Childhood ("Araby")

Joyce's depiction of childhood is concerned with the first stage of paralysis. All three stories begin with the central characters in an optimistic frame of mind. Their individual epiphanies open their eyes to their own limitations and we leave them struggling to deal with their first tastes of disillusionment.

Images of sight and blindness, light and dark, dominate the narrative of Araby. The word "blind" is used, first, for the physical description of North Richmond Street, then as a noun to describe the object behind which the boy hides behind when watching Mangan's sister. Joyce is using the word in its subsidiary senses but always as a poet so that the image of blindness in its obvious sense hangs over the opening of the story. Equally, the image of darkness dominates the opening scene of the children at play. It is from the shadows that the boys watch Mangan's sister who herself stands in front of the light so that her shape is silhouetted in the doorway. The narrator goes on to describe how his "eyes were often full of tears". This image expresses the way that sentiment distorts his vision of the world. This idea is met in the next sentence where he admits "I thought little of the future".

The language of the story takes on the tone of a heroic quest: "What innumerable follies laid waste my waking and sleeping thoughts after that evening! I wished to annihilate the tedious intervening days. I chafed against the work of school." The syntactical shape of the first sentence is that of the heroic mode. This ironic use of the style is called mock-heroic. Consider the quality of individual words or phrases such as "innumerable follies", "laid waste", "annihilate" and "chafed".

The epiphany of the story takes the boy to the bazaar only to find that he has arrived too late - "the greater part of the hall was in darkness". The images of blindness and darkness are ironised, as it is only when "the hall was now completely dark" that the boy finds the clearness of sight to fully apprehend his own behaviour: "Gazing up into the darkness I saw myself as a creature driven and derided by vanity".

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