Ahhh, The Struggles of Young Love



In “Araby,” James Joyce suggests that everyone experiences a desire for love and change, but these desires are frustrating and limited. The glamor of new love intertwines with the drudgery and monotony of everyday life. Joyce represents this through the narrator’s boyhood crush. Mangan’s sister, the person of his affection, fills the narrator with joy and feelings of young love. Lets be honest, he is borderline stalker. “Every morning I lay on the floor in the front parlour watching her door. The bind was pulled down to within an inch of the sash so that I could not be seen. When she came out on the doorstep my heart leapt. I ran to the hall, seized my books and followed her.” (2632). The poor guy is madly in lust for her. The narrator can’t go a moment without thinking of her, yet these thoughts must compete with the dullness of his life. What he wants most from this one-sided relationship is a change to his everyday life. He is bored and irritated with his daily schedule. This is clear through the language the narrator uses, such as his description of “tedious intervening days”. Mangan’s sister is his opportunity for change.

Then the big day finally comes. It is the day the narrator finally gets the opportunity to woo Mangan’s sister with a beautiful gift from the bazaar. Yet things are not going well for him. The day starts with the narrator’s uncle blocking the boy’s view of Mangan’s sister. He begins to have a gut feeling that something is wrong: “and already my heart misgave me” (2634). Unfortunately for the narrator, he is delayed in leaving for the bazaar by his Uncle’s drunkenness and forgetfulness. These delays indicate that love is unattainable for people, especially for the narrator. He has big dreams for love, but these dreams are shattered. After finally getting on train and arriving at the bazaar, the narrator is thwarted by empty stalls, ugly vases, and flowered teacups. These were not the exotic novelties the narrator was expecting to help him woo his love.

It is at this moment that the narrator realizes his expectations for love are misguided and meaningless. The narrator, in a fit of depression and realization, states, “Gazing up into darkness I saw myself as a creature driven and derided by vanity; and my eyes burned with anguish and anger” (2635). The boy’s epiphany helps him conclude that he was so largely driven by a longing for change and love that he released his self worth. The narrator is so angry with himself that he cannot yet contemplate his actions. We have all been in this situation before: you make a stupid decision in regard to love (possibly making a fool of yourself in the process), and all you can do is cry because you are so angry. This is exactly how the narrator is feeling. We see that Joyce is making this story plausible for all readers. He uses a first-person narrative, never giving a name to the narrator, so readers can incorporate themselves as the narrator. Mangan’s sister also remains nameless, as though she is any girl. Likewise, she is never given a full description. This allows readers to fill in their own desired picture of the sister (possibly of the reader’s own love interest). This makes the story universal to all readers, suggesting that everyone experiences frustrations in regard to change and love.

In a way, Mangan’s sister seems diabolical and heartless for denying the narrator’s request for going to the bazaar but still silently asking for a gift. Considering she is nameless and faceless, I wonder if Joyce is suggesting that women are in charge of mens’ suffering in regard to love and change. (Hmmm, doesn’t that sound familiar?)


5 thoughts on “Ahhh, The Struggles of Young Love

  1. Kristen, I completely overlooked the significance of the uncle blocking the narrator’s view. This seems important since it is the uncle whose unconcern later almost keeps the boy from getting to Araby, and actually does make him so late that his romantic quest fails. I think this is an important point — why is the uncle (a fractured paternal figure) so obviously an obstacle to the boy’s quest for transcendence? If he is trying to overcome the “drudgery and monotony of everyday life,” as you correctly point out, then the uncle is one of the reasons he fails. Does this say something about his circumstances, his family or country, conspiring to keep him down? But then, how does the aunt factor in? She actually intercedes to get him to Araby, but too late to do any good. Could the pseudo-“parents” be representative of two visions of Ireland — with the aunt the giving “Mother Ireland” figure and the uncle showcasing the stereotypical view of the Irish shared by many English (untrustworthy, drunkard, etc.) In either case, even with the aunt’s intercession, he cannot escape real life, and is left in “anguish and anger” as he contemplates the reality of his — per modernism — useless and futile existence.

  2. I didn’t think the girl was solely responsible for the breakdown and suffering of the narrator. I felt the scene at the bazaar was a realization to him of the phoniness involved in courtship and relationships. He was seeking genuine love and he found himself wasting the little money he had on some useless gift, hoping to win her devotions. He also overheard the pointless flirting of the market woman, whom treats him like he’s just some dumb kid, “Once or twice the young lady glanced at me over her shoulder” (2635), she has to make sure he doesn’t break anything too. This all left him feeling dejected. I didn’t think the girl was diabolical, more ignorant, she hasn’t had the “aha moment” that the narrator experiences to realize the foolishness of the established social scripts of courting.

    1. Maranda, I absolutely love your point that the scene that the narrator experiences at Araby is a more genuine contribution to his emotional climax in the last lines that make him feel “anguish and anger.” He comes upon the realization that the fantasy world that he’s been living in by obsessing over Mangan’s sister is not the reality that he will experience once he gets out into the world. The turning off of the gallery lights making the hall completely dark is a symbol for the narrator turning off his fantasy and facing reality.

  3. I appreciated how you brought up the fact that the uncle blocked the boy’s view while he was watching Mangan’s sister. Your view that this indicates love is unattainable is an interesting thought! This is a significant aspect of the story! I also liked your interpreatation of why the narrator and Mangan’s sister do not have names. I agree that it makes the story relatable to the readers. I don’t think the girl was completely responsible for the narrator’s suffering at the end. I think he did enough to set himself up – he watched her for so long and created this wonderful, woman on a pedestal. I can understand the girl’s role, but I would argue that, in a way, he set himself up for suffering.

  4. I think you propose a very interesting question at the end of your post here. I can see where Joyce possibly is proposing that women are a major thorn in the side of men. Love is a very complicated subject which I think Joyce shows very strongly in Araby. I’m not sure if Joyce is saying women make men suffer due to change, but an argument could be made for women making men suffer in terms of love. Rejection is a very harsh reality for most people and something us humans often try very hard to avoid. Women throughout history are notorious for rejecting men which causes them pain and sometimes, like in the case of the narrator of our story, lose his faith in love altogether. Joyce here is not only possibly saying men can suffer due to the misplacement of a woman’s love but also lose their faith in it all together.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s