In "Araby," what does the sentence "I imagined that I bore my chalice safely through a throng of foes" indicate about the narrator's attitude to love?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

This sentence shows that the narrator has an idealized and spiritualized view of romantic love.

A chalice has several associations. First, it alludes to Catholicism. A chalice is a sacred vessel that holds the communion wine—the mystical blood of Jesus Christ—suggesting that the narrator conceives of his love for Mangan's sister as spiritual and ethereal. It also indicates he thinks of this love as a special charge laid on him: he has to protect this precious vessel of his love. He sets it apart from the sordid, everyday Dublin world in which he lives, which he describes as dirty and coarse.

Chalices—and a "throng of foes"—also connect the narrator's conception of love to Medieval romances, especially Arthurian legends and a search for the Holy Grail. The narrator seems to imagine himself as a knight charged with safeguarding a pure love from his enemies.

What little we see of Mangan's sister shows her to be an ordinary Dublin girl, but the narrator needs a love object that is elevated, pure, and set apart from the ordinary world. His concept of love shows his deep yearning for something more exalted than his dull everyday world.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The youth both romanticizes and idealizes his love for Mangan's sister.

As he helps his aunt with her shopping on Saturday evenings by carrying some of the parcels, the youth's imagination merges the mundane with chivalric and religious ideals in his description of his efforts:

...amid the curses of labourers, the shrill litanies of shop-boys...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 phrases that elevate the mundane outing to the spiritual and romantic ideal of a quest for the Holy Grail indicate the deluded and romantic imagination of the youth. Further, the youth carries in his mind the image of Mangan's sister standing against the lighted window during the day and at night in his bedroom. Then, when he hears of Araby, he feels the influence of an "Eastern enchantment."
However, when the youth finally arrives at the bazaar, he experiences a crushing moment of self-realization as all is tawdry there. The mystery and spiritual fervor of his infatuation abruptly ends as he perceives himself as "a creature driven and derided by vanity."

 

 

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial