Monday, April 27, 2009

"Araby" questions

“Araby” Questions

Answer thoroughly in complete sentences with textual support.

  1. It can be said that this story is so completely told from one narrator’s point of view that the characters, the surroundings, and the weather are colored by his feelings. How do you suppose North Richmond Street, the boy’s house, Mangan’s sister, and the bazaar would look to a detached observer? Does Joyce hint that there is another point of view? If so, how does he do it?
  2. How does the narrator’s description of the house, the street, and the weather reflect his attitude toward them? What might this setting reveal about the emotional lives of the characters? What doe the references to the former tenant of the house add to the story?
  3. What common element relates Mangan’s sister and the bazaar in the boy’s mind? Explain the experience in the bazaar as a symbol of the boy’s quest and his disillusionment.
  4. What does the last sentence of the story signify? Does it alter your thinking about the story as you consider it in retrospect? Explain. In what ways was the boy a victim of vanity?
These are due Friday, 1st May. All classes.
Link to story:


  1. 1. I believe that Joyce does not choose to hint at another point of view from that of the narrator of "Araby." When he describes his surroundings, it is with a narrator's attention to some details over others, true, but this does not signify that his perspective is more true or false than that of any other, simply that some elements of his surroundings may stand out to him more than others. The reason I believe that Joyce has not decided to tell the story from a biased point of view is the lack of overly figurative descriptions, which would be indicative of the narrator's mood, and the dearth of a connection or theme between what descriptions do exist. For example, when describing the boys playing in the street, Joyce uses several descriptive phrases which fail to lead to an overarching mood for the story. The houses, he says, grew "sombre," while the streetlamps are "feeble," and the cold wind is personified as it "stung" the boys. However, these less-than-literal descriptions do not give the impression that they have been colored by bias; instead it seems to be just poetic description. As well, Joyce's narrator does not seem to be involved in the story as it happened, but to be telling it from a later date, as can be seen in the line "I had never spoken to her, except for a few casual words, and yet her name was like a summons to all my foolish blood." Why would a boy of the narrator's age describe himself as foolish, thus making light of his serious affection for Mangan's sister? Instead of being told straight from the boy's mouth, stream-of-consciousness style, Joyce sets his story in past tense and has it narrated by an older version of its protagonist. That is why I can find no coloring of the setting due to perspective: already the narrator is detached, and can tell the story without changing details to suit his mood.

    2. Once again, I do not believe the narrator has reflected personal aspects of himself into his setting. For this question I had to interpret the story as being a literal description of the places in it. When the narrator reaches the bazaar, for example, the silence within it is compared to that which "pervades a church after a service." In short, the main attraction has ended, and the narrator has reached the bazaar too late. This description reflects the narrator's disappointment at how little the bazaar actually meant to him. Similarly, when the narrator mentions the previous occupant of their house being a priest who died there, it draws references to the church. Like a priest himself, the narrator worships and praises the divine, or his view of Mangan's sister. When his hopes of impressing her or drawing her attention die, it is like a priest losing his faith and realizing he has nothing left to move him forward. The worshiper in the narrator has died.

    3. An element of unattainability relates both the bazaar and Mangan's sister to the protagonist. As she mentions, she belongs to a convent, and cannot attend the bazaar; this further illustrates her position, just out of reach of the narrator's grasp forever. By going, and bringing back something for Mangan's sister, the narrator imagines he can breach that gap between them. Yet the bazaar, like the narrator's love, is also just out of reach for him. Before he goes, he must wait to borrow some money from his uncle. Before he arrives, he must take the slow train for the bazaar. And by the time he has got there, everyone has packed up and gone. There is nothing to keep him there. In fact, the whole visit was pointless, for even if he had brought something back for Mangan's sister, even if he had impressed her by doing so, she would still never be able to see him romantically as he desires.

