1st March 2012
The central symbol of church in Joyce’s “Araby”
Joyce’s short story “Araby” is filled with symbolic images of a church. In the body of the story, the images are shaped by the young Irish narrator’s impressions of the effect the Church of Ireland has upon the people of Ireland. The boy is fiercely determined to structure his perception within this Church. The holiness he feels should be the natural state of all within him, but a succession of experiences forces him to see that his determination is in vain. At the climax of the story, when he realizes that his dreams of holiness and love are inconsistent with the actual world, his anger and anguish are directed, not toward the Church, but toward himself as “a creature driven by vanity”(Joyce 233) — Someone who chase after.
The story opens with a description of the Dublin neighborhood where the boy lives. Strikingly suggestive of a church, the image shows the ineffectuality of the Church as a vital force in the lives of the inhabitants of the neighborhood — the faithful within the Church. North Richmond Street is composed of two rows of houses with “brown imperturbable faces” (Joyce Para 1) — the pews — leading down to the tall “uninhabited house”(Joyce Para 1) — the empty altar — The boy’s own home is set in a garden, the natural state of which would be like Paradise, since it contains a “central apple tree”(Joyce Para 2); however, those who should have cared for it have allowed it to become desolate, and the central tree stands alone amid a few straggling bushes. Since the boy is the narrator, the inclusion of these symbolic images in the description of the setting shows that the boy is sensitive to the lack of spiritual beauty in his surroundings.
Outside the main setting are images symbolic of those who do not belong to the Church. The boy and his companions go there at times, behind their houses, along the “dark muddy lanes,” (Joyce...