Many people try to discover what the meaning of life is and find themselves searching for something that makes them feel complete. Some believe vanity is important, so they struggle to be better than others so they can have the money, the glory, and the luxuries. A desire to find a higher purpose or meaning keeps people from the possibility that life has no meaning. Life is filled with vanity, which is meaningless, therefore life has no meaning. James Joyce's “Araby” displays the theme that life has no meaning through the use of setting, characters, symbols, and motifs.
“Araby” takes place in Dublin, Ireland, a city and country whose history has been marked with gloom. The Great Famine of 1740-41 and many years of English persecution has given Ireland an air of hopelessness and trouble. During the time that Joyce wrote “Araby,” Ireland was governed by the Parliament of the United Kingdom in London. Irish Catholics, who made up most of the population, were not even allowed representation in Parliament. Ireland is the perfect setting for developing a theme of life as meaningless. Joyce uses Dublin as it is, but does not engross himself in the details. The location helps the theme, but Joyce writes things as how “ they are, not only for
Dublin, but for every city” (Pound). This allows his theme to apply for a person from anywhere in the world.
The narrator of “Araby” is a nameless boy who lives in Dublin. Life in Dublin is dark and dreary, but the one light in his life is Mangan's sister. Although he is infatuated with her, they have never had a real conversation. He would watch for her to leave in the morning and follow her on the way to school. Finally, the narrator has a conversation with Mangan's sister; they discuss Araby, the bazaar (Joyce 262). She tells him that she cannot go because of a trip she is going on with her school, so the narrator offers to buy something for her. His desire strengthens after this, and he hopes to find a gift at Araby that will impress Mangan's sister. Then, he begins to obsess over her and the trip to Araby. The narrator’s obsession causes him to become bored with his schoolwork. Anything that stood between him and his desire seemed to be “ugly monotonous child's play” to him (Joyce 263). Irritability became a common emotion for him. He left the house “in a bad humor” when his uncle stood in the hall, which prevented him from watching for Mangan's sister one morning. Then, later that day, a clock's ticking irritated him to the point where he had to leave the room (Joyce 263).
Araby becomes a symbol of what life could potentially be if he was to be with Mangan's sister. He envisions the bazaar as a place that would “cast an Eastern
enchantment” over him (Joyce 263). It can be perceived that he hopes she will add
excitement to the routine of his life. Once he reaches the bazaar, he finds it dark and
deserted (Joyce 264). After he struggles to...