Symbolism In James Joyce's "Araby"

On the surface the story "Araby," found in James Joyce's collection of short stories, Dubliners, is the story of a young man with a lustful crush on his friends sister. Careful examination of the religious symbolism found in Joyce uncovers a story with deeper meaning; the story of a young man torn between his religious beliefs and his feelings.

On the surface the story "Araby," found in James Joyce's collection of short stories, Dubliners, is the story of a young man with a lustful crush on his friend's sister. Careful examination of the religious symbolism found in Joyce uncovers a story with deeper meaning; the story of a young man torn between his religious beliefs and his feelings.

Joyce starts us off with an obvious religious symbol in the first line, "North Richmond Street, being blind, was a quiet street except at the hour when the Christian Brothers' School set the boys free (Dubliners 29)." The street is quiet and calm except when the boys are set free. Set free from the eyes of the church and the eyes of parents. The street is "blind at one end" except for when the kids are free, that's why it is quiet. The kids are not blind of the "uninhabited house."

Joyce states, "The other houses of the street, conscious of decent lives within them, gazed at one another with brown imperturbable faces (29)." The people ignore the blind side of the street and instead calmly look at each other.



The dead priest in the second paragraph adds to the religious symbolism. The priest is an obvious symbol, but the description of the room where he died is more revealing, "Air, musty from having been long enclosed, hung in all the rooms, and the waste room behind the kitchen was littered with old useless papers." The priests old room smells like a jail cell. The air is a prisoner of the room. It smells like stagnation.

The religious symbolism sets up the reader. In the next few paragraphs, Joyce discusses the narrator's infatuation with his friend's sister. The narrator does not understand his inability to talk to his friend's sister, but the reader""because of the religious symbolism""has a greater understanding. We see his actions as part of his upbringing.

Joyce expands the religious symbolism on page thirty-one when he says, "I imagined that I bore my chalice safely through a throng of foes (31)." He sees himself on a crusade to win her love. He then imagines himself the instrument of her love, "My body was like a harp and her words and gestures were like fingers running upon the wires (31)."

Joyce continues to use religious symbolism when the boy goes into the room where the priest died, "One evening I went into the back drawing-room in which the priest had died (31)." The boy is confused about his feelings of guilt caused by his religion and his feelings towards the girl, "All my senses seemed to desire to veil themselves and feeling that I was about to slip from them, I pressed the palms of my hands together until they trembled, murmuring: O love! O love! Many times (31)."

Joyce wrote in a time when open criticism of the church was ill advised. He seems to be saying that to be truly free is to be free of religious restrictions.

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