    4. This experiences leads to the theme of the story, which is illustrated fully in the last sentence. After reading the boy's story, it wasalready evident to me that his entire visit to the bazaar couldn't end in satisfaction. For one, he had arrived too late, and for another, his attempt to woo Mangan's sister had a foregone conclusion: she belonged to a convent and could therefore never be his. What the final sentence describes is the circumstances which encouraged the narrator to go to the bazaar anyway. "Vanity of vanities; all is vanity" -- so ends the story of the boy's quest for approval. He is a victim of his own vanity, in thinking that he could possibly win over Mangan's sister with a gift from a bazaar. The people at the bazaar themselves irritate his pride by inquiring into his motives for being there. Because he went to the bazaar anyway, after he knew he would be too late to buy anything, the boy has shown vanity once again. Driven by vanity, he sought to impress Mangan's sister; driven by vanity, he persisted in his quest, though it would inevitably prove futile; and derided by vanity at the last, he realizes that his efforts have been, in fact, all in vain. Another example of the boy's vanity is in his fantasies about himself and Mangan's sister: he says, "I imagined that I bore my chalice [the image of Mangan's sister] safely through a throng of foes." Obviously, his position has been exaggerated dramatically. It is when the boy finally accepts this that he finds himself a creature of vanity, and his eyes burn "with anguish and anger" because it is, after all, only his own fault.

  2. 1. Instead of plot, Joyce’s Araby relies heavily on imagery. All details are related through the narrator to the reader in first person, giving the reader the narrator’s perspective. Because the story centers on the narrator’s feelings, the emotional reactions to his surroundings, whether positive or negative, are magnified. Joyce writes, “We walked through the flaring streets…amid the curses of labourers, the shrill litanies of shop-boys who stood on guard by the barrels of pigs’ cheeks, the nasal changing of street-singers.” While a detached observer may not have found the market as hostile, the narrator’s description makes it appear so. To him, it is not only a market but a reminder of his absent love.
    The descriptions of Mangan’s sister are also exaggerated. Joyce writes, “She held one of the spikes, bowing her head towards me. The light from the lamp opposite our door caught the white curve of her neck, lit up her hair that rested there and, falling, lit up the hand upon the railing.” In the narrator’s eyes, Mangan’s sister becomes deserving of careful attention. Joyce does not hint that another perspective exists because it would diminish the story. The content depends on the narrator’s emotional conflicts, and another perspective would reduce their validity and importance.
    2. The narrator’s description of the house, the street, and the weather are unflattering. He says, “When we met in the street the houses had grown somber,” showing the dismal quality of his surroundings. He calls the street lamps “feeble” and says that the air “stung” his body. Although he does not directly criticize his home or wish for another, he finds it mundane. The narrator’s emotional life is also disillusioned from the everyday occurrences, encouraging him to seek something unknown.
    The former tenant and his death emphasize the narrator’s dreary perspective. The narrator does not state that he was happy or upset, but describes the tenant’s decaying surroundings. Like the street, the house, and the weather, the narrator is uninterested in him and his possessions. When he says that his favorite book from the tenant is The Memoirs of Vidocq, it is not because he is interested in the book but because of the color of its pages.
    3. Unlike the boy’s surroundings, Mangan’s sister and the bazaar represent the unknown in the boy’s mind. The boy states that he hardly spoke to Mangan’s sister, adding to her mysterious appeal. Similarly, the bazaar “cast an Eastern enchantment over [him].”
    The boy views the bazaar as a means to attain Mangan’s sister. When he is pushed away by the inhospitable saleswoman, he believes he has failed. His time spent with the saleswoman, at the bazaar, and trying to buy a present for Mangan’s sister becomes a reminder of his defeat. He becomes disillusioned because his only goal escapes his reach.
    4. The last sentence is the boy’s reflection on himself, both who he was and who he became through his disillusionment. While it did not change my impression of the boy, it intensified his emotions. He says his “eyes burned with anguish and anger,” making his failure more than disappointment or frustration. The boy’s quest for and failure to attain aesthetic gratification makes him a victim of vanity. When he realizes the nature of his desires, he becomes angry at himself and the world for wanting and failing to achieve his goal.

  3. 1. The protagonist of the story describes North Richmond Street, his house, Mangan’s sister, and the bazaar Joyce with gloomy words such as “dark” and “feeble.” They probably would not physically look that depressing from a bystander who was not familiar with the internal conflicts of the narrator. The story hints that the boy is telling the story from the point of view of himself, many years after the events occurred. If he were to of told the story while still young, he would not refer to himself as “vain” or “foolish.”

