'The city both offers and restricts possibility' (Lehan, The City of Literature'). Discuss this statement refering to "Araby."

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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One way of discussing this statement with reference to this brilliant story would be to explore the way in which the city provides an apt environment for the narrator to develop and explore his romantic fantasies unchecked. When he goes to the market, for example, he sees around him sights that help spur on his romantic illusions and thoughts, as the following quote describes:

These noises converged in a single sensation of life for me: I imagined that I bore my chalice safely through a throng of foes.

For the narrator's imagination, the city therefore offers a rich site of possibility and scope for transformation as he is free to take ingredients from his setting and use them to transform the reality around him.

However, the overwhelming message of this short story seems to focus on the way in which city life restricts possibility rather than encourages it. Although the narrator is free to dream and to hold his illusions, at the end of the story, he is forced to confront the fact that they are nothing more than illusions and not real, and he has to face the reality of his own self-deception and how he is a restricted individual because of his setting. This is made clear in the final line of the story, where he sees himself as "a creature driven and derided by vanity." The city for this narrator therefore is one that only restricts and impedes his own self-development by encouraging his flights of fancy. 


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