I'm writing an essay on Joyce's views on growing up. I need help identifying themes to provide structure for a thesis.The story I am mostly interested in using is "Araby," but although I can...

I'm writing an essay on Joyce's views on growing up. I need help identifying themes to provide structure for a thesis.

The story I am mostly interested in using is "Araby," but although I can see Joyce's views to be bleak, I'm having trouble identifying a solid foundation for any arguments. Any themes, quotes, scenes, or analysis drawn from that would be extremely helpful. Also, does the story's use of religious imagery have anything to do with his views on adolescence & adulthood? 

Help is very much appreciated!

Asked on by darvy

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In his letters to Nora Barnacle, whom he was to share his life of social and intellectual rebellion, James Joyce wrote,

My mind rejects the whole present social order and Christianity....

Joyce perceived in Dublin a city of lower middle-class people subjugated politically by the British and spiritually by the Catholic Church.  It is a city, to Joyce, that is the "centre of paralysis." With its brown houses and dead-end streets, Joyce symbolizes the social and spiritual malaise of the Irish people in a work that is written much like a stages of man.  In Dubliners, the stories of adolescents, with their dreams and illusions, are always ones of failures; "Araby" is such a story.

In the opening paragraphs of this story, the house in which the boy lives is described as musty; there is a "wild garden" behind the house that contains an apple-tree and "a few straggling bushes" near "dark muddy lanes."  The boy discovers books read by the former tenant, a priest, one of which is a prurient secular work that has been read much as the pages are yellowed.  This is the book that the youth likes the most.  So, with the symbolic apple tree and the book of temptations, The Memoirs of Vidocq, along with the youth's lying on the parlor floor in order to watch Mangan's sister through the blind, the religious imagery of the boy's love as he imagines that he bears his "chalice through a throng of foes" seems, like the priest, rather tainted.  His romantic illusions, too, suggest the confusion of the spiritual with the prurient:

Her name sprang to my lips at moments in strange prayers and praises which I myself did not understand.  My eyes were often full of tears...and at times a flood from my heart seemed to pour itself out into my bosom. 

There is, likewise, a confusion within the youth's mind of the exotic with the mundane. For, while he youth imagines the bazaar as a place where he and Mangan's sister will meet and spend an enchanted evening, he finds himself going alone on a disappointing journey to find darkened stalls and a "silence like that which pervades a church after a service" where men count money. As the youth listens to "the fall of the coins," he has an epiphanal realization that the pursuit of his ideal that he has elevated as religious in nature is unattainable and foolish. 

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