    2. The narrator describes the street and house as “somber” and “dark,” which are similar to his feelings at the end of the story when he realizes he does not have a chance with Mangan’s sister, as well as the general mood of the individuals living in the house, who do not necessarily express happiness in the story. The former tenant of the house, who was a priest, was a worshipper of God, similar to the protagonist’s worshipping of Mangan’s sister. The close connection that a priest would feel with God is similar to that of one whose thoughts of a girl caused their “soul [to be] luxuriated and cast an Eastern enchantment over me.”

    3. Both Mangan’s sister and the bazaar are out of the boy’s reach. The girl is unattainable not only because she belongs to a convent, which would most likely discourage a young girl to have a romantic relationship with a boy, but also because she barely knows him. Although the boy seems to know the girl well from his daily stalking of her, he admits that he “never spoken to her, except for a few casual words.” His sense of reality did not kick in until he went to the bazaar, stating that his “stay was useless”, just as his chances with Mangan’s sister were useless.

    4. The last sentence of the story is the point of realization for the protagonist. Throughout the whole story, he has the false idea that he could be in a romantic relationship with Mangan's sister, to the point that he goes out of his way to try and please her, such as by going to the bazaar late to get her a gift. The final sentence of the story did not change my view of the story. Once it is clear that the narrator was not going to obtain anything for his dream girl at Araby, it is obvious to the reader that his thoughts and actions were all in vain. The last sentence was simply confirmation of what was hinted at. When he finally realizes that he never stood a chance with her, he feels "anguish and anger" for his vanity, which allowed him to have false hope.

    - Peter Washington
    Period 7

  4. 1. James Joyce describes North Richmond Street as a "blind" and "quiet street except at the hour when the Christian Brother's School set the boys free" (pg.1 Paragraph 1,
    Line 1-2). Joyce's diction when describing the street is meant to emphasize his perspective of the street. As an observer, the reason behind such description is intriguing but it seems as though most streets located in communities have the same characteristics, especially those near schools. In regards to the perception of Mangan's sister, one might say she is innocent and thoughtful for instead of attending the Bazaar, she "would [attend] a retreat in her convent" (pg.2 Paragraph. 4, Line 2-3). When the boy describes his home, he mentions that "the former tenant of [his] house, a priest, had died in the back drawing room" (pg.1 paragraph 2, Line 1-2). Upon reading these lines, the reader is somewhat puzzled and a question arises pertaining to the significance of the death and its correlation to the house. This also gives the boy's environment an eerie portrayal. Due to the possible presence of his love at the bazaar, the boy perceives the gathering as something it is not. From a reader's point of view, the bazaar did not seem interesting to begin with but the fact that Mangan's sister was supposedly attending, this lead to the boy's excitement and ambition to go as well. According to my point of view, Joyce does not hint that there is another point of view due the diction and repetition of the boy's emotions and perspective.

    2. As previously mentioned, the boy describes the street as "blind" and "quiet". The boy's gloomy portrayal of his surroundings indicates a sense of loneliness and isolation from the world. In addition, the narrator seems to degrade these objects he describes based on his use of diction. When the boy mentions that "the former tenant of [his] house, a priest, had died in the back drawing room" (pg.1 paragraph 2, Line 1-2), it invokes confusion as to why he would reveal such private history. It also adds a creepy feeling towards the house, the boys living condition, and his mental status.

    3. Upon attending the bazaar, the boy has love and excitement embedded in his mind. The only reason he made himself present at the bazaar is because of Mangan's sister. When Mangan's sister talks to the boy, "[he is] confused that [he does] not know [how] to answer."As he listens, it seems as though he becomes infatuated with her. This emotional attachment leads the boy to believe she is divine and that if she says the bazaar "would be splendid" and that "she would love to go", he trys to do all that he can to attend. The boy's quest is to attend the bazaar in order to retrieve "a token of love" and give it to Mangan's sister. What the boy fails to realize is that this girl and the bazaar are not all what they appear to be.

    4.The last sentence signifies enlightenment for the boy. Due to his failure to retrieve something for the girl and the fact that he actually attended such unexciting bazaar emphasizes his embarassment and foolishness. The boy feels "anguish and anger" because he finally came to realize that love is blind. Although this did not alter my perspective of the story, it had a greater emotional impact on the boy. Unfortunately, the boy had to experience such dissapointment in order to realize the truth.

