Araby: An Epiphany
The story, "Araby" in James Joyce's Dubliners presents a flat, rather spatial portrait. The visual and symbolic details embedded in the story, are highly concentrated, and the story culminates in an epiphany. An epiphany is a moment when the essence of a character is revealed , when all the forces that bear on his life converge, and the reader can, in that instant, understand him. "Araby" is centered on an epiphany, and is concerned with a failure or deception, which results in realization and disillusionment. The meaning is revealed in a young boy's psychic journey from love to despair and disappointment, and the theme is found in the boy's discovery of the discrepancy between the real and the ideal in life.
The story opens with a description of North Richmond Street, a "blind," "cold ... .. silent" street where the houses "gazed at one an-other with brown imperturbable faces." It is a street of fixed, decaying conformity and false piety. The boy's house contains the samesense of a dead present and a lost past. The former tenant, a priest,died in the back room of the house, and his legacy-several old yel-lowed books, which the boy enjoys leafing through because they areold, and a bicycle pump rusting in the back yard-become symbolsof the intellectual and religious vitality of the past. The boy, in themidst of such decay and spiritual paralysis, experiences the confusedidealism and dreams of first love and his awakening becomes incom-patible with and in ironic contrast to the staid world about him.
Every morning before school the boy lies on the floor in thefront parlor peeking out through a crack in the blind of the door,watching and waiting for the girl next door to emerge from her houseand walk to school. He is shy and still boyish. He follows her, walkssilently past, not daring to speak, overcome with a confused sense ofsensual desire and religious adoration. In his mind she is both a saintto be worshipped and a woman to be desired. His eyes are "often fullof tears," and one evening he goes to the back room where the priesthad died. Clasping the palms of his hands together, he murmurs, "0love! 0 love!" in a prayer not to God, but to the concept of love andperhaps even to the girl, his love. Walking with his aunt to shop onSaturday evenings he imagines that the girl's image accompanies him,and that he protects her in "places the most hostile to...