Analysis Of James Joyce's Araby

1541 words - 6 pages

Even though James Joyce’s short story Araby could be identified as a simple love story which ultimately ends up ending in failure, it is clear that the work discusses much more than the ideas of love and failure. Through the lens of a young man who has become immersed in a culture with a belief set derived from the concepts of materialism and capitalism, the reader experiences a unique journey of a poor, disillusioned human being. While love might be seen as one of the most powerful emotions felt by man, it is clear that love’s intentions can become corrupt, driven off the rightful path by a loss of reality. Though it is true that Araby’s primary focus might not be to examine the concepts of philosophical position and its effects on the individual, it seems practical for a Marxist to perceive the work as an observation of capitalism and materialism, because of the way such ideas are contrasted with the ideas of charity and emotion through literary devices.
Joyce opens his work with the depiction of a deserted residence, and while this may come off as an insignificant detail in the unnamed narrator’s perception, the late priest’s rotting home is crucial to the opposition between materialism and emotion or sympathy. First of all, it is important to note the fact that the reader is provided with little insight of the deceased man, except for the fact that he was “charitable.” Thus, it seems quite reasonable to state that the specific values stressed by the priest are decaying or rotting away, just as his house is. This is evident through the stale, decomposing tone depicted by Joyce through this passage, and the utilization of such imagery as “musty air”, “littered”, “curled and damp”, and “straggling bushes” only serves to cement this feeling. Furthermore, the reference to pages, papers, and books as “useless” and “yellow” also suggest a decay of knowledge or ideas, though it is somewhat humorous how the narrator expresses his ability to perceive the color of the pages, but not the ideas or lessons conveyed upon them. In addition to the aforementioned literary elements, the initial impression of the house that the reader is provided with is also important. The house, while symbolic of the values of charity and compassion, does not seem to be valued at all. Rather, it appears to have been almost ignored, as it is illustrated as “at the blind end, detached from its neighbors.” In isolating such important values, Joyce has blinded his people of sympathetic emotion, cleverly setting up his characters to be starved of charity and become enculturated in a society acclimated to the ways of materialism and capitalism.
While it appears that Joyce seems intent on portraying virtues such as charity and sympathy as rotten or in the state of decomposition, evidence of resistance towards these ideas also exists in the work. For instance, the narrator’s aunt, who might be seen as a mother-like figure to the narrator, supports this concept upon his request...

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