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Araby by James Joyce

Reviewed by Aria


Araby, a story from the collection Dubliners, by James Joyce is a very interesting read.  Published in 1914 and mostly regarding middle-class life in Ireland, these stories are very intriguing.  

My favorite of these stories is Araby, a coming of age tale of a boy who learns the world is not as bright as it seems.  

Through the narrator’s disappointing trip to Araby, Joyce depicts coming of age as the  realization and acceptance that reality may not always live up to our expectations. Expecting to see exotic, luxurious items at Araby, the narrator experiences disappointment when he finds, “porcelain vases and floral tea sets” , as he examines the stalls.  Seeing these objects as opposed to the foreign items he had fantasized disheartens the narrator. Found almost anywhere in Dublin, Joyce uses porcelain vases and floral tea sets in particular to illustrate the point that Araby is not as special as the narrator had imagined it to be.  Another instance where the narrator becomes more dispirited occurs when he wants to go to the stall to talk to the merchant, but her tone is, “not encouraging” , and she seemed to speak out of, “a sense of duty” . Intimidating and unfriendly, the voice of the lady discouraged the narrator from buying anything from Araby.  The disinterested tone of the merchant emphasizes the ordinarity and dullness of the market. Contrary to what the narrator had expected, Araby was definitely not a magical place where everyone has a sense of wonder, but rather an ordinary Irish market. The narrator’s pilgrimage to Araby ends in disappointment, but he learns that life may not always as perfect as one might imagine.  

The story, as well as the literary devices, really intrigued me, and the message really stuck with me after the first time I read it.  It interested me to see the main character experience disappointment at Araby. I like how the story unfolded and I also think the details Joyce used along the way to enhance the imagery added a lot to the story.  Also, the diction Joyce uses makes it much more interesting to read. The unhappy ending left me unsatisfied, though. The main character has a realization that the world is not as bright as he had imagined, prompting a moment of coming of age.  I would have preferred that the main character has a happy ending, finding something magical at araby or the girl falling in love with him, but this kind of ending would not convey the message of the story. This story taught me a lesson about life and how it affects coming of age as well.  I learned that things do not always turn out the way you expect, just like the boy in the story and his disappointment as araby. This disappointment can also bring about a moment of coming of age. As I stated in a paragraph earlier in the year, coming of age can occur from the realization and acceptance that the world may sometimes not live up to expectations.  People can grow more mature as they learn more about the reality. Although reality may not meet expectations, this story teaches that moments of disappointment are an important step to growing up.

I recommend everyone reads the story, and the rest of them from this collection of stories, as James Joyce really creates interesting plots, characters, and conveys great messages.

Check out Dubliners at the Newport Beach Public Library.

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