How would you characterize the level of diction in "Araby" by James Joyce? Is this level appropriate for a story about a young boy's experiences? 

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William Delaney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

James Joyce's story "Araby" is told with a very high level of diction. Joyce not only chooses words from a rich vocabulary, but he is often poetic and abstract. For example:

The other houses of the street, conscious of decent lives within them, gazed at one another with brown imperturbable faces.

These noises converged in a single sensation of life for me: I imagined that I bore my chalice safely through a throng of foes.

This might be considered inappropriate diction for a story about a young boy in love; but it must be understood that the narrator is an older man looking back to the days of his youth. The narrator is expressing feelings the boy experienced but would not have been able to express to himself or to anyone else. This is in fact what is so remarkable about the story. We readers understand that the viewpoint character is capable of having deep feelings and capable of subtle observations of the world around him without comprehending them at the time. The mature and sophisticated narrator of the story is able to put these feelings and observations into words because he is so much older and wiser. So, the elevated diction is very appropriate for the way James Joyce chooses to tell this story. If he wanted to appear to be in the immediate present rather than in the remote past, he could have kept only the bare bones of his story; but it would seem like an inconsequential, humorous piece about "puppy love." Everything of importance in "Araby" comes from what the mature narrator puts into the telling.