What symbols are used in "Araby" by James Joyce?
Any physical item can serve as a symbol in a great literary work, since great authors choose those details that reflect and resonate with the whole of the work. So keep in mind the global question of why Joyce is even telling us this story, why it matters, and that focus will allow the symbols rise to the surface. Why does this story of a boy and his desire matter to readers today?
A question that is good to ask is, How much is it a symbol versus a functional object? We can get carried away by seeing too much meaning in tiny details. But those that get mentioned often or that are rendered with powerful description -- those objects we should spend our time on analyzing. Objects can be functional. For example, the florin in the boy's pocket is a means to get him into Araby, the bazaar. On a symbolic level, what does money really mean in this boy's life? How much wealth does this boy have to begin with? Answer that, and then the florin takes on a new significance: it represents an idea of povery, wealth, or aspirations.
The florin is functional in another way, by enabling him to get inside Araby and buy...what? (Now remember Mangan's sister and what the protagonist thinks of her.) What is his goal once he's inside Araby? Here is a second, symbolic significance to the florin: the emotion and desire it represents. You will need to search earlier paragraphs where the boy is practically trembling with emotion, if you need to pull evidence for his feelings, and then attach it to the mission he's on while at Araby.
The home where the boy lives has symbolic potential as well. Note who once lived...
(The entire section contains 588 words.)
check Approved by eNotes Editorial