  5. 1. I think Joyce effectively eliminates any possibility for this story to be seen with another point of view. Words like "blind" give it a single point of view. A detached viewer would probably see the imagery invoked by the narrator like the "ever-changing violet" of the sky and the "cold air [sting]." The image invoked by the "sombre" streets, "use-less papers," "the white boarder of a petticoat," and the "silence that ... [pervaded]" the bazaar are all specific to the narrator emotionally, but are broad enough for a reader to relate. I suppose that the places would generally look the same, but without the emotional experience attached.

    2. The time of year is winter so the narrator is probably sad. This is conformed by the overall negative tone he uses to describe the street ("sombre," "feeble," "silent," "muddy"). His description of the house is also generally negative ("useless," "musty," "rusty"). I think this story also shows a detachment from religion because it is not ever represented in a positive light. The priest dies in a musty house. The best time of day was when the christian school was let out. Mangan's sister could not go to the bazaar because she had a retreat for her convent.

    3. Both Mangan's sister and items at the bazaar are unattainable. He was too late to buy anything from the bazaar and could only admire the items for sale. He is younger than Mangan's sister and that puts a gap between them. Their relationship is defined by admiration only. Nothing is reciprocated because he watched in a way that "[he] could not be seen." The boy was disillusioned because he thought he could buy something from the bazaar and obtain the sister's affection. Neither could be achieved, so therefore he is disillusioned.

    4. In the last sentence the boy realizes that all he did was in vain. It did not alter my way of thinking because throughout the story there was an underlying tone of negativity, so i was not too optimistic for the boy. The boy was a victim of vanity because he thought that if he bought her something he would gain her affections. He did not consider her feelings and pursued her for a selfish reason.

  6. 1. Joyce adds a subtle, yet apparent layer to the troubling points in “Araby”. When the narrator is clearly unhappy, the weather reflects that. Beyond this simple interpretation, an observer may actually see something different about the scene than is presented by Joyce. From Joyce’s words, the narrator’s lust for Mangan’s sister causes the weather to be frightful. This gives a sense of desperation to the story, a sense often seen in the depressing scenes in modern filmography. However, an observer may see the scene as being a hopeful scene, with the narrator apparently praying for love. Joyce does this by slipping in sneaky words. He writes, “I pressed the palms of my hands together until they trembled, murmuring: ‘O love!…”. Joyce sneaks in the word “murmuring”, which may not seem too uncommon in context, but is actually different from the norm. Usually, someone who cries for love actually raises their voice above ten decibels. Using this subtle word changes the scene from an episode of desperation to an episode of hope. Joyce shows, perhaps intentionally or unintentionally, two different sides of looking at the apparently depressing scenes.
    2. Joyce describes the neighborhood as, “being blind”, which also shows his attitude towards the characters. Whenever the narrator would pass Mangan’s sister in the hallway, he would always pretend that he was blind, so he could avoid talking to her. When the day of the Araby bazaar finally comes, Joyce describes the streets as “glaring with gas”, which reflects the narrator’s impatience. Throughout the story, Joyce has been holding back the narrator’s temper, slowly leaking parts out in various forms. This draws anticipation from the reader, as Joyce sells the narrator’s mistakenly channeled anger towards his uncle.
    3. In the boy’s mind, Mangan’s sister and the bazaar both represent the fun times of childhood. The bazaar is, of course, an epitome of fun. The whole point of a bazaar is to provide entertainment for the visitors. In contrast, Mangan’s sister is a person who brings a different kind of fun to the boy. Joyce portrays the boy as having feelings for Mangan’s sister, writing that “her name was like a summons to all [his] foolish blood”. In more general terms, the narrator aligns the bazaar and Mangan’s sister together, because they have a distinct relationship (Mangan’s sister wanted to attend the bazaar). Because Mangan’s sister’s presence and the upcoming bazaar are seemingly the only two interesting things in his life, he links them together (like vectors, which when combined increase in amplitude). When the boy failed complete his quest at the bazaar, he realized that Mangan’s sister didn’t actually want the boy to get something for her. The boy offered to get something, and Mangan’s sister accepted. Nothing else. He mistakenly thought that he could still fulfill his quest after 9:00, which is improbable considering that most people who work in circuses and etc. usually rest at night.
    4. The last sentence of the story is by far the most powerful. This sentence definitely ties the whole story together. The boy finally understands that this event was a test of his maturity, a test of his wits. Of course, he is still a boy and ultimately failed the test. Up until this point, I had thought of the boy worthy of being a “man”, however, now I realize that he is not yet up to that stage. He thought he was much older than he was, and his maturity is actually advanced for his age. Unfortunately, he thought of himself as being too special, and in this case he was robbed by vanity. His excessive pride and hope for Mangan’s sister is what I think caused his ultimate failure.

