What is the tone that Joyce creates through his diction, language, and imagery?"Araby"

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In order to effect the brutal epiphany of the teenaged boy's disillusionment at the end of "Araby," writer James Joyce employs a ironic tone through the use of the adult narrator who recounts a tale of his foolish, romantic youth.  For, this ironic tone in its presentation of the illusionary imagination of the boy foreshadows all the more the collision of the boy's illusions with the harsh reality of the banality of the bazaar.

On the "sombre" street of brown houses in the "cold air" through "dark muddy lanes" the romantic boy envisions a saint-like Mangan's sister who is defined by a light behind her as she stands in the half-opened door.  At this vision, the boy's heart "leaped."  At the market on Saturday with his mother, the boy carries the groceries pretending that he bears his "chalice," or Holy Grail for his maiden fair. 

Further, all the boy's romantic visions of light and the golden chalice contrast with the images browness of his life, the dark rainy evening during which he watches the girl from the dead priest's room.  When the girl speaks to him, she wears a silver bracelet, indicative of money and the mundane.  As he leaves the dark house, the boy encounters Mrs. Mercer--a name that means one who sells cloth--a "pawnbroker's widow."  And, when he finally reaches the bazaar after his uncle returns late from drinking, the boy rides "the third-class carriage of a deserted train."   He steps out onto "an improvised wooden platform" and finds all the stalls closed and "the greater part of the hall was in darkness."  Certainly, then the boy hears what he has earlier described as "the rain impinge upon the earth" and he realizes the foolishness of his romantically fevered imagination.  Disillusioned he turns away from the cheap shop girls idly gossiping, drops two pennies against the sixpence in his pocket, indicating the cheapness of the experience.  Stepping out into the darkness, the adult narrator recalls that he has been "a creature driven and derided by vanity."