James Joyce uses geographic, religious, and political metaphors to draw the reader through his dark perception of Ireland’s true reality. Ireland specific geographical position plays a role in the manner in which Joyce presents the story of "Araby". Religious undertones are used bring to light negative ideas that imply that the Catholic Church is losing its stronghold over the religious Irish people. Political ideals disguised by the immature nature of the main character help Joyce sculpt a dark and dreary picture of Ireland in its current state of nationalistic leadership. The author carefully takes the reader into the world of his innocence and describes how his perception of clarity turns day into night.
Joyce uses the house at the end of his street to portray the country of Ireland. It's a symbol, a representation of Ireland. "An uninhabited house of two stories stood at the blind end, detached from its neighbours." (Joyce 1000). Ireland is found on the western coast of Europe, detached, isolated from the rest of the continent. Ireland is pushed up against the Atlantic ocean, a country removed from its peers, a global dead end. An island who's citizens have been split into two different religions, layering society like the two stories of the house. The reformers called the English Protestants, and the Irish Catholics. Joyce uses dark imagery to define not only the house on the dead end (Ireland) but all of Europe. "The other houses of the street, conscious of decent within them, gazed at one another with brown imperturbable faces." (Joyce 1000). This type of imagery can be construed as anti-Irish.
Joyce sees religion as the force that had possessed Ireland, but has died. Leaving Ireland a vacant run down house, open to exploration, and exploitation. "The former tenant of our house, a priest, had died in the back."(Joyce 1000). This leaves the children of the neighbourhood as the new possessors of the home. The narrorator inherits the house in an illegitimate way. Joyce connects the main character to the house, giving us the impression that the child is the new heart of Ireland. An illegitimate heart, that is still too young to understand what it holds. The narrator’s experiences and their outcomes define what the narrator feels. The narrator is Ireland in the story, now that the old priest has died. The boy uses the house, the room which the priest died in to express his desires. " I went into the back drawing room in which the priest had died ... pressed my hands together until they trembled, murmuring O love! O love! many times. (Joyce 1001). The narrorator has a longing to be accepted and to be loved . Organized religion is set on the backburner to love in the story. This would have been viewed as anti Catholic meaning anti Irish.
The main character is exposed to a certain view on life politically. "We walked through the flaring streets....the nasal chanting of the singers who sang a come-all-you about O'Donovan Rossa or a ballad about the troubles in our native land. The noises converged in a single sensation of life for me." (Joyce 1001). Joyce is implying that the new keepers of Ireland (keepers of the house at the end of the street) primary outlook on life was a sensation of revolution. In other words instability and chaos were prevalent giving the impression that Ireland is on shaky ground. This could also be interpreted as anti-Irish.
Ireland is a house on a dead end road. The old Catholic soul that had been taking care of it has died. A young boy has replaced the Catholic priest as the head of the house, but the boy isn't ready. He inherited the house illegitimately. The boy’s goal is to be accepted, and to love. Joyce finished the story, "Gazing up into the darkness I saw myself as a creature driven and derived by vanity and my eyes burned with anguish and anger" (Joyce 1004), leaving the reader with the impression that Joyce feels Ireland is an immature child with high hopes that are destined to fail. "Araby" was written by Joyce to show the audience, the masses how he felt about the nation from which he came. Although he may have ultimately had loyalty towards his native land, his distain for Catholicism and the political, religious and socioeconomic status of Ireland is clearly evident in much of his work. "Araby" is no exception to this, even as it looks at alternate themes of love, innocence, and his character's epiphany of the futility of his idealism. This might have been seen as anti Irish.
Joyce, J. “Araby”. The Harbrace Anthology of Literature 4th ed. Ed. Jon C.
Stott, Raymond E. Jones, and Rick Bowers. Toronto: Thomson
Nelson, 2006. 1000-1004.