1. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Short Story Club (2): Araby by James Joyce

    Discussion in 'Book Discussion' started by thirdwind, Feb 18, 2013.

    For this discussion, we'll be reading "Araby" by James Joyce. It can be found here.

    "Araby" is part of Dubliners, a collection of 15 short stories. In my opinion, "Araby" is the second best story in that collection (after "The Dead"). It's a short and straightforward story, so for those of you who are new to Joyce, "Araby" is a great place to start.
     
  2. Revenant
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    Well, this is practically the opposite of 'The killers'. Very little dialogue and a lot of description. I found it kind of distracting. Not quite as easy to focus on. I didn't really like it, personally.

    One thing I noticed was that Joyce used some very vivid imagery. For example, "But my body was like a harp and her words and gestures were like fingers running upon the wires."

    Again, there was a kind of sudden ending here, not as bad as with "the Killers". I didn't really get it.
     
  3. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    This story ends with an epiphany. Basically, the boy has an idealized view of love and later comes to the sudden realization that this view is wrong. You can think of the story as a classic romantic tale where the hero goes on a journey to accomplish some goal and impress the woman of his dreams. In this case, however, the journey ends with the boy realizing that love is not what he thinks it is. This story certainly has parallels with "The Killers," in that both the boy in "Araby" and Nick Adams grow from their experiences and transition from youth to manhood.
     
  4. Revenant
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    Sure, okay. I get that. But how exactly does he reach this conclusion? He's crazy about this girl, says he'll get her a gift; his uncle forgets about going to the bazaar, comes home late; he gets to the bazaar as it's winding down, doesn't get a chance to really look around for a decent gift. And this effects him . . . how? I don't see a cause for this.
     
  5. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    My interpretation is that it has to do with the conversation he overhears between the young woman and the two men at the bazaar. It's hard to know exactly what the conversation is about, but I'm guessing it's sexual in nature. Joyce did in fact change one of his other stories in the collection because his publisher thought it was too obscene, so he might have changed (or left out) something here as well. Either way, I think it's a crucial detail to the story.

    I also think the boy is disappointed by the bazaar. He first hears of the bazaar from Mangan's sister (she calls it a "splendid bazaar"), so his expectation of the bazaar is tied to Mangan's sister in a way. When he finds that the bazaar doesn't meet his expectations, he realizes that his love for Mangan's sister is going to lead to disappointment as well. Perhaps if he had gone to the bazaar earlier (when it was full of life and not closing down), his feelings would be been different. In fact, he might not have had an epiphany at all.
     
  6. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    First, I love some of the imagery Joyce uses here: the houses "gazed at each other with brown imperturbable faces." "... we played till our bodies glowed." The coachman "... shook music from the buckled harness." Etc. etc. I love stuff like this.

    I also liked the occasional touch of surprise Joyce uses in building character, especially when the boy is in the back room where the priest died and says "I was thankful that I could see so little." That's an unusual observation.

    As for the epiphany at the end, I think the boy is enraged at his own impotence. He'd wanted to go to the bazaar all week, dreaming of presenting a wonderful gift to the girl he perceives as his love, but he only meekly reminds his uncle that he wants to go, and that at a moment when his uncle is distracted and likely to forget. So the uncle stops for a beer at the pub with his mates before coming home, because it's payday and all, and doesn't arrive home until late - almost too late. The boy knows before he leaves for the bazaar that he really has no hope of fulfilling his wish, but he goes anyway, wasting his time and his train fare, only to find that he is too late and he can't buy the gift and he can't impress the girl and his plans are in ruins and he's nothing but a miserable failure and he has no power to do anything about it. He never had that power. He's just a boy, dependent for his spending money on an uncaring and forgetful uncle, unable to sway the universe to fit his desires, and so the girl will forever remain out of his reach. He's furious with himself for his own impotence.

    I've read this story twice now, and both times I felt my throat constricting a bit as I got to the end, because I recognize that emotion. I've felt it myself, several times when I was young. My eyes have burned with anguish and anger, too.
     
  7. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I've definitely felt this way, too. I think everyone at some point has an idealized view of love. IMO, part of the reason this story is so good is because everyone can readily identify with it.
     
  8. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    I think this is absolutely right. 'ugly, monotonous child's play' about 3/4th in to the story is what I always think of.

