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Reaction to Short Story: "Araby," James Joyce

Young Love and a Guess at Recurring Themes

Everyone remembers that feeling of a budding new romance, that exuberating and elated feeling of anticipation, and the disastrous blow of disappointment and betrayal. At a young age, these feelings are so much stronger. In James Joyce’s “Araby,” Joyce captures those overwhelming emotions in certain situations the narrating character illustrates for the reader. Throughout the short story, the narrator expresses his feelings for Mangan’s sister through detailed situations. The reader travels down the road of infatuation with the young boy. The path starts with admiration from afar to an awkward encounter to a self-reflection of frustration and anger. I believe Joyce intended the theme of this particular short story to be the exploration of excitement and frustration when it comes to young love. Also, I believe there is a recurring theme of home and the feelings that come with an introduction of a new neighborhood.

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Strategies and Elements of Fiction

There are a few strategies and elements of fiction I believe Joyce incorporated in this story of admiration. Barnet, Burto, and Cain (2014) elaborate on the elements of fiction in Chapter 14 that I believe are seen in “Araby” by James Joyce: foreshadowing, participant (first-person narrative), and the development of the overall setting and atmosphere. Joyce foreshadows the disappointed feeling of betrayal the young boy feels for his uncle’s tardiness. His diction elaborated on the young boy’s feeling of anticipation and excitement to visit the bazaar to buy Mangan’s sister a present since she was upset that she would not be able to visit the bazaar herself due to some prior engagements.

Another element of fiction Joyce takes advantage of within this story is the use of a participant point of view. Joyce uses the overwhelming first-person narrative which allows the reader to feel submerged in the narrator’s thoughts and emotions. Joyce develops the atmosphere and setting in extensive detail throughout the story. He exploits the fact that thoughts of Mangan’s sister interrupt the mundane and tedious work tasks of everyday. Joyce goes into great detail of the setting for this short story of a young boy’s new found adorations. I found James Joyce’s “Araby” relatable because it reminds me of my own childhood love interest.

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My Relatable Experience with this Story

This story forces me to reminisce on the first days of young love with my husband. In "Araby," Joyce writes, “Her image accompanied me even in places the most hostile to romance” (para. 5). My husband and I met at a very young age of 12 years old. I remember thoughts of my secret crush would interrupt me during class lessons or conversations with my mother. The entire story also brings me back to a time when I once became scared every time my husband’s past-self randomly conversed with me. In “Araby,” James Joyce illustrates the narrator’s feelings to a similar conversation that I found much similar to my own at the time, “At last she spoke to me. When she addressed the first words to me I was so confused that I did not know what to answer” (para. 7).

I remember a similar situation of elation and anticipation when I was supposed to see my husband’s past-self the morning of a school play. I remember the disappointment when my mom came too late, which brought me to miss the school play. The moment when the young boy sits staring at the clock reminds me of the large clock looking over the family room of my childhood home I could not help but stare at during this situation. In “Araby,” James Joyce elaborates on the boy’s anticipation, “I sat staring at the clock for some time and, when its ticking began to irritate me, left the room” (para. 17). I remember staring at that clock that watched over my family every day with so much anticipation that I felt I would burst open like a balloon filled with whipped cream! Overall, I think this story constitutes as a highly relatable story for most people. I think it is safe to deduce whether someone is 100 years old or 18 years old, they have experienced that first school boy or school girl crush.

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A wonderful photographer. If you'd like to see more of this photographer's amazing photos, just click the link. Truly a great artist!

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Analyzing and Making Inferences

There are plenty of inferences we can assume within this story. The somewhat obvious and plain stated inference of a childhood crush is one. Another inference is the fact that the young boy seems to reminisce about his old neighborhood, which leads me to believe he misses it. I moved around a lot when I was younger. I felt that same tinge of emotion every time I moved to a new neighborhood. I did not notice this until the second or third time I read the story. The first time I read “Araby,” I could only infer that the boy developed a crush on one of his friend's sisters.

The first time around, I did not annotate the story. I wanted to read it in its entirety before further deciphering and analyzing the story. Upon reading it the second time, I looked for deeper, more under-the-surface meanings behind the story. I made annotations around the boy’s thoughts of home, his surroundings, and his new neighborhood. After making these observations, I inferred that he missed his old neighborhood, his old home. I think James Joyce wrote this story to himself. James Joyce’s biography states he moved away from his hometown (Dublin, Ireland) to many different cities (Barnet, Burto & Cain, 2014, Chapter 21). I believe he missed home and wrote the reminiscent story of a young love he once had in Dublin, Ireland.


Barnet, S., Burto, W., & Cain, W. (2014). Literature for composition: an introduction to literature (10th ed.)

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© 2014 Grace Peterson

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