How can Araby and Dear Heart, Why Will You Use Me So? by James Joyce be compared?

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durbanville eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Araby, a short story that is part of the Dubiners series by James Joyce, the narrator is a young boy who is discovering how all-encompassing love can be. The object of his affections is his friend Mangan's sister. He is obsessed with her every move to the point that he watches her daily, and when she emerges from her house he says, "My heart leaped." This compares to the poem Dear Heart, Why Will You Use Me So? because Joyce also speaks of love and the effect it has on the narrator of the poem. In the story the boy says, "my soul luxuriated and cast an Eastern enchantment over me," and clearly in the poem, the narrator is charmed—although both texts hint at how irrational this all-consuming love is. Therefore, the themes are similar.

Both texts use strong words related to changeable weather which suggest the contrary nature of love. In Araby, it is the rain which will "impinge" and in the poem "the desolate winds assail..." 

The order of the short story and the poem also follows the same pattern. The overwhelming and intense passion is apparent at first. The boy does recognize his own "adoration" even though at the beginning he has not even spoken to her and the poem suggests that the feelings may be irrational; however, the narrator's love interest is irresistible. In the poem, this continues with a realization that love is in a "shadowy garden," while in the story, the boy says that "my heart misgave me," meaning that he already has a sense of doubt or uneasiness, even if it is related to his uncle's ability to deliver on his promises. Both texts end with disillusionment. In the poem, love is "dissolved," and in the story, the boy feels foolish and berates himself, feeling "anguish and anger."

The story has a poetic quality and the poetry is apparent on various occasions such as when the boy uses a simile and says, "My body was like a harp and her words were like fingers running upon the wires." This creates another similarity between the poem and the story.