Gazing up into the darkness I saw myself as a creature driven and derided by vanity,and my eyes burned with anguish and anger.
Thus ends James Joyce's "Araby." The boy's epiphany involves his perception amid the darkness that in his confusion of religious images with his feelings, he has deluded himself about Mangan's sister, who is just a girl, and interpreted his infatuation as love. Certainly, this false perception of the girl and his feelings are foreshadowed in several ways:
- In the exposition of his story, there is a darkness connoted with such descriptions of the houses with "brown imperturbable faces,"and the dark back room of the former tenant of the boy's house. The leaves are "yellow," a color connotative of corruption, decay,or even evil. The air is also "cold" in the "dark muddy lanes." Later, when the boy arrives late at the bazaar, the "hall was in darkness." The end of the gallery's light goes out. "The upper part of the hall was now completely dark" suggesting the disappointment of the boy and the end of his romantic fantasies.
- Money imagery is employed early in the narrative when the boy speaks to Mangan's sister, "she turned a silver bracelet round and round her wrist." This action indicates that the girl is not the Madonna-like figure that the boys imagines. Later, the boy encounters the pawnbroker Mrs. Mercer, whose name even suggests "money"--mercernary. The boy holds a florin tightly in his hand at this time; however, after he has been to the bazaar, he lets the pennies "fall against the sixpence in [his] pocket," suggesting the petty and banal quality of his romantic illusions.
There are several symbols of what Joyce has termed the "paralysis" of the Irish, their inability to rise above the restrictions of Catholicism upon their thinking as well as the stymied lives they live as a result of British domination and the Irish inability to break from preconceived ideas. Clearly, the boy is trapped in the domineering religious thought as he even perceives Mangan's sister as Madonna-like; in the marketplace, he carries the grocery box above his head as though he is bearing his "chalice safely through a throng of foes" as he confuses the religious fervor with carnal ectasy. Then, spiritually lost, he further confuses the exotic Araby with the banal bazaar in which he discovers shop girls who sit and gossip.