  7. 1. The viewpoint of the narrator uses intense imagery to convey a sense of existence and ultimate experience. This experience is on par with tranquility and at the same time, despair. There are sparse emotions that flutter and fall within the story. The narrator’s viewpoint of “North Richmond Street” is specific to his experience. To him, it is a street cut off from the rest of the world. The boy’s house is “musty from having been long enclosed, hung in all the rooms, and the waste room behind the kitchen was littered with old useless papers.” In this case, the house can be viewed as a desolate place. Although none of what is described is necessarily bad, Joyce utilizes despairing diction to evoke a decaying, even dying environment that reveals a feeling of captivity in the narrator. In regard to the bazaar, the narrator appears to abandon all other events in his life including school, family, and reading at night. They “chafe” at his mind, and become irritable when competing with his anticipatory thoughts of the bazaar, “in which [his] soul luxuriated and cast an Eastern enchantment over [him].” Within the viewpoints of narrator, there appears a conflict of interest as well as a lack of assurance underlying his desires. Love captivates the narrator and the rest of the world is left behind him. All other objects that would appear rather significant or nerve-soothing to others become secondary to the character. Joyce’s other point of view derives from the narrators lack of stability, who actually has two points of view. Throughout most of the novel, he appears to have only one, but the end reveals that he is aware of his vanity and is ashamed of his submission to something as deceptive as love. The close attention to diction in the way the narrator views a house, the weather, or simply a girl reveals the point of view of the narrator and any slight change in diction (such as the last line of the story) reveals the second point of view.
    2. The narrator’s descriptions of the separate entities that surround him reflect his secret emotions towards his surroundings. The narrator describes his experiences with intensified emotional connection or detachment. Either description reveals the narrator’s internal struggles, hopes, and dreams. Rather than inquiring what the narrator is thinking through his actions, the reader must look at the little details of life that accrue to build up a greater picture. The “old newspapers” and “musty air” in his house indicate a sense of boredom and dullness. The view of the street as “blind” reveals the isolation that the narrator feels amongst the rest of the world. Everyone else is oblivious to his existence. The emotional attachment to the settings reveals character’s connection to those settings. In the case of the old tenant, Joyce wishes to convey the dead weight and insignificance of the past, reduced to meaningless dust; only solid yet banal objects such as furniture remain to be willed to surviving family. The narrator appears as a character who is attempting to move forward in his life. The reference to the old tenant provides a counter-melody to the main flow of the story. This counter melody in turn heightens or brings out the intent of the narrator.
    3. The common element that unifies the bazaar and the girl is captivation and hope. There is also a lack of tangible satisfaction. Both are conceptions of something beyond pleasure and tranquility. However, neither one appears satisfactory in the end. The bazaar seemed like paradise because it is where the narrator would find true love, or even a little happiness, which was all the more meaningful in his dull life, living in a dull house, inhabited by a dull priest, all under dull weather.
    4. The final sentence of the story acts as a summation of all the previous events of the story. The narrator, captivated by his love for Mangan’s sister, finds himself in a place of tragedy. The entire story builds up to the event in which he “gets the girl” and everybody lives happily ever after. Joyce plays on this by taking away the stereotypical ending to a love story and slaps on the final line. The fact that his “eyes burned with anguish and anger” reveals his admission to defeat. It also reveals his understanding that his admiration of a girl and the vanity of submitting all that was significant to this overwhelming fantasy was ridiculous, for in the end, all he received was heartbreak. The last line also reveals that the narrator is furious and frustrated with his own carelessness. Before hand, the bazaar seemed like a Utopia where happiness would be found, solely because of Mangan’s sister, and for no other reason. Without her, bazaar is nothing more than a vacant carnival.

