James Joyce’s writing style has always intimidated me. It is the reason I have his books but haven’t read them yet. Araby is a short story, so I thought it will be a good introduction to the author. I found an audiobook of the story on a Spotify podcast, LitReading-Classic Short Stories. Araby is a short story, that focuses on an unnamed boy living in Dublin.
The boy is the narrator of the story. He lives with his Aunt and Uncle in Dublin, and goes to a Catholic all-boys school, living a normal life. His friend Mangan has an older sister who comes to take him back home every day which signals the end of playtime for them. The narrator becomes attracted to her. His crush on her turns to infatuation, and he seems content with never making any effort of talking to her. Instead, he spends a lot of time daydreaming about her, which distracts him from his studies too. One day, the sister speaks to him, asking him if he is planning to go to Araby Bazaar, an Eastern-themed market, that is being put up by the church. He says he is going and that he will bring her something from there. Then the bazaar is added to his daydreams too.
Araby is coming of age story. The narrator has a mature tone so, it shows he is recalling an incident of his adolescent times. The narrator seems ignorant of the world in the beginning, but slowly that starts changing. He is so taken with the sister that he loses interest in playing with them, often watching them play as an outsider. He also starts developing rebelliousness in his behavior with the way he deals with his Aunt, Uncle, and school teacher. It is almost like the end of innocence for him. He realizes his Uncle has come home drunk and bids his time to ask for money to go to the bazaar. Now, he notices these things. He feels the need to find an escape from reality, his ignorance is bliss part of life is over, and now, he is growing up.
In the story, the narrator focuses more on the physical appearance of Mangan’s sister. This highlights the budding sexuality of the narrator. Being in an all-boys Catholic school, his interactions with girls are practically none. When he sees the sister, he is immediately infatuated with her. He starts to believe that what he is feeling is somewhat different and completely new. It is sort of a balance between his instant innocent fascination with the sister, but he is aware of her physicality. There is an epiphany in the end for that narrator that, maybe most ‘love’ is vanity or a desire for validation.
The story is so simple yet poignant. It describes the experience everyone can relate to, that, is taking the first step toward adulthood; leaving behind the innocence and idealism of younger years. The story engages you from the beginning, and, in it, at times, you see yourself in the narrator, and that’s just a beautiful thing to experience when reading. I loved the story.
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“James Joyce’s writing style has always intimidated me.” I must say the same. But thanks for this review! I just might try to find a copy of this book.
I have an unabridged copy of Ulysses but I had to put it down midway through the story as it barely made sense. Hoping to read it someday! Happy reading!
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