How are aspects of Modernism apparent in Araby by James Joyce?
How does Araby typify the social and psychological realities of England between the wars? eg. historical discontinuity, alienation, individualism, existentialism, fragmention.
3 Answers | Add Yours
To me, the most glaring example of modernism in the short story "Araby" from James Joyce's "Dubliners" collection, is the tone and also the conclusion. The beginning segment of the story shows the idealism of the child, the young boy who adores and idolizes a girl slightly older than him. He even seems to "idolize" her literally when he talks about carrying his dreams and values as in a goblet, through a crowd. This reminds readers of the devotion many Roman Catholics offered to Mary, The Mother Of God at that time. By the time he has struggled through train stations, dark crowded streets and a Bazaar Sale, however, the boy shows the beginnings of the cynicism of the embittered modernist. He sees through the exotic illusion of the tawdry market, the sham of gifts and inwards to the fake values he so nearly accepted. Much of the dreamy pre-war idealism of England and Ireland and their religions was fading fast against the backdrop of bloodthirsty wars.
Araby as a story seems to be a little too Romantic in spirit to be a Modernist text. But with deeper examination what we realize its deep-rooted critique of the Romantic notion of love. Jacques Lacan had defined love as "giving something that you do not have to someone who does not even want it". The boy wants to give a gift bought from Araby. The girl had never demanded it from him and he does not even want it.
The radical conflation of the sacred and the sexual is another Modernist element in the story. Mangan's Sister is both a chalice and an object of beauty, arousing a moment of impregnatory orgasm and that too in the dead pries's back drawing room.
The story is definitely concerned with loneliness in the city---a squalid and drab cityscape, typical of Modernist literature e.g. Ulysses or Eliot's Waste Land.
The proto-stream of consciousness style, the emphasis on internal rather than external action, the epiphanic realization of a disillusionment about the Romantic and Oriental fantasy of Araby.
Well, first of all, you can notice that whenever the boy is describing his love, Mangan's sister, he relates her to light. For example, it is mentioned that "The light from the lamp opposite our door caught the white curve of her neck, lit up her hair that rested there and, falling, lit up the hand upon the railing." Mangan's sister symbolizes the unreachable dream the people of England had during the tough times. When the boy realizes that he cannot buy anything for his love in the araby, he gives up and decides to go home. This represents the actions of most English at the time. The boy's loneliness is seen by the atmosphere of his home and when he walked alone in the araby. His feelings and his inability to enjoy and truly engage in his family and school life symbolizes individualism and isolation.
Join to answer this question
Join a community of thousands of dedicated teachers and students.Join eNotes