    I always liked this story, but it's not my favorite from Dublineers, I must admit. I think almost everyone has had this sort of experience, and I really love how intimate the whole thing feels. There is a real sense of nostalgia too. I wouldn't be surprised if Joyce based this narrator on himself, and the story on something he actually felt.
     
  9. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Which one's your favorite?

    By the way, I forgot to mention earlier that Dubliners doesn't paint Ireland in a positive light. There are lots of examples of death and decay in this collection, and I remember one of my professors pointing out that Joyce uses colors like yellow and brown to describe books and buildings. I know Joyce wasn't too fond of the Catholic Church because he thought they were partly to blame for Ireland's state of stagnancy. I certainly didn't catch all of the references to the Catholic Church in "Araby," but the mention of the priest who died certainly caught my attention. In fact, the second paragraph of the story is teeming with religious references.
     
  10. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I guess Joyce's relationship with Dublin was very complicated. He wrote about nothing but that city, yet he moved away from there when he was still young and never returned. He loved it, but he couldn't stand it. (I feel that way about Toronto sometimes.)

    Lemex, I'm pretty sure Joyce based the narrator on himself, too. It's a very personal story. Funny thing is, I usually think of Joyce as a very formal writer, more concerned with technical innovation than anything else, yet at times he conveys very powerful emotion.
     
  11. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I admit that I don't know much about Joyce's life, but based on a short bio I once read, I got the impression that he left because of the people and not because of the city itself. Then again, one could argue that it's the people that make the city.
     
  12. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    Agreed. That's one of the things I keep rediscovering about Joyce. A lot of his work, especally Portrait of the Artist, is very emotional. I don't know anyone who wasn't affected by that sermon bit. I know I was. I could almost feel the fires of Hell when I read it.

    This is going to sound really typical but 'The Dead'. I love the way that story builds, I really like the characters in that story, and how amazingly realistic they are. I've been to that kind of socialite party many times so the whole thing struck me as very familiar. Like I was at home with it. And I've got this really weird habit of liking stories set in deep winter, and heavy snow. Winter is my favorite season, so there is a purely irrational reason too. :)

    If 'The Church' is not at least referenced in every story of Dublineers I'd be amazed. Joyce, it seemed, had more than one reason to dislike the church. He was an agnostic, at least, and might have been an atheist (non servium Stephen says to his dying mother in a flashback in Ulysses). And the priggishness about infidelity was one of the major reasons why Charles Parnell, a man Joyce never really stopped writing about, ended his political career in shambles.

    I'm not sure of anything more to it in relation to this story than to just suggest the effect of The Church on young minds, threat of hell, eternal soul in relation to the life and vigor of youth, but a sizable book could be written on the relationship between Joyce and the Catholic Church.

    Also, one of the things I've always respected about Joyce is how down to earth he was. He's not like a Pynchon or something where they would deal with the darker, uglier side of life and then try and balance that by making light of it. As much as I love his work the endless parties in Pynchon's novels do tend to come out of nowhere. Joyce, on the other hand, when he's funny he's subtle and witty, and when he's dealing with the ugly side of life he's undiplomatic but he doesn't take it too far and make it horribly unpleasant, like it's a scene from Se7en or something. He's honest, and that makes it beautiful. Only Joyce could find the dirty music in 'chamber music'.
     
  13. Sved
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    I found it quite difficult to read because of the imagery, and the lack of dialogue. Interestingly enough Joyce tells a lot, as opposed to showing :)

    The way I see the story itself is a coming to age theme. I think it's clear the boy experiences his first love and he doesn't know how to handle that. He is not fully aware of how he feels or why he feels in a certain way.

    He he had a florin when he left home and if what I found correct on Google one florin was 2 schillings (24 pence), he pays 1 schilling (12 pence) in entrance, and at the end he has 8 pence in his pocket, which indicates he spent 4 pence on transportation.

    He doesn't have enough money to buy anything, especially since most stalls are closed. Part of the unwelcoming attitude from the young lady at the end is probably because she realizes he can't afford to buy anything. Part of his frustration is from the fact that he spent much of his money, especially a large entrance fee, for no use. And he have to spend more on the ticket home and the 4 pence he would be able to spend on a gift is probably not enough even if the stalls would be open.
     
  14. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Some stories are better this way. I'm not sure "Araby" would have been as good had there been more dialogue. There's just more a writer can do in the narrative than in dialogue, and this is especially true for an experimental writer such as Joyce.
     

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