In "Araby," Joyce employs much religious symbolism to bring one of his major themes to fruition: the incongruity of the secular and the sacred. The entire story is a religious quest revolving around Mangan's sister, who functions as the Virgin Mary. The "quest" is for the Holy Grail, or her love, but the boy has confused religiousity with lust.
This confusion of the secular and the spiritual begins right away. Consider the second paragraph, which depits the dead priest's library where the boy likes to spend much of his time. The three books that are his favorite are not tomes of religious instruction, but secular works of intrigue. His moral instruction has been compromised from the beginning.
We see how quickly the boy makes Mangan's sister the object of his devotion and shrouded lust. As he observes her unawares, the boy describes "her figure defined by the light from the half-opened door." Think about how much like the glow of a halo around the Virgin Mary this seems.
In the following...
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