In “Araby”, James Joyce uses first person point of view to demonstrate the boy’s loss of innocence throughout the short story. The boy begins his story in Dublin, on north Richmond street, it was a quiet and dull street with not many lively aspects. In the story, the boy begins his voyage into adulthood where he begins to develop new feelings and attempts to convey those feelings toward the object of his affection. The boy later travels to the bazaar to fulfil his request to the girl he liked but instead gains some self-realization about his youth and innocence. Joyce uses the boy’s point of view to convey the theme being the boy’s loss of innocence because of where he lives, his object of affection, and his trip to the bazaar.
In the short story the boy lives in a town north of Dublin, on North Richmond Street. Joyce’s description of the setting shows the unseemliness of adulthood from the boy’s point of view and leads to the boy’s loss of innocence. Joyce describes the area in the following quote
North Richmond Street, being blind, was a quiet street except at the hour when the Christian Brothers’ School set the boys free. An uninhabited house of two storeys stood at the blind end, detached from its neighbours in a square ground. (Joyce 1)
The boys being set free shows them being freed from the rules of the church and the blind street shows the dull and gloominess of life on North Richmond Street perhaps suggesting the boys empty futures. Analyzing the description of the area, one critic points out that:
From the beginning of the next paragraph the dark and gloomy atmosphere is going to be shaped by phrases like “short days of winter”, “cold air”, “violet sky”, “dusk”,….The word “dark” is repeated three times in one rather long sentence: “dark muddy lanes”, “dark dripping gardens” and “dark odorous stables”. Notice how the “wild gardens” of previous paragraph changed into the “dark dripping gardens” where “odors arose from its ash pits”. (Khorsand 94)
Joyce uses the word dark to shape the area the boy is living to show the dull and gloominess of Dublin and to show the boy’s resentment toward the normal way of living in Dublin so that he can live a somewhat lively life.
As the story continues, the boy seems as blind as the city because of his innocence which is preventing him from seeing what is in front of him. Later in the story the boy develops feelings for a girl that lives across the street even though they have never spoken to each another. The language Joyce uses describes how the boy is becoming obsessed with the girl but does not understand.
Her image accompanied me even in places the most hostile to romance. … Her name sprang to my lips at moments in strange prayers and praises which I myself did not understand. … I did not know whether I would ever speak to her or not or, if I spoke to her, how I could tell her of my confused adoration. (Joyce 2)
This quote describes how much the boy loves the girl by saying that he thinks about her in places that he should not, which means he is creating fantasies in his head and hoping that she would also return the same feelings about him. However, the boy begins to question why he is having these feelings about the girl and then admits to being confused. As the story continues the boy’s feelings toward the girl begins to escalate when he asks her if she is going to the bazaar. She tells him that she cannot make it to the bazaar and the boy says that he will bring her something back. Analyzing the boy’s actions, one critic points out that:
He performs these same actions morning after morning, in spite of knowing such behavior to be shameful. One thing here should arguably be noted that when a penitent comes before a holy figure, he is supposed to prostrate himself, and this is precisely what the protagonist does only to see her in the morning. However, even though he does never speak to the girl except casually, her name is like a summons to all his ‘foolish blood’ which implies an ardent desire to possess the woman sexually. (Ahammad & Rokeya, 2017, p. 21)
The boy is beginning to lose his innocence through the fantasies he is creating he his head. These fantasies are starting to affect in his life and making it harder for him to focus on his schooling and the tasks at hand.
On the Saturday of the week the boy asked the girl if she is going to the bazaar, he tells his uncle that he wants to go to the bazaar in the evening. His plan does not go as smoothly as he would have hoped. In the following quote “I had hardly any patience with the serious work of life which, now that it stood between me and my desire, seemed to me child’s play, ugly monotonous child’s play.” (Joyce 3) The boy begins to get annoyed by every little thing that is getting in his way, from listening to the ticking of a clock, to watching this imaginary figure going about in the house of the girl he liked, to waiting for his uncle to return home, he was forced to contain his frustration. This shows that the boy has yet to transition to adulthood because if boy was an adult this journey for the girl he liked would not be so demanding. By the time his uncle had finally returned home it was late at night, the uncle had forgotten about going to the bazaar with boy, but the boy still insisted on going to the bazaar. After arriving at the bazaar, the boy only had a few minutes to search for a gift but was unable to purchase a gift and boy begins to realize that his feelings for the girl were foolish, but it was not a total loss for the boy because he was able to gain some self-realization and recognize his youth and his ignorance and was able to grow from it. At the end of the story the boy appears to have an epiphany, one critics elaborates on the epiphany the boy has:
The epiphany comes at the close of the story where he says “gazing up into the darkness, I saw myself a creature driven and derided by vanity; and my eyes burned with anguish and anger.” His eyes were once filled with romantic sentimental tears, but at the end of his quest, when he is faced up to reality of his existence; there are tears of anguish and fear that burn his eyes. (Khorsand 98)
The boy begins to realize that life is going to be filled with many unfulfilled dreams and fantasies that he would need to cope with. In the end the boy was unable to fulfill his fantasy resulting in his loss of innocence but allowing him to begin his descent into adulthood.
In the end using the boy’s first-person point of view showed the boy’s progressive loss of innocence throughout the short story. His loss of innocence starts with where he lives because he begins to mature and realize the dullness of the area, then he begins to develop feelings for a girl and allows himself to develop mature fantasies about the girl, lastly, he travels to the bazaar in an attempt to secure his fantasies with the girl but is met with anguish and anger and allowing himself to lose his innocence and begin his descent into adulthood.