A Thematic Analysis of James Joyce’s “Araby”

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Sophomore (College 2nd year) ・Literature ・APA ・4 Sources

Childhood is one of the life stages that many people regard as exceptional and characterized by unique experiences. Childhood is viewed as a wonderful time in many cultures and societies, with nothing to think about in terms of any of society's constraints. Joyce's short story ""Araby"" establishes a short story in which the primary themes are ambition, anger, and adventure, which highlight some of the encounters that a boy has throughout his childhood.

One such motif in the short story is ""frustration,"" which the protagonist addresses many times. The young boy in the story goes through socialization with Mangan’s sister, a relationship that leads to crushes and eventually resulting into his frustrations in his life. Furthermore, the young boy, whose name has not been mention anywhere in the story, is desperate and obsessive with Mangan’s sister to an overwhelming degree since he presses the palms of his hands together to an extent that “they tremble,” while murmuring: 'O love! O love!' several times,” (Joyce 396). The scenario is a clear indication that the young boy is frustrated (Joyce, 397). Moreover, the young boy, who is also narrator, waits for his uncle to return home, but shows a lot of frustrations as he begins to “walk up and down the room, clenching his fists” as he waits for his uncle to come back home and give him money to go to bazaar. Through walking up and down, he shows frustrations since he doubts whether he will go to bazaar to meet Mangan’s sister. However, the young boy feels frustrated when his efforts to make it to the market are derailed by his uncle, since he “forgets to the money” (Joyce 397), and situation frustrates him even more as the he makes to the bazaar but finds all the stalls already closed. These are the frustrations that young boys go through when they fail to achieve meet their desires in life according (Nichollas 328).

Another theme in the story includes “desire.” The young boy develops strong feelings towards Mangan’s sister in a manner that results in the desire to see her.Because the young boy has “hardly any patience with the serious work of life which, now that it stood between him and his desire,” he becomes fixated on purchasing Mangan’s sister something (Joyce 398). The young boy as a strong desire to “go to bazaar in the night” even when he knows it clearly that all the shops are already closed. He is being driven by the desire to fulfil the promise he makes to Mangan’s sister (Joyce 398). The narrator feels a strong desire what surpasses his understanding as a young boy to a point that “he cannot control himself” (Joyce 398). The narrator desires to talk to Mangan’s sister but when she does that, he feels overwhelmed and full of joy. The feeling of desire is common among young boys when they long and hope an object, an outcome, a place or a person, according to (Brewin 82), desire is expressed by thought of an item, a need to take an action to attain a specific goal or objectives as demonstrated by the narrator in the story.

Theme of “Adventure” is evident in the whole story. Different aspects demonstrated by Joyce through the narrator shows a significant theme of adventure. The young boy shows how he is adventurous by going to the bazaar late in the night when his family have already slept. He reminds his uncle that he wishes to “go to the bazaar in the evening” (Joyce 397). The narrator “thinks a little for the future” in an adventurous manner while looking forward to talk to Mangan’s sister. Furthermore, the narrator goes to the streets just to have enjoy himself while staring at “yellow leaves” at the “wild garden” located behind the late tenant’s house. Also, the narrator likes going out even during the “winter” season when everyone is expected to be in their houses after “eating dinner,”(Joyce 395). It shows how the narrator is an adventurous young boy who is ready to take any risk of bad weather just to go out and have some good time with Mangan’s sister and other boys. The situations that the narrator go through just go out and have some good time with his friends confirm to what (Arnett 69) terms as an adventure is an outdoor activity (Arnett 70).

In conclusion, Joyce uses different approaches through the narrator in the story to demonstrate different themes such as frustration, desire and adventure in an interesting and fascinating manner. The author manages to intertwine all the themes to form an excellent piece of art that catches the reader’s attention from all corners of the story. The story, “Araby” by Joyce is the best piece for any student who wants to comprehend how various themes listed above can be demonstrated in a story and illustrate what young boys go through during their childhood stage.

Works Cited

Arnett, Jeffrey Jensen. "Emerging adulthood: What is it, and what is it good for?." Child development perspectives 1.2 (2007): 68-73.

Brewin, Chris R., Bernice Andrews, and Ian H. Gotlib. "Psychopathology and early experience: a reappraisal of retrospective reports." Psychological bulletin 113.1 (1993): 82.

Joyce, James.“Araby.” The Norton Introduction to Literature, Shorter Eighth Edition. Eds. Jerome Beaty, Alison Booth, J. Paul Hunter, and Kelly J. Mays. New York: W.W.Norton.395-399

Nicholls, John G. "Achievement motivation: Conceptions of ability, subjective experience, task choice, and performance." Psychological review 91.3 (1984): 328.

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