The Realities Of Becoming An Adult

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In the short story, “Araby,” the author, James Joyce, illustrates a boy’s quest to fall in love with his best friend’s sister, but is unaware that his illusion is all a dream. At the end of his childhood journey, the disillusionment that the boy faces changes his perspective on adulthood. He is a teenage boy who lives in a stale environment that is deeply religious. In response, the boy turns to love in order to find an outlet for his feelings. When he encounters Mangan’s sister, he uses her beauty to lift him out of the darkness. But as he proceeds in his quest to find love, the boy struggles to comprehend his feelings of attraction and does not express his emotions. As a result, he admires her beauty and hopes she notices his feelings toward her. One day, when Mangan’s sister speaks to the boy about the bazaar, he is confused and offers to buy her a gift. While waiting for the day of the bazaar, he restlessly thinks about the girl and sees love as the only reality. The boy is eager to attend the Araby, but is frustrated when his uncle returns late that night. However, he still shows up to the bazaar to find a gift for Mangan’s sister. When the boy arrives at the Araby, its appearance disillusions him. Almost all the stalls are closed and the atmosphere is dark. The boy wanders around the bazaar in hope to find a gift, but came too late. The bazaar closes and he realizes that adulthood is not what he thought and is left to confront the responsibilities to nourish himself. In the end, the boy sees himself purposeless because he was unable to accomplish his goal of winning Mangan’s sister. Joyce illustrates the narrator’s disillusionment through his failed quest.

As the boy strives to fulfill a quest, he encounters the reality of a dark world when he realizes his illumination of Mangan’s sister is nothing more than an illusion. In the beginning, the boy views his society as a dull place where he tries to isolate himself from his small community. He is disappointed with the world around him, but then begins to see the light when he first encounters Mangan’s sister. However, he does not understand what his feelings of attraction to this girl means: “Some distant lamp or lighted window gleamed below me. I was thankful that I could see so little. All my senses seemed to desire to veil themselves and, feeling that I was about to slip from them, I pressed the palms of my hands together until they trembled, murmuring: O love! O love! many times” (Joyce 170). At this moment, the boy seems too afraid to take his first steps into adulthood. He has never experienced true love and does not know how to approach a girl. When Mangan’s sister speaks to the boy first about the bazaar, he fantasizes over her beauty: “The light from the lamp opposite our door caught the white curve of her neck, lit up her hair that rested there and, falling, lit up the hand upon the railing. It fell over one side of her dress and caught the white border of the petticoat, just visible as she stood at ease” (171). As the boy becomes infatuated with Mangan’s sister, he is unable to express his love for her. In response, he associates light to express her beauty within a dark society that overwhelms him. While the boy illusions his life with Mangan’s sister, his inhibitions begin to haunt him:

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Their cries reached me weakened and indistinct and, leaning my forehead against the cool glass, I looked over at the dark house where she lived. I may have stood there for an hour, seeing nothing but the brown-clad figure cast by my imagination, touched discreetly by the lamplight at the curved neck, at the hand upon the railings and at the border below the dress. (171)

As the boy waits for Mangan’s sister to appear, he experiences strange emotions that he struggles to comprehend. In response, he turns to the thought of romance as his escape from his dull reality. However, the boy refuses to speak to Mangan’s sister. One day when she acknowledges the boy to talk about the bazaar, he begins to see hope in his future, until he learns that his life is not really what he envisioned.

As the boy fights to win the love of Mangan’s sister, he notices that the adult world is not what he imagines and views himself as meaningless. When the boy arrives at the bazaar, he is disillusioned by the appearance and begins to realize that he has been foolish in his feelings towards Mangan’s sister. The boy believes the bazaar is going to be a special place, but he observes that “nearly all the stalls were closed and the greater part of the hall was in darkness. I recognized the silence like that which pervades a church after a service” (172). While the boy searches to find a gift for Mangan’s sister, he questions his emotions, as he dwells in the dark silence. The boy is stuck in between phases of maturity and is afraid to encounter the reality of self-adjustment. As he wanders around the Araby, he approaches a stall with a young woman flirting with two young men, but their attitude towards him makes him feel like an innocent child again. In response, the boy refuses to purchase a gift and begins to realize that his idealistic view of Mangan’s sister was all a dream. When the boy starts to exit the bazaar, he hears “a voice call from one end of the gallery that the light was out. The upper part of the hall was now completely dark. Gazing up into the darkness I saw myself as a creature driven and derided by vanity; and my eyes burned with anguish and anger” (173). At this moment, the boy feels like there is no hope for him anymore, he remains a prisoner of the reality he tried to escape from. Even though the boy’s quest failed, he creates a new viewpoint on life. The boy has entered his first steps of adulthood, and realizes that he was a victim of his vanity. In the end, the boy’s journey to find love demonstrates the obstacles an individual faces when trying to escape the reality they live in.

While the boy illusions his relationship with Mangan’s sister, he begins to understand that it consumed him and he must reconnect with himself. Throughout the boy’s quest to find love, he struggles to cross the bridge to adulthood. After attending the bazaar, the boy realizes that his feelings towards his best friend’s sister was all an imagination. However, the disillusionment that the boy faces prepares him for his life as an adult. In the beginning, as the boy tries to escape the dark environment, he uses Mangan’s sister as a reason for his journey, but is not aware of the harsh reality. Even though the boy feels purposeless after his failed quest, his knowledge from the disillusionment gives him a better understanding of the world. He realizes that everything he illusions does not come true. Throughout the story, Joyce displays the adventure everyone faces as they grow older in order to break free from a dark reality. In response to his failed quest, the boy is able to learn from his past and reconstruct his life in the adult world.


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