Alienation of "Araby"
Although "Araby" is a fairly short story, author James Joyce does a remarkable job of discussing some very deep issues within it. On the surface it appears to be a story of a boy's trip to the market to get a gift for the girl he has a crush on. Yet deeper down it is about a lonely boy who makes a pilgrimage to an eastern-styled bazaar in hopes that it will somehow alleviate his miserable life. James Joyce's uses the boy in "Araby" to expose a story of isolation and lack of control. These themes of alienation and control are ultimately linked because it will be seen that the source of the boy's emotional distance is his lack of control over his life. The story begins as the boy describes his neighborhood.
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A good example of the boy's emotional distance comes from his own words: "From the front window I saw my companions playing below in the street. Their cries reached me weakened and indistinct (Norton Anthology 2238)." It is odd that he uses the word "companions" to describe his friends in the street. At that point, they are clearly not his physical companions. They are in the street and he is in a high, cold, empty, gloomy room. Nevertheless, the word "companions" is fitting in a more significant way. It shows the extent of the boy's alienation. They are his closest physical ties, yet he can barely hear them, let alone speak with them. The journey to Araby is a lonely one. He spends the entire journey in the "bare carriage
of a deserted train (Norton Anthology 2239)." At one point, it appears the boy's solitude may be relieved when "a crowd of people pressed the carriage doors; but the porters moved them back (Norton Anthology 2239)." It is as if the porter is in on some cruel plot to keep him isolated. When the boy finally reaches Araby, more disappointment is to follow. It begins at the entrance where the boy is forced to give in and pay more than he had planned. He "could not find any sixpenny entrance and, fearing that the bazaar would be closed, passed in quickly through a turnstile (Norton Anthology 2239)." While at the time this likely does not bother the boy, it is telling of the further coldness that bazaar