What is the symbolic meaning of the relationship between light and dark in the story "Araby"?

The symbolic meaning of the relationship between light and dark in "Araby" is that dark represents the realities of the boy's life in Dublin while light represents his illusions and fantasies.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In "Araby," dark symbolizes the reality of life in Dublin. Light, in contrast, symbolizes the beauty of illusions and dreams.

This symbolism is made more evident by analyzing the use of the words "dark" and "light" in the story. Dark is associated with the concrete reality of Dublin:...

See
This Answer Now

Start your subscription to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your Subscription

In "Araby," dark symbolizes the reality of life in Dublin. Light, in contrast, symbolizes the beauty of illusions and dreams.

This symbolism is made more evident by analyzing the use of the words "dark" and "light" in the story. Dark is associated with the concrete reality of Dublin: the "dark" gardens; the "dark," foul-smelling stables behind the houses; the "dark" house where Mangan's sister lives. The symbolism of darkness intensifies and comes to a crescendo as the young narrator faces the grim, drab reality of the Araby bazaar. By the time the boy arrives, the entrance to the hall is dark, and much of the hall itself is in darkness, ready to close. As this darkness encompasses the bazaar, the boy comes to realize that he was foolishly vain for thinking he could find beauty and romance in Dublin.

In contrast, light symbolizes illusion. Not surprisingly, light is most often associated with Mangan's sister, a desired figure who takes on a dream-like character in the boy's imagination. The boy often sees Mangan's sister with light falling on her from the open doorway of her house or from a street lamp. This light symbolizes the glow of fantasy that the narrator projects upon her. But the boy ultimately realizes she is part of the fantasy he has concocted—the fantasy that has spurred him to go to Araby to attain a romantic gift for her. As he comes to this realization, the "light . . . [goes] out" in the hall where the bazaar is being held.

Indeed, dark is an apt symbol of the grim reality of life in Dublin, whereas light is an apt symbol for the boy's dreams of a better life, including the promise of romance.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on