Essay on Araby, by James Joyce

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In his short story “Araby,” James Joyce describes a young boy’s first stirring of love and his first encounter with the disappointment that love and life in general can cause. Throughout the story Joyce prepares the reader for the boy’s disillusionment at the story’s end. The fifth paragraph, for example, employs strong contrasts in language to foreshadow this disillusionment. In this passage the juxtaposition of romantic and realistic diction, detail, and imagery foreshadows the story’s theme that, in the final analysis, life ends in disappointment and disillusionment.

The romantic language, details, and imagery of the passage create a rapturous and sensual tone.
Drawing from the religious, chivalric, and
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The allusion brings with it all the associations of chivalric honor connected with tradition of courtly love. Romantic excess pervades his vision of his love. He finds his “eyes . . . full of tears” and experiences
“a flood from his heart.” Although he cannot explain these sensations, he interprets them as physical signs of his deep-felt love.

The realistic and naturalistic diction, detail, and imagery, on the other hand, create a pessimistic tone that contrasts harshly with the naïve, romantic tone. Drawing from the ordinary, commonplace, and worldly spheres of daily life, Joyce blends words and details, the connotations of which accentuate the world’s imperfect and sordid reality.

Secular and naturalistic diction, detail, and imagery of the marketplace contrast the spiritual, romanticized language of the knight-errant’s quest. His “prayers and praises” compete with “the curses of labourers,” a negative, destructive prayer. Moreover, “the shrill litanies of the shop boys” and “the nasal chanting of the street-singers” pervert the religious connotations of the litany and chanting into ordinary and ugly elements of commerce. The shop boys “st[and] on guard,” not by their ladies fair, but

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