Araby: The Battle of Lust and Family Roots

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Epiphany is a central motif in “Araby” which represents disappointment. Joyce defines epiphany as the moment when the essence of a character is revealed. In this paper, I will show that the boy experiences incremental but eye-opening discoveries that will help him understand more about himself, situations around him and lead to an ultimate epiphany. Disappointment is an important theme of the story, because every realization he has leads to him being upset and learn that his beliefs are all in his head. The major epiphany in this story shows maturity from an abstracted young boy to a “man” dealing with the realities of life.

The boy goes through many small epiphanies throughout his journey that change his perspective from love to despair and display growth and maturity. Religion, the bazaar and his father are all red flags throughout the story that will show him the darkness of reality and block out the light of his fantasy. It’s certain right away that he is obsessed over this Mangan’s sister and was the core of his adolescent desires. Every morning he would watch her walk back home and prayed to his religion hoping the concept of love will set them together and he even admits that “her name was like a summons to all my foolish blood” “(Araby”. Literature for Composition. Sylvan Barnet, William Burto and William E. Cain. Pearson Longman 8th Edition. Pgs. 882-886.). This depicted obsession, fascination and intense desire in the boy throughout the story.

This line a depiction of sex, this shows that the is changing and learning about how to sexually describe women. His perception of reality is blinded by his fantasy for her with his prayers saying “olove, olove” (Joyce 2) signifying that he believes they are meant to be together. When the boy offers to buy her a gift from the bazaar his fantasy mind thinks this bazaar is in some way a romantic and mysterious door to her love and the gift as the key that will unlock her love for him. While preparing to go to the bazaar, he has to ask his uncle for money to buy the gift and needs to wait all day for him to come home; this obstacle is his first epiphany because he realizes that attracting love isn’t cheap and is the first step to his despair. Money symbolizes that the greed for his lust and ambition to fulfill his sexual desires by buying the gift. The lesson the uncle gives is showing to spend money on things will contribute to you and things you need to improve yourself, not sinful wishes such as sexual desires which go against their faith. The role of the uncle is to suppress the desire and prevent his fantasies from becoming a reality. Both the girl and his father are the two characters that show him despair and false reality, they are the factor of the driving force that leads him to his epiphany in the end of the story.

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Mangan’s sister, is the most significant religious symbol in the story. The boy is devoted to her as the same level as Jesus Christ. The connection between Mangan’s sister and religious worship is shown in the passage where the narrator goes to the market and as he looks around. “Her name sprang to my lips at moments in strange prayers and praises which I myself did not understand” (mdelmuro. ‘In ‘Araby,’ what does the Araby bazaar symbolize or represent to the narrator? ‘eNotes, 27 Feb. 2016). He maintains the relationship with this girl just like he does with Christianity, fascinated and devoted. Mangan’s sister is his prayers has the same effect like the power of a priest or pastor. His feelings are out of lust which in the religious context is a sin. His prayers indicate the meaning of sexual desire, which is he trying to mix together. “Her name sprang to my lips at moments in strange prayers and praises which I myself did not understand” (Joyce 7). In his eyes, she is above all, putting his feelings more of a superiority then religion which brings growth and maturity back into the story. The boy doesn’t understand the line between his sexual desires and his religious faith. Growing up in a catholic household and schooling system, he believes prayer are a way to fulfill one’s desires, but when he still faces the obstacles of money, confusion and lust he develops second thoughts. The discovery that his prayers are not going to fulfill his romantic desires is a moment that he realizes religion doesn’t solve all the answers and cannot win her heart.

The bazaar is center point for his most impactful epiphany of despair and has crushed his lust for Mangan’s sister. ‘The syllables of the word Araby were called to me through the silence in which my soul luxuriated and cast an Eastern enchantment over me’ (McManus, Dermot. ‘Araby by James Joyce.’ The Sitting Bee. The Sitting Bee, 29 May. 2014. Web.) Araby can be regarded as the religious institution that takes over the life of the narrator. Pre-assumptions of the bazaar to the boy was that he would find the perfect gift that would make her fall into his arms and experience his sexual desires. The boy realizes that going to the bazaar wouldn’t attract Mangan’s sister attention and it was all for nothing. At the end of the story, the boy hears an interaction ongoing between two of the people in the marketplace and realize that it offers no value to his struggle to get the girl’s attention and is just a dull marketplace. “I heard a voice call from one end of the gallery that the light was out. Gazing up to the darkness I saw myself as a creature driven and derided by vanity; and my eyes burned with anguish and anger” (Joyce 5). At this moment, he faces the final epiphany. He faces disappointment at the bazaar in several ways: first, is that most of the bazaar’s vendors are closed and secondly, he notices an interaction between a woman and two men and encourages the boy that what he is looking for is not here. This shows a strong disappointment to proceed with his sexual desires with Mangan’s sister. It’s almost as a sign from God, that his prayers backfired. At that moment, he realizes that Mangan’s sister is just a girl who doesn’t care if he fulfills his promise to her, it was only small talk. He realizes that his sexual desires weren’t real and were just foolish.

This epiphany at the end of the story, the boy understood that his religion and family was more important than his lust. All the obstacles he faced that halted him from achieving his goal of buying the gift were signs that those were the things he should’ve been paying attention to. From religion, when he realized that they can’t solve his sexual desires, but is an important faith that structures his morals and values. His father showing him that spend your money wisely is a sign that greed is taking over and blinding him from his morals and values that sinful acts such as sexual desires are prohibited and go against his faith. Finally, at the bazaar is the moment he realizes fulfilling this fantasy he built up in his head was all false, because the sights and sounds of the bazaar showed him disappointment that sexual desires aren’t what he thought they’d be. He sees the harsh realities of real world sexual interaction with a woman and men which shows him what his desires are in actuality which are greed, lust and power, not what he thought in his innocent young mind. His epiphany showed him maturity that fantasy are fantasies for a reason because they are blocked by reality which prevents them from getting fulfilled. Overall, Araby is story that represents maturity and adolescence in life.

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