Essay: Symbolism in Araby

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Symbolism in James Joyce's "Araby"

James Joyce's short stories and novels are full of dense symbolism in many layers, and his short story "Araby" is no exception. This brief tale about a boy's sexual awakening is full of many symbols that both enhance and reveal meaning throughout the action's progression, giving clues as to the motives and inner life of the boy -- and narrator -- that strikes even deeper than his explicit internal monologue does through his narration. This becomes immediately apparent in the first short paragraph of the story, where the narrator describes the "uninhabited house of two storeys [which] stood at the blind end" of the street. This house is detached, alone, and empty, already setting the tone of the story and the boy's feelings throughout much of it. The symbolism throughout the story similarly reflects the narrator's inner state and his emotional reactions.

The fact that the narrator continues to think of the girl on which his eyes and heart have been set even "in places the most hostile to romance" provides another example of this symbolism. He mentions a crowded marketplace full of "drunken men and bargaining women," and the thought of his first love in this setting sets her apart from the rabble, and symbolizes her separateness and the isolation that the narrator has created around her -- and himself -- in his thinking of her. That is, the narrator's feelings and thoughts towards this girl have made her unapproachable; she is not like the rest of the people with whom the narrator must interact throughout the story, but is thought of almost as a different species entirely. This becomes more and more explicit and evident as the story progresses, and it also exemplified in the symbolism of… [END OF PREVIEW]

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