James Joyce's Araby - Loss of Innocence in Araby Essay

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Loss of Innocence in Araby   


In her story, "Araby," James Joyce concentrates on character rather than on plot to reveal the ironies inherent in self-deception. On one level "Araby" is a story of initiation, of a boy’s quest for the ideal. The quest ends in failure but results in an inner awareness and a first step into manhood. On another level the story consists of a grown man's remembered experience, for the story is told in retrospect by a man who looks back to a particular moment of intense meaning and insight. As such, the boy's experience is not restricted to youth's encounter with first love. Rather, it is a portrayal of a continuing problem all through life: the incompatibility of the ideal, of the dream
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Although the young boy cannot apprehend it intellectually, he feels that the street, the town, and Ireland itself have become ingrown, self-satisfied, and unimaginative. It is a

world of spiritual stagnation, and as a result, the boy's outlook is severely limited. He is ignorant and therefore innocent. Lonely, imaginative, and isolated, he lacks the understanding necessary for evaluation and perspective. He is at first as blind as his world, but Joyce prepares us for his eventual perceptive awakening by tempering his blindness with an unconscious rejection of the spiritual stagnation of his world.

The boy's manner of thought is also made clear in the opening scenes. Religion controls the lives of the inhabitants of North Richmond Street, but it is a dying religion and receives only lip service. The boy, however, entering the new experience of first love, finds his vocabulary within the experiences of his religious training and the romantic novels he has read. The result is an idealistic and confused interpretation of love based on quasireligious terms and the imagery of romance. This convergence of two great myths, the Christian with its symbols of hope and sacrifice and the Oriental or romantic with its fragile symbols of heroism and escape, merge to form in his mind an illusory world of mystical and ideal beauty. This convergence, which creates an epiphany for the
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