Homework Help

In James Joyce's "Araby," what words and phrases express the boy's extreme idealism and...

user profile pic

user100400 | (Level 2) Honors

Posted February 14, 2013 at 2:43 AM via web

dislike 2 like

In James Joyce's "Araby," what words and phrases express the boy's extreme idealism and romantic view of the world? 

1 Answer | Add Yours

user profile pic

booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted February 14, 2013 at 3:42 AM (Answer #1)

dislike 1 like

The narrator in James Joyce's "Araby" has an idealistic and romantic view of the world, as seen in how his imagination runs away with him, eventually delivering him to the fairgrounds and disillusionment. The boy shows his idealism and romantic tendencies as he describes going to the marketplace with his aunt. In his imagination, we find allusions to the romance of ancient Arabia ("Araby")—much like the heroes from tales of King Arthur and his court at Camelot, and his devotion to Mangan's sister, so very like Lancelot's devotion to Guinevere:

Her image accompanied me even in places the most hostile to romance. On Saturday evenings…my aunt went marketing […] These noises converged in a single sensation of life for me: I imagined that I bore my chalice safely through a throng of foes. Her name sprang to my lips at moments in strange prayers and praises…

The boy's idealism is seen in his belief that a girl younger than he might return his affections, and that he is in fact a young man of such dedication that he can make his way into unknown parts of the city to bring back a token of his affection for her. We can infer that he believes Mangan's sister will likely cherish any small gift he might purchase—to make her feel as if she has visited Araby rather than missing it for a religious retreat. Romantically the narrator perceives his promise as a holy commission—in the spirit of religious fervor by which the Arthurian knights allegedly lived their lives. His zeal for fulfilling his task is reflected in his impatience to pass the days until he can go to the street bazaar:

"If I go," I said, "I will bring you something."

What innumerable follies laid waste my waking and sleeping thoughts after that evening! I wished to annihilate the tedious intervening days.

When the boy finally arrives at the bazaar, he has been delayed by his uncle's late return home, and he passes through its gates just as it is shutting down for the night. It is not the place he expected. No one pays any attention to him. He is unable to purchase anything for Mangan's sister, and further disappointment comes from his realization that he was propelled by idealism and a romantic notion, neither of which are grounded in truth:

Gazing up into the darkness I saw myself as a creature driven and derided by vanity; and my eyes burned with anguish and anger.

He is crushed by this sudden realization.

Sources:

Join to answer this question

Join a community of thousands of dedicated teachers and students.

Join eNotes