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Dark and Dreary Colors of Araby

In: English and Literature

Submitted By dbuchan2
Words 1286
Pages 6
English 112
4 March 2013
The Dark and Dreary Colors of Araby
Araby appears as the third story in the Dubliners, a collection of fifteen short stories by James Joyce set in Dublin, Ireland. Each of the stories in Dubliners contributes to the degrading experience of existence. Robert Fuhrel points out that Joyce's story reflects his urban upbringing, education, and the purposes expressed in letters Joyce wrote attempting to get Dubliners published. Araby is set in the Dublin of Joyce's youth, and the setting and plot are based on the author’s experiences (173). The story is told through the eyes of a young and innocent boy who is stuck in a world of darkness. Araby is about a young boy who falls in love with his neighbor, Mangan’s sister. The boy spends all of his time watching, or thinking about Mangan’s sister. When the boy and Mangan’s sister finally talk, the character suggests the boy go visit a bazaar called Araby. Since Mangan’s sister cannot attend, the boy plans to go and buy Mangan’s sister a gift. On the night the boy is to attend, the uncle is late coming home and by the time the young boy borrows money and makes his way to the bazaar, most of the people have left and many of the stalls are closed. The boy buys nothing and walks through the dark, empty halls. The character is disappointed in himself and the surrounding world. The author plays with light, shadow, and color throughout the story. Joyce utilizes color in Araby to show imagery of the neighborhood, Mangan’s sister, and the darkness that depicts life experiences.
The narrator describes the neighborhood as continuously dark and uses obscure references to make the boy's reality of living in the gloomy town more vivid. There are no streams of sunlight or flowery landscapes in this story; darkness is used throughout the story as the main theme. “North Richmond Street” is introduced as blind, mute, and with emptiness inside. The darkness is used to symbolize how the narrator sees the world as a dark and lonely place. It is a street of fixed, decaying conformity and false devotion. The boy’s house contains the same sense of a dead present and a lost past. The former tenant, a priest, died in the back room of the house. Joyce states, “The other houses of the street, conscience of decent lives within them, gazed at one another with brown imperturbable faces” (122). The people ignore the blind or dark side of the street and instead calmly look at each other. The boy's house, while not clearly identical with the uninhabited house at the end of the blind street is presumed as an enclosure of negativity, of death, and of wasted space and lives. Margot Norris confirms, the houses on “North Richmond Street” engage in both sober self-analysis and discreet censoriousness. The story's position and narrow-mindedness is figured by the opening topography of “North Richmond Street” as "blind," as a cul de sac and dead end from which escape is baffled (309).
Light is used as a symbol in the story is to describe Mangan’s sister, who becomes the only buoy of light that surrounds the boy’s sea of darkness. Light gently envelops Mangan’s sister’s whole being and transforms the character’s image into something greater than a mere first romantic interest. The light the boy sees Mangan’s sister in is used to create a joyful atmosphere. Joyce states, “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 It fell over one side of her dress and caught the white border of a petticoat, just visible as she stood at ease” (124). Defined by the light, Mangan’s sister is a symbol of the boy’s hope and longing for warmth and intimacy. The boy is fascinated by Mangan’s sister’s image and it worries the boy day and night. John Lyons believes the light seems to trace something like a marble statue and perhaps thinks of the convention with which the Virgin is represented. The subject is in a border world where worship and devotion are confused with worship and passion. In each case feminine attraction carries religious suggestion (130). The remaining descriptions of Mangan’s sister include the color brown reflecting the dark cruel reality of the world. Mangan’s brown figure, like the somber houses on the boy’s street is never furnished with the thought and feeling that would make Mangan’s sister come to life.
The boy’s quest to Araby is no brighter. The tedious events that delay the boy’s trip indicate no room exists for love in the daily lives of Dubliners, and the absence of love renders the characters in the story almost anonymous. The boy arrives at the bazaar only to encounter flowered teacups and English accents, not the freedom of the enchanting East. As the bazaar closes down, the boy realizes that Mangan’s sister will fail the character’s expectations as well. Joyce states, “I heard a voice call from one end of the gallery that the light was out. The upper part of the hall was now completely dark” (126). The boy wanted to experience new places and things, but comes to grip with the conflict between everyday life and the promise of love. The boy seems to interpret his relationship with Mangan’s sister will also remain just a wishful idea and the boy’s infatuation was as misguided as the character’s fantasies about the bazaar. Coulthard contends the boy now knows that dark is right and no longer believes in beacons of hope, feminine, or otherwise. The boy was not defeated by a shabby bazaar or even by reality in the absolute sense, but by the historical gloom blanketing the Dublin of his youth like the snow of the dead (97).
The allure of new love and distant places mingles with the familiarity of everyday drudgery. Mangan’s sister intoxicates the narrator with new feelings of joy and excitement. What might have been a story of happy, youthful love becomes a tragic story of defeat. Much like the boy’s disturbing and unfulfilled adventure and failure at the bazaar suggests that satisfaction and contentedness remain foreign to Dubliners, even in the most unusual events of the city like an annual bazaar. The story presents this frustration as universal: the narrator is nameless, the girl is always “Mangan’s sister” as though she is any girl next door, and the story closes with the narrator imagining himself as a creature. In Araby, Joyce suggests that all people experience frustrated desire for love and new experiences. The boy’s inability to pursue the character’s desires traps the boy in a child’s world. The hope of youth is stymied by the unavoidable realities of the constant darkness. Color imagery in Araby is overshadowed with the darkness of reality.

Works Cited
Coulthard, A.R. "Joyce's Araby." Explicator 52.2 (1994): 97. Academic Search Premier. Web. 2 Mar. 2013.
Fuhrel, Robert. "Comparisons And Contrasts: The Quest Of Joyce And O'Connor In "Araby" And "The Man Of The House.." Frank O'Connor: New Perspectives. 173-187. n.p.: Robert C. Evans, 1998. Humanities International Complete. Web. 3 Mar. 2013.
Joyce, James. "Araby." Trans. Array Literature: The Human Experience. Richard Abcarian, Marvin Klotz and Samuel Cohen. 11th. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin, 2010. 122 - 126. Print.
Lyons, John O. "James Joyce and Chaucer's Prioress." English Language Notes 2.2 (1964): 127-132. Humanities International Complete. Web. 2 Mar. 2013.
Norris, Margot. "Blind Streets And Seeing Houses: Araby's Dim Glass Revisited." Studies In Short Fiction 32.3 (1995): 309. Academic Search Premier. Web. 2 Mar. 2013.

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