  8. 1. The narrator describes everything as "blind" and "dark". This almost certainly shows that the original view point is not of the boy during the events, but as a grown man (or at least an older person) looking back on these events. They would not be represented as well by a by-stander or other person, because there is the fact that they would not have actually shared those thoughts and experiences. His mind frame has excluded those other potential narrators. If a detached observer saw those houses, and that neighborhood, they would not be seen as gloomy or depressing.
    2. The way the neighborhood is described makes it seem quite depressing, as mentioned above, by myself and others. The words he uses to describe them are less describing them as they are describing HIM. He sees himself as blind, so the houses are blind. He sees himself as dark and feeble, so the neighborhood is dark and feeble. The reference to the former tennant serves to further the mood of loss and depression.
    3. The narrator sees them both as unreachable. He can neither get to the bazaar on time, nor convince himself to talk to Mangan's sister. For the bazaar, his father is late, he has to eat dinner, and so on. For the girl, she is training to be a nun in a convent, and he has never actually talked to her. He admits that all he really does is look at her through the window, or walk next to her to school.
    4.The last sentence of the story seems to make the story make a little bit more sense. With the knowledge provided from the last sentence, the reader can go back and understand the narrator's thought process a little better. Also, the narrator never actually fell victim to vanity, as vanity comes from a large ego, and without an ego, he would not have fallen victim to vanity. Vanity is one's own creation, and saying one has fallen victim to it is a way of being in denial about the fact that they do not have what it takes to do whatever they are doing. Therefore, he never actually was a victim, rather an accomplice to the crime, much like the get away driver.

  9. This is very late, but here you go. I was unable to find where the post for this story.

    Gabriel Garcia Marquez's "Death Constant Beyond Love" is a short story, that at the first read to me was really odd. DCBL, starts out by talking about poverty issues with in a town in India, and soon after becomes a story about an older man having an affair with a young girl. I didn't understand, I knew the situation, but didn't comprehend why it had happened. I wasn't too fond of the story. It was just kinda dull, and creepy. I wish I had like it better.

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  11. 1) To a detached observer the house and street would not seem depressing at all. The boys view on the world is structured around his own depression and sadness. The boy does not offer another point of view. He is quite consistent with his dark view of the world.

    2)The boy describes the street as "blind and quiet, until the Christian Brother School let out". This shows that the boys view of the world is filled with depression and sadness. However the "christian children" seem to completely change that, possibly displaying the character's joy for a religious surrounding. He then goes on to say that the past tenant(a priest) had died in the drawing room. Which again shows the boys depression and gloomy mood when observing his surroundings. The boy always describes Mangan's sister by saying something along the lines of "her figure defined by the light from the half-opened door". Referring to her not by name but as a "figure" that he could see by light. Which coincides with his blind love for her. Hes obsessed because he sees her as more than a person, something special, and pure. Characterized by a shadow, not flesh a bones.

    3) The boy sees the bazaar as his chance to impress Mangan's sister. He wants to buy her a gift thereby, expressing his love for her. However, anxiously anticipating, and acting result in two separate outcomes. Him yearning for his chance excites him emotionally. He is ready and can't wait for his chance to win his true love. However, when the time comes, and the action is actually acted out, he finally comes to realize that neither the bazaar or Mangan's sister are as they seemed in his dilutional past.

    4) The last sentence says "Gazing up into the darkness I saw myself as a creature driven and derided by vanity; and my eyes burned with anguish and anger.". The boy says this after the bazaar is over. He realizes that his has failed. He did not talk or buy a gift for Mangan's sister. He is angry at himself and his situation. The money he once begged to obtain is now carelessness dropped on the ground, with his hopes and desires for Mangan's sister. Nothing matters now, because the only thing that ever mattered was his blind love for Mangan's sister. This does not alter my thinking about the story. The reader immediately recognizes the boy as delusional, and can easily anticipate an inevitable failure. I believe the boy is a victim of vanity. He becomes obsessed with not his own appearance, but Mangan's sister's apperance.