27th July 2015.

Critical Analysis of Araby

In critical analysis of any piece of literature, the response of the reader after reading the literary work is quite important in bringing out the different perspectives that the work offers. It is as a result of this that there exist numerous types of views offered by different readers, over the same piece of work. The short story entitled ‘Araby’ by James Joyce is one example of literary work that offers quite a distinctive and deep interpretation of different aspects. This is through employment of lens theories, which offer the chance for this awareness (Anne, 4).This paper is going to analyze Araby by employing the Marxist theory ,one of the main lens theories.

The story is about the discouragement that the narrator of the story experiences as a result of the lack of faith in what was initially thought to be love, and subsequent futile efforts to obtain the same from a girl. The narrator is a young boy, infatuated with the elder sister to his friend, living with his uncle and aunt. He is deeply attracted by the physical appearance of Mangan’s sister  and has a strong sexual desire towards her. He is obsessed with her “figure defined by the light”,her dress which “swung as she moved her body”and“the soft rope of her hair tossed from side to side”(par 3,lines 19-20).

The boy has failed in expressing the same to the girl, and the only time he does, he ends up disillusioned. “These noises con-verged in a single sensation of life for me: I imagined that I bore my chalice safely through a throng of foes.”The best lens theory to be used here is the Marxist approach, which generally bases its critical analysis on the historical background and environment that existed while the work was being done.

There is a general perception throughout the story, a perception that is full of religious sarcasm. The story opens with a description of North Richmond Street, a”blind,” “cold … .. silent” street where the houses “gazed at one an-other with brown imperturbable faces.”(Par 1,lines 1 -6). This is especially concerning the people in the area known as North Richmond Street, who are deemed to be ‘blind.’ In relation to the heavy Catholic influence in the region, the story goes that these people will only cease to be blind when the Christian school, housing the Brothers, decides to give them freedom. In this scenario, religion works as a tool with which the whole society then, had to adhere to under every circumstance.

Marxist criticism here is applicable in that there is a clear indication that religion is the control measure used to guide the general conduct of people. The narrator for example, at one time decides to isolate himself from the general public and sit by himself, to continue entertaining his fertile sexual fantasies about Mangan’s sister. The trip to Araby as well is taken by the narrator to be a holy trip to search for a gift for the lady. There is a lot of allusion between these acts and those practiced by the Roman Catholic Church (par 3). He recognizes “a silence like that which prevades a church after a service” but the bazaar is dirty and disappointing.

The lady herself, Mangan’s sister, is also seen to have some reservations as far as going to the bazaar is concerned. This is seen by her constant twisting of bracelets when asked whether she will go to the bazaar, by the narrator(par 8 ,lines 1-2). It can be viewed as a Freudian slip which demonstrates her constraint of her longings for the bazaar because of the religious retreat, which is a commitment in Roman Catholicism. The author’s view of the bazaar shifts gradually from that of euphoria and excitement, to utter disappointment. This is especially once he realizes that he has missed the main target of all his efforts. In some way also, this can be interpreted as the author’s negative impression and perception of British domination. In Marxist critical analysis, it is often common to categorize and compare things as placed in different classes. For example, the categorization of those in power, and the weak. This is greatly determined by the race .In the story and the centre, the two gentlemen and the lady are the epitome of strength and power due to the fact that they are of British descent (Joyce, 7).

Apart from the central position of the church, Marxist criticism offers another central institution in the story; the family. The narrator is under a family, of his uncle and aunt. As a result, he seems to uphold all the traditional expectations of a child, or children, towards family. This can be seen by his utmost fear and respect for the uncle. He could sometimes hide whenever the uncle was present(par 3,lines 13-15). He also shows that he is fully dependent on the uncle even for the money to go to the bazaar. However, there is evidence of sufficient growth by the narrator, after he comes to see the uncle to be a drunkard and somehow irresponsible. The narrator therefore, instead of blindly conforming to the standard rules of family, decides to have his own view as well. This is some kind of self realization and growth. This situation, when looked at in the general picture, can be used to compare between the prevailing relationship between Ireland and England. Inasmuch as Ireland is still under the wings of England, it is trying its best to come out sand be on its own (par 12 & 13).

In conclusion, the Marxist literary form of criticism is a more potent formula of analyzing the work, since it opens a window into what the book communicates to the society. It guides individuals on how it is possible to view the book through the lens of the society in general. The audience is offered an opportunity to view the whole picture based on the background, rather than just the emotions.



Works Cited

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Dobie, Ann B. Theory into Practice: An Introduction to Literary Criticism. Boston, MA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2010. Print.

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Joyce, James.  “Araby.” The Norton Introduction to Literature, Shorter Eighth Edition.  Eds. Jerome Beaty, Alison Booth, J. Paul Hunter, and Kelly J. Mays.  New York: W.W.Norton.  395-399.

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