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What are some biblical allusions and their connections in James Joyce's "Araby"?

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thisisitohkay | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted August 24, 2010 at 11:20 AM via web

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What are some biblical allusions and their connections in James Joyce's "Araby"?

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susan3smith | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

Posted August 25, 2010 at 11:27 AM (Answer #1)

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To add to the previous post, Joyce describes a garden with an apple tree at its center.  This is where the children--including the narrator--play.  This reference ties in nicely to the Garden of Eden idea and the loss of paradise.  The narrator in "Araby" loses his innocence through his knowledge that there is no true escape from Dublin--not through a crush, not through a bazaar.  He is doomed to the morbid mortality of those that live in those "imperturbable" houses.  The narrator begins the story a child oblivious to the drabness of his environment, but he ends fully aware of his vanity in thinking he can escape it.

Another religious image used in the story is the chalice, or grail.  The narrator's image of Mangan's sister is held like a chalice as he moves through the market place. His obsession with her is described as a religious experience.In fact, he even presses his palms together in semblance of  prayer when he thinks of her, crying "O love." In this way, the narrator becomes a knight searching for a mystical object (the gift for Mangan's sister) that will transport him to heaven(her becoming enamored with him).   Of course, he does not find that grail.  When he goes to Araby, he realizes that the bazaar is just more of the same--the same darkness that shrouds Dublin.  He cannot find the perfect gift for Mangan's sister, and he knows that his hopes of attaining her are vain.

It might also be noted that Mangan's sister cannot go to Araby because she has a retreat at the convent.  It seems that Mangan's sister is in training to be a nun, making the narrator's infatuation with her truly a dead end.

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gbeatty | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted August 12, 2008 at 8:20 AM (Answer #1)

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There are many examples of Christian allusions in "Araby." Some are explicit, and open. For example, see the first line, which mentions the "Christian Brothers" school. A priest used to live in the house, and some of the books on the shelf are Christian, such as " The Devout Communicant." There are prayers, piety, churches, and references to god. Now, as far as specific biblical references, yes, there are some, but they are more imagistic. Look at the garden, and the wild apple tree; it alludes to the tree in the garden of Eden.

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ms-mcgregor | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted October 15, 2008 at 12:17 PM (Answer #1)

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The major allusion in "Araby" is to the Fall of Man or in literary language, "loss of innocence. A young boys promises to buy a girl something valuable from a bazaar called "Araby". When he gets to the bazaar, he finds its an ugly place and he is disappointed in himself and realizes the girl probably never cared for him in the first place. His eyes fill with tears as it dawns on him that he's made all this effort for nothing. One Biblical allusion at the bazaar refers to two jars standing by a booth. Joyce compares the jars to "Eastern guards". This is an allusion to Genesis 3:24 when God chases Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden and places two Cherubim at the east end of the garden so no one can get back in.In other words, the young boy cannot go back to his childish dreams. Another allusion begins in the first sentence when he calls the street the boy lives on "blind". Obviously, it's some kind of dead-end street, which has its own connotations. But the world "blind" also suggests many other aspects of the boys life--from being "blind" the the girl's lack of affection to the "blind" way he sees reality. There are many different ways of interpreting the "blind" street, which is part of the fun of reading the story.

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Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted August 25, 2010 at 10:42 AM (Answer #2)

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Joyce's "Araby" opens with Biblical allusions. A literary allusion is a device whereby the writer conveys a great deal of information in very few words, usually through the imagery of very few words, that call up cultural recollection of commonly know facts, legends, stories, myths, histories, etc. A Biblical allusion is an allusion that refers to Biblical stories, characters, theologies, doctrines or religious persons, groups, concepts, locations, etc.

In one instance, the opening of "Araby" alludes to religious concepts of celibacy by having former tenant of the house be a Catholic priest, indicative of the narrator's plight regarding his love for Magan. It also alludes to the value of religious literary works by classing a popular theological work of the day, The Devout Communicant, with a detective story (The Memoirs of Vidocq) and a novel by Walter Scott about Benedictine monks and by locating them in the "waste room behind the kitchen ... with old useless papers."

Midway through the story, the narrator calls up a religious allusion when he says the deserted after-hours bazaar was like "a church after a service": the energy of past sounds and past activity is still present and still throwing out a metaphorical glow as a of ghost, which may suggest Joyce's sentiment as to the value (seemingly nil) of church services.

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