Araby as a Story of Adolescent Psychology

Araby as a Story of Adolescent Psychology

Araby as a Story of Adolescent Psychology

The protagonist in Joyce’s short story Araby is a boy. The author speaks in the first person through the boy, who is as such his own self. Joyce actually interprets here his own boyhood experience and his adolescent psychology during his stay in the city of Dublin with his uncle and aunt.

Of course, Araby is no conventional story of the external action and sensations. It is, in fact, all about a young boy’s fascination for a young girl, not much known to him, and his lingering longing for Araby. The story also highlights utter frustration and disillusionment of the boy hero after visiting Araby, considered so much as a place of ideal beauty and charm. The central character here is not merely an individual but rather the symbol of the frustrated human search for the ideal of beauty and romance. The character of the boy is to be studied from the deep psychological insight of adolescent period.

The symbolic aspect of the story serves to present the boy from a psychological angle. What is more conspicuous in the boy’s nature is his romantic sensibility. He is no normal figure of the world. He is possessed of too much vigour of the romantic sensibility that is found active all through. The romantic sensibility draws the boy somewhat inexplicably to Mangan’s sister. His romantic mind is fascinated by her. He is eager to have a little sight of or contact with her. Of course, he has the least communication with her, and there is no scope for the development of any relationship between them. But the boy is haunted with her dream and her image seems to accompany him even in a most noisy commercial environment of Dublin.

The boy’s romantic sensibility seems to develop a kind of passion of love in him. Of course, he is too young to understand what love is or to know the significance of sex. Yet, somehow or other, he is drawn to her absolutely and this is nothing but love, though different from the conventional view of love. The boy’s own words to himself reveal the inexplicable sense of love that possesses his mind. He murmurs within himself ‘O love!, O love!’ many times.

Another strongly noted feature in the boy’s psychology is his strong imaginative power. Of course, this follows naturally from his romantic temper. He is fascinated by the vision of Araby. His romantic imagination is allured by the call of Araby which he looks upon as an ideal centre of pomp and splendour. He has no actual knowledge of Araby, noted for oriental magnificence. But in his mind’s eye, he has an enchanting vision of Araby that spells him.

“The syllables of the word Araby were called to me through the silence in which my soul luxuriated and cast an Eastern enchantment over me.”

Of course, the boy does not know what is this love. His mind hungers for the realization of love, heard by him on other occasions. This is here, through his boy, Joyce strikes adolescent psychology

The adolescent stage is just between boyhood and youth–the stage that begins to realize the impulse of love without knowing what this actually is. The boy’s adolescent mind was drawn to the girl rather irresistibly and he was in a state of helpless bewilderment. He seemed to look before and after and pined for what was not. This is perfectly indicative of the restlessness of an adolescent mind. The boy was eager to see her, to talk with her, to have a contact with her. He looked at her secretly, watched her lingeringly and longed intensely for getting intimate with her. That was all the thoughtless, restless mood of adolescence. Joyce catches that mood with a rare psychological insight.

When the boy chanced to speak with her at last, there was an exchange of a few words between them. He fumbled in his reply to her. She asked him whether he would be going to Araby and advised him to go there. That would be ‘a splendid bazaar’, but she could not go because of a retreat in her convent. The boy was under a spell. He was lost in the vision of her, forgot his surroundings and could only promise to bring something for her. It was his adolescent mind, terribly stirred by the meeting, that seemed to bewitch and haunt him and dumb all his powers of reasoning and judging.

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Again, an adolescent boy or girl is readily impulsive and easily impressionable. His or her mental balance is scarcely firm, and may be stirred by every gush of passion. This is clearly evident in Joyce’s self-portrayal in the boy of the story Araby. The boy there, sensitive in nature, grew impertinent and restive in the matter of his proposed visit to Araby. He failed to concentrate his mind or attend seriously to anything. His own words bear out that restlessness of an adolescent mind-

“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”.

The adolescent stage constitutes an important phase in the transition of the human nature from boyhood to manhood. As the boy grows into a young man, his mind is subjected to various impressions that confront him here and there. He is naturally drawn to diverse factors of life and longs for things that touch him and impress his heart. All this is found patent in Joyce’s boy, attaining adolescence. He has particularly a new feeling–the feeling of love, though as already stated, the full implication of love was not at all clear to him. Mangan’s sister attracted the boy and his mind was absorbed in his thought of her, as indicated in his own words:

“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. But my body was like a harp and her words and gestures were like fingers running upon the wires.”

A state of confusion and restlessness occupied much of his adolescent mind.

The second factor is his fascinating attachment to Araby where he was advised to go by Mangan’s sister. The intervening period between his resolve to go there arid his actual visit was all restless to him. His adolescent mind could not bear the delay involved and grew violently impatient and restless as evident in his admission below:

“The syllables of the word Araby were called to me through the silence in which my soul luxuriated and cast an Eastern enchantment over me.”

Joyce’s success in capturing and representing adolescent psychology in his self-portrayal in the boy of his short story Araby is truly clear and commendable.


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