Joyce’s short story “Araby” shows us the moment of awakening from fantasy by a boy’s one-side love story. we sometimes experience when we continue to work on ourselves, understand that if something is causing regret, anger, unhappiness or and other “negative” emotion, we are, by definition, experiencing an illusion. We will experience the illusions we still think are real. We will do so because we have made the unreal to real, and the best way to understand that what we see as valuable is actually valueless is to experience its valuelessness.
Many times, when people awaken from their particular illusion, they feel so empty, angry, or feel like such a loser, but after this moment, people will step forward again into everyday life to begin new chapters in their personal histories. The short story “Araby” is filled with the fact that both ‘Symbolism’ and ‘Realism’ share significant weights. It opens and closes with strong symbols to awaken realism. The fantasy and reality are faced at beginning of the story by symbolizing the priest’s death.
When the boy narrates about the priest that reads, “’He had been a very charitable priest; in his will he had left all his money to institutions and the furnitures of his house to his sister’” (302). It makes the boy thinks him as a sneer, for it implies that the priest, by having a fortune, might not have been faithful to his position, and by handing his furnitures over to his sister, might not have yet been free from secular ties of family relations. When the priest writes the will, he might believe that he will be charitable and respected by people, but his fantasy is broken by leaving his furnitures to his sister.
As an old priest, even if he had been inherited a big fortune, he might have donated the fortune to the society if he had been charitable. It is somehow not delightful to see a wealthy minister, who is supposed to be poor and honorable, especially in the times of poverty. The Joyce’s comments in the story, the boy finds old books in the priest’s room (Among these I found a few paper-covered books; the pages of which were curled and damp: The Abbot, by Walter Scott, The Devour Communicant and The Memoirs of Vidocq. )
“The Abbot” (It is said that Queen Mary of Scotland was depicted as a very devout, serious, religious and romantic person.) shows a boy’s confused recognitions among religion, romanticism and sex, while “The Memoirs of Vidocq” (the story of a double life of a police and a thief) suggests an allusion on deception and dishonesty. With the name of Mangan, whose sister is the partner of the boy’s one side love, Joyce suggests a strong allusion of James Clarence Mangan who is an Irish poet in 19th century. By the name Mangan, she was symbolized as a person of hypocrisy and misled emotion. Moreover, there is the back drawing room, where the boy does masturbations in confused illusions of sexual fantasy and religious mystery and devotion.
This implies the fact that the desire of the boy, who is a Dublin Irish Catholic, was completely hidden by the religious suppression. The last sentence in the story, the boy says “’my eyes burned with anguish and anger’” (304) In the opening part of the story, the writer used the expression, “being blind”. (Some scholars explain that the expression, “being blind” means an impasse indicating the deadlock situation of the Irish society. ) It shows how the boy’s emotions change to anguish and anger when he faces the reality, coming out of the walls of traditions and religion.
The boy’s emotions had been vague and abstractive up to this point but from there he becomes a real and concrete person. At the last scene, the boy realizes that his journey to Araby is not for a holy duty(The girl, his one sided lover, asked him an errand to buy something for her, and he regarded her as a holy subsistence. ) but only for his imprudence and vanity. The society made him open his eyes to reality (What helped him open his eyes were a few shabbily left-over coins and the English girl who was mindlessly fooling herself by playing around with boys.)
He opens his eyes and realizes the reality from the behaviors of English girl casting amorous glances to boys. This is the Epiphany that Joyce suggested. It is the moment when the consciousness of a human being is manifested as if there were the advent of the god. Another point that should be commented is the sentence, “What is Araby about”. The Araby is a story about love, sex, religion, and a process of a boy’s growth to an adult in which he faces illusions, separations, and realizations of reality. Also, Araby can be said as a place of growth.
The boy was unable to argue against the society and therefore he had to reconcile the strange emotions he faced with the Catholic emotion. That means he sublimated the doubt about his emotions with the mystery of religion. The journey to Araby brought him the realization of reality and the growth to an adult. ‘Dubliners’ (In this story, the author describes the Dubliners as a moralist reprimanding the spiritual paralysis of his homeland, Ireland. He indicated Dublin as the center of the paralysis) delivers a feeling that is so distressing and so realistic that one becomes painful.
Joyce delivered such feeling for Irish people. Koreans of today may also be sympathized if a great writer sharply and realistically reprimands the immoral and sluggish features of the present Korean society but it was the suggestion not for a limited region but for the common society, as presentation of a rule that proves the general history of the human societies. That shows why he is so great a writer. Araby successfully expresses the mix of situations of abundant symbolisms along with politics, culture and religion, through a story of puppy love in adolescence.
He properly avoided the fantasies and exaggerations that are typical to novels. This shows how a novel can reflect and affect the real society. As the process of getting used to the reality and living with concealed wounds is the destiny for the human being, the boy is now telling us his past plainly, after having a painful experience to become an adult. To the boy, Araby was an unexpected place for a ceremony to become an adult and a mirror reflecting a new world.