Through a study of the techniques of characterization, what conflicts are raised and how are they resolved in the fiction story "Araby"?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Authors use indirect and direct methods of characterization:

  • INDIRECT:  through direct statements giving the writer's opinion of the character
  • DIRECT:  through a physical description
  • through the character's actions
  • through the comments and reactions of other characters
  • through the character's thoughts, feelings, and speeches

With the use of first person point of view, Joyce does not employ any direct characterization.  Rather, it is mainly through the voice of the main character, the boy, that the reader learns of him. As the narrator of "Araby," the boy describes his neighborhood as "sombre" with "dark muddy lanes" where he and his friends

ran the gauntlet of the rough tribes from the cottage, to the back doors of the dark dripping gardens where odours arose from the ashpits, to the dark odorous stables

As a relief from this dark environment, the boy says that "we left our shadow and walked up to Mangan's steps."  His description of Mangan's sister is clearly romanticized:

Her name was like a summons to all my foolish blood....My body was like a harp and her words and gestures were like fingers running upon the wires.

The girl speaks to him, turning a "silver bracelet round and round her wrist."  That she represents an escape from his dismal enviornment is evident, but there is also a subtle conflict which Joyce often includes in his narratives:  The experience of social decline and disillusionment.  His truth of life for the Catholic Irish who were denied the better jobs passed to the British or Prostetants is evident in the many references to money:  Mrs. Mercer as the pawnbroker, the boy holds a florin (silver coin) tightly in his hand as he strides down Buckingham [English reference] Street, and he later allows the "two pennies to fall against the sixpence in my pocket" after he reaches the bazaar too late.  Certainly, that the boy must wait for his uncle to return and give him some money before he can go to the bazaar certainly contributes to his later disappointment and disillusionment.

Other characters' thoughts and speech indicate conflicts of the boy.  The girl, who rolls her silver bracelet, obviously does not have the same idealization of the boy as he does her.  She declines his invitation by saying that she has a religious retreat to attend instead.  His uncle makes light of his desire to go to the bazaar by being late in coming home, after he asks the boy where he is going for the second time, he flippantly asks him if he know "The Arab's Farewell to his Steed" and speaks to him in platitudes:  "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy."

Along with his disillusionment, the boy's sense of isolation is apparent from his descriptions of the sombreness of his environment and his viewing the girl through the glass of a window to his sense of emptiness as he drops the money from his pocket, emptying it in the vacated bazaar, where the talk is not romantic, but only idle gossip.

dalepowell1962 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The conflict of the boy being raised in a home that is his aunt and uncles is carefully introduced in Joyce's "Araby" by detailing the boy's reaction to the house- he tells us early on that a priest has died there.  Through the boy's solemn yet curious character, we understand his desire to be away from this house to which he obviously spends many lonely hours.

Most adolescents can identify with his wanting to see the girl who is the object of his infatuation as he fights an internal conflict of how to actually get to see her.  Once he promises to bring her something from the araby, he has a further conflict against his surroundings that might keep him from it.  When his uncle appears not to be going to take him to the event, the conflict is most obvious.

Finally, there is the conflict of his expectations versus the reality of what the araby actually consists of; knowing the type of character the boy is, we are not surprised when he simply absorbs his disappointment at the end.