James Joyce's Dubliners - Adolescent Initiation Portrayed in Araby

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Adolescent Initiation Portrayed in Araby

"Araby" tells the story of an adolescent boy's initiation into adulthood. The story is narrated by a mature man reflecting upon his adolescence and the events that forced him to face the disillusioning realities of adulthood. The minor charac­ters play a pivotal role in this initiation process. The boy observes the hypocrisy of adults in the priest and Mrs. Mercer; and his vain, self-centered uncle introduces him to another disillusioning aspect of adulthood. The boy's infatuation with the girl ultimately ends in disillusion­ment, and Joyce uses the specific example of the boy's disillusionment with love as a metaphor for disillusionment with life itself. From the beginning, the boy
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He idolizes her as if she were the Virgin Mary: "her figure defined by the half- opened door . . . The light from the lamp opposite our door caught the white curve of her neck, lit up her hair that rested there, and falling, lit up the hand upon the railing." Yet even this image is sensual with the halo of light accentuating "the white curve of her neck." The language makes obvious that his attraction is physical rather than spiritual: "Her dress swung as she moved her body and the soft rope of her hair tossed from side to side." His desire for her is strong and undeniable: "her name was like a summons to all my foolish blood"; "my body was like a harp and her words and ges­tures were like fingers running upon the wires." But in order to justify his love, to make it socially acceptable, he deludes himself into thinking that his love is pure. He is being hypocritical, although at this point he does not know it.

Hypocrisy is characteristic of the adults in this story. The priest is by far the most obvious offender. What is a man of the cloth doing with books like The Abbott (a romantic novel) and The Memoirs of Vidocq (a collection of sexually suggestive tales)? These books imply that he led a double life. Moreover, the fact that he had money to give away when he died suggests that he was far from saintly. Similarly, at first glance Mrs. Mercer appears to be religious, but a closer look
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