease of submission; submission to the British, Catholicism, etc.

  8. I do think disillusionment could be considered for a third theme. In Araby the boy pictures the bazaar to be a grand, festive gathering, much like he views his love as a very passionate, overwhelming feeling. When he does see the bazaar to be uneventful and dissapointing compared to his vision, he seems to realize that his "love" is also nothing like he initially believed. We see this in other stories as well: characters hope for something beyond what they have, but there comes a point when they realize what they desired is unattainable.