What is the search for the Holy Grail and how is it like the story?

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kristenfusaro eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The search for the Holy Grail is usually referring to the quest for the Goblet that Jesus drank from during The Last Supper, which if you find and drink from, will bring you eternal life. Certain twists have been made on this concept, such as can be seen in The DaVinci Code. Metaphorically, the search for the Holy Grail is the ultimate search, the impossible search, the hunt for something that should remain unattainable.

In James Joyce's "Araby," the narrator has a strong affection for this beautiful girl and his "Holy Grail" is to have her love him as well. To gain her attention, he must make a purchase of which he most certainly cannot afford. When he decides to approach this girl without the money, hoping that he will find kindness in her as well, he is both shocked and disappointed by her complete coldness. His quest comes to a haltering stop as he is encompassed with mortification for realizing his foolishness. The quest for the Holy Grail is foolish, in that humans are not meant to have eternal life, and surely, anyone who sought after things against his/her nature will most certainly end badly. Our narrator faces this similar quest when trying to obtain the girl.