In "Araby," by James Joyce, why is the quote, "I bore my chalice safely through a throng of foes," significant and what literary device does it show?

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durbanville eNotes educator| Certified Educator

James Joyce wrote a series of short stories called "Dubliners, "of which "Araby" is one. Joyce is well-known for using real-life situations and personal experiences in his short story writing. There is always a lesson to be learned. In "Araby," the young boy will suffer a harsh reality check and meet disappointment head on. 

As a young boy in Ireland, the boy has certain duties and chores and often accompanies his aunt, carrying parcels for her on Saturday evenings. He admits that he thinks about his friend, Mangan's sister, for whom he has a schoolboy crush, at even inappropriate moments. When he is with his aunt, in what he considers a "hostile" environment not conducive to his vision of "romance," he says:

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 which I myself did not understand.

The quote is a metaphor and is significant because he is suggesting that the noises from the market are insignificant because he is able to rise above them to protect his vision of love which is most precious to him. A chalice is a highly respected and meaningful symbol in Christianity and no one would disrespect or dishonor it. The people around him are the enemies or "foes" because he believes that their world and their love is imperfect, unlike his own. He has yet to learn that his own expectations cannot be sustained.  He is therefore comparing his pure love to the most holy chalice of his religion. It will be untouched by the imperfect love of others because it is so sacred.

When he has an actual encounter with her, during which he thinks there are unsaid emotions at play, he sees it as a breakthrough. His watching and waiting from the "front parlour" is about to change as he moves to the next level with her. Ultimately, he is frustrated with himself, angry with his uncle, and disillusioned with his first real adult-type experience. His epiphany is his realization that real life interfered with his ideal and he will never be able to recapture that feeling.

troutmiller eNotes educator| Certified Educator

He is in the middle of the marketplace where he and his aunt are walking "through the flaring streets, jostled by drunken men and bargaining women, amid the curses of labourers, the shrill litanies of shop-boys."  These types of people are considered sinners.  From the beginning of the story, Joyce makes the boy out to be some religious hero who will save and win over the perfect girl.  The theme of religion is sprinkled throughout the text. The books he holds most dear were left there from the priest who lived there before he did.  When Mangan's sister leaves, she is going on a religious retreat of some sort.  Even Araby is a "church-sponsered bazaar."

This quote is significant because it's at the beginning when he sees himself as this religious hero.  He's making his way through the "throng of foes" who are the sinners.  His "chalice" is he himself and his innocence. This is simply a metaphor showing how he must be strong to make it through such a rough place without getting "dirty."

toloueman | Student



What is the relationship between this chalice and the Eucharistic cup?

I'm not Christan , I'll appreciate you if you explain it a little bit more for  me.