In Joyce's "Araby," describe some literary elements that are present. Please provide examples.     

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booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In James Joyce's short story, "Araby," there are almost countless numbers of literary devices/elements used.

The first device is found at the beginning. Joyce employs personification, which is when inanimate objects are given the characteristics of a human being. This device is found in the following excerpt:

The other houses of the street, conscious of decent lives within them, gazed at one another with brown imperturbable faces.

Two details personify the "other houses:" the narrator notes that they are "conscious" of the occupants within, and he notes that the houses "gaze," and houses can do none of these things. The same quote furnishes a metaphor in indicating that the house fronts are "imperturbable faces." A metaphor compares two dissimilar things that share similar characteristics. The word "like" (which would make this a simile) is inferred, and the metaphor infers that the house front is like a face that is calm or unchanging.

The following excerpt provides examples of imagery, using sensory details.

Air, musty from having been long enclosed, hung in all the rooms, and the waste room behind the kitchen was littered with old useless papers.

Imagery is a description that provides a mental picture for the reader. Effective examples of imagery can use various forms of figurative language (which is language not should not be taken literally—being used only to describe). Sensory details are those elements that appeal to the senses. The first sense is that of smell: the air is "musty." The second sense is that of sight: the waste room is "littered" with old papers.

The following excerpt uses several literary devices:

When we met in the street the houses had grown sombre. The space of sky above us was the colour of ever-changing violet and towards it the lamps of the street lifted their feeble lanterns. The cold air stung us and we played till our bodies glowed. Our shouts echoed in the silent street.

Personification is used again when the house is described as "sombre." Imagery is strongly evident in the way the sky is "painted" in our mind's eye, with the "colour of ever-changing violet." Personification is shown as "the lamps of the street lifted their feeble lanterns," as lanterns are not "feeble," which people can be.  Imagery is used again with "air stung" and "bodies glowed," and sensory details are present in "our shouts echoed." Personification ends the passage, with a "silent" street. The street itself is not silent: there are simply no people, and the street is never capable of making sounds on its own.

Joyce uses literary elements to describe Mangan's sister:

...yet her name was like a summons to all my foolish blood.

Here is imagery—specifically a simile to compare the draw of her name to the irrefutable "summons" that a court uses to demand one's presence.

Joyce also uses imagery masterfully as he describes the sounds and sights of the marketplace:

We walked...jostled by drunken men and bargaining women, amid the curses of labourers, the shrill litanies of shop-boys who stood on guard by the barrels of pigs' cheeks, the nasal chanting of street-singers, who sang a come-all-you about O'Donovan Rossa, or a ballad about the troubles in our native land.

We can almost hear "drunken men," "bargaining women," the "curses," or the "shrill litanies" and "nasal chanting of street-singers;" we can almost imagine what "pigs' cheeks" might look like.

Using these devices, the setting of "Araby" comes alive.