Araby

James Joyce, 1 photographic print, b&w, cartes...
James Joyce, 1 photographic print, b&w, cartes-de-visites, 9.2 x 6.1 on mount 10.5 x 6.5 cm. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By James Joyce; 6 pages.

As I read Araby, I was reminded that in every story the main character has to want something. In Araby, the young man wants to impress a girl. The girl mentions a bazaar that she cannot go to and recommends it to our love-struck narrator/protagonist. He tells her that if he is able to go to the bazaar, he will bring something back for her.

I am not sure, and shame on me, I didn’t check, but I think that Araby was the name of the bazaar and it was held in Dublin to benefit the Jervis St. Hospital.

The next thing I remember about the dos of story writing is that complications must be thrown in the path of the protagonist, and so they are in Araby.

As I reflect on the story, a third do of story writing comes to mind, and this one is that everything in the story must count. There must be no irrelevant details. So here I am stumped and if one of my readers can enlighten me, I will be grateful. But what was the relevance to the detail that a priest had once been a tenant in our narrators’ family’s house? And what was the relevance that he had died in the back drawing-room? And why was it mentioned that our narrator was in the drawing-room in the paragraph preceding our narrator’s first conversation with the girl he liked so much? Was he praying in the room? Did the room have special powers that led to his conversation with the girl?

Or was it simply that priests are supposed to have a vow of poverty and the way our protagonist wants to win the love of the girl is with a gift?

I’m stumped. I do get a vivid image of twilight and children playing in the streets. And I have to admit that the mention of the poem “The Arab’s Farewell to his Steed” in which the Arab imagines his heartbreak after selling his favorite horse, was good foreshadowing.

I have the impression that in the end the narrator was humiliated because he had been forced to wait so long to go to the bazaar and the only items left were far beyond his means—thus, a present for the girl was impossible. Oh sad, sad love.

All in all, I found this story hard to understand with a casual read. I felt like Joyce wanted me to come to conclusions that I couldn’t quite make it to. Maybe in the end I got there.

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3 thoughts on “Araby

  1. I think with Joyce and Dubliners its about the whole set of stories weaving a rich cultural and psychological landscape and exploring the individual experience within the inevitable tensions and hypocrises. My own preference is the story ‘The Dead’, which has one of the most moving and poignant endings in literature (in my opinion) 🙂

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