Student Question

Could you paraphrase this passage from James Joyce's "Araby"?

"Every morning I lay on the floor in the front parlour watching her door. The blind was pulled down to within an inch of the sash so that I could not be seen. When she came out on the doorsteps my heart leaped. I ran to the hall, seized my books and followed her. I kept her brown figure always in my eyes and, when we came near the point at which our ways diverged."

Quick answer:

The paraphrase of this passage will look different depending on the purpose of the paraphrase. The intended length and perspective of the paraphrase also influence the process.

Expert Answers

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The paraphrase will look different depending on the purpose of the paraphrase. Different reasons for paraphrasing include practicing the skill of paraphrasing, achieving a better understanding of the original text, and sourcing evidence for an argumentative essay. The goal of your writing always impacts the form it takes.

The look of your paraphrase will also depend on the desired length and point of view. You may wish to condense the passage into a concise paraphrase or reword it while keeping the original length. You may maintain the original point-of-view or shift to an objective perspective. These factors are important in the decisions you make paraphrasing this text.

For the purpose of your answer, let's assume you are looking for a paraphrase of roughly the same length of the original in the third-person point of view.

How to Paraphrase

When you paraphrase, your first step is to read the passage several times over until you have a very strong understanding of what's happening in the text. In this case, you want to try to visualize the scene that's happening. Then, try to take it sentence by sentence. The narrator, in this case of James Joyce's "Araby," is laying on the floor and watching Mangan's sister's door. He's hidden from her view because the blinds are pulled down. When she comes out, he follows her.

Once you've carefully considered the details of this scene, you might choose to set aside the text and try to rewrite it based on what you remember of the scene. This is a valid strategy to paraphrase.

Your second option is to take it sentence by sentence and reword it as you go. You will need to change two things to effectively paraphrase: the word choice and the sentence structure.

Paraphrasing This Quote

As an example, let's try to paraphrase the first sentence of the passage, which reads as follows: "Every morning I lay on the floor in the front parlour watching her door." If you check a thesaurus and change some of the words while keeping the same sentence structure, it might look like: "Daily I reclined on the floor of the living room viewing the entrance to her chamber." But this is stuffy, unnatural, and awkward. Instead, try looking at the puzzle pieces of this sentence and see what you can take out or rearrange. You might end up with something like: "He lay on the living room floor every morning watching her door." You might notice that most of the words themselves are the same, but they have been switched around.

This approach can be applied to the rest of the passage. Again, be sure to think through the purpose of your paraphrase before you begin.


If you use a paraphrase in an essay, always make sure you still give credit to the author by citing them. Never paraphrase without giving credit; this can be counted as plagiarism.

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