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Joyce wrote that Dublin is a paralytic locale, so how do you identify and interpret...

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Joyce wrote that Dublin is a paralytic locale, so how do you identify and interpret symbols of this paralysis in "Araby"?

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kwoo1213's profile pic

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What Joyce says goes right along with several symbols that he uses in the story "Araby."  For example, one symbol is the boy's neighborhood.  It is a dank, dark, depressing street filled with look-a-like dwellings.  The street and its dwellings are constricting and claustrophobic in nature.  This adds to this theme of "paralysis."  Another element of "paralysis" or constriction is how the boy observes his object of desire.  He has to spy on her from the front room, for example, through a window, and he has to make sure he is not observed by his friend's sister (the object of his desire). 

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Symbolism in 'Araby'

Joyce writes in his letter to Grant Richards “My intention was to write a chapter of the moral history of my country and I chose Dublin for the scene because that city seemed to me the centre of paralysis.” In ‘Araby’ Joyce explores Dublin as a paralytic locale and this paralysis is projected through Joyce’s symbols. How do you identify and interpret these symbols?

The dead priest who once lived in a back room of the narrator's home seems significant here. Although he is not a living character in the story, he is a definite presence. His books, one particularly old and musty with its yellow pages, suggests a freezing of time. The narrator loses himself in the priest's old books. He likes best the one with the yellow pages (the oldest one). The narrator formulates his romantic illusions and aspirations from these books. His personal development in learning to live in the real world is paralyzed, in a sense, until he finds reality at the bazaar instead of the enchantment he expected.

The narrator seems to live in a type of paralysis, also. He drinks to deal with the drabness of his life on North Richmond Street. Mangan's sister seeks escape through church retreats rather than leave this place and seek a more satisfying future elsewhere.

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Posted (Answer #4)

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Symbolism in 'Araby'

Joyce writes in his letter to Grant Richards “My intention was to write a chapter of the moral history of my country and I chose Dublin for the scene because that city seemed to me the centre of paralysis.” In ‘Araby’ Joyce explores Dublin as a paralytic locale and this paralysis is projected through Joyce’s symbols. How do you identify and interpret these symbols?

The bazaar and its place, Araby, symbolize the exotic to the boy.  In his reverie about Mangan's sister, the boy reflects, "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."  When the boy arrives too late at the bazaar, he sees the great jars standing "like eastern guards at either side of the dark entrance to the stall," and he knows that his staying there is useless.  He can find no reality in his exotic dreams.

As he leaves, the boy "allowed the two pennies to fall against the sixpence" in his pocket.  In "Araby" money, too, is symbolic of the Irish experience in the constant financial struggle and limitations that it presents for Joyce's lower middle class in "The Dubliners."

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The train in the story refuses to let many people aboard because it is a "special" for the bazaar. This may symbolize a break-down in the practical systems meant to serve a specific purpose in the city. When trains refuse to carry passengers because they have adopted an alternative errand, we might see some "paralysis" in the situation.

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