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James Joyce Araby
With reference to ‘Araby’, discuss the importance of

Joyce’s narrative technique.

Pay particular reference to:

Ø Point of view

Ø Imagery

Ø Everyday Detail

Narrative Technique is the way in which an author tells a story in prose or verse, looking at the specific grammatical usages. Araby, by James Joyce was the eleventh story written that later formed the compilation of The Dubliners. Joyce’s narrative techniques in this short story are profound, and present in detail the banal daily life in Dublin, and the fight to escape this lifestyle. In doing so, Joyce is effective in bringing out his own point of view, one of the prosaic, the uninspiring and unrelenting monotony of Dublin, using the unnamed boy in the story as a medium to express this. Although it is told from the first person viewpoint, we do not receive the impression that a boy tells the story. Instead, the narrator seems to be a man, matured far beyond the scope of the story. The mature man reminisces about his youthful hopes, desires, and frustrations, far more than if a boy's mind had reconstructed the events of the story for us. This particular way of telling the story enables us to perceive the torment youth experiences when ideals are destroyed by a suddenly unclouded view of the actual world. Because the man, rather than the boy, recounts the experience, an ironic view could be presented of the people surrounding the boy. Joyce’s particular attention to detail also heightens the sense of realism, making this, as a narrative technique, particularly effective as the consequence this has on the reader is to make him or her believe what is written; one of the principle differences making the works of Joyce different from many of the other writers at the time.

The first point to note is the title of the short story, which is fundamental to understand the meaning of Araby, and the importance of Joyce as a detailed writer. Araby is a romantic term for the Middle East, and was a popular word throughout the nineteenth century, being used to express the romantic view of the east that was particularly fashionable at the time. The title also suggests that the story is about a type of Romantic Irony, as the boy has a romantic view of the world, and does not see that it could simply be like the mundane life of Dublin, or possibly even worse. The east was not the romantic place that the boy hoped, but the sense of the exotic and glamour of foreign culture is what attracted the boy to this idea. In the first page of the story, Joyce carefully describes the boy’s neighbourhood and surroundings in three paragraphs. Using real names such as “North Richmond Street” and “Christian Brothers’ School”, Joyce adds a great sense of reality, enabling readers to almost map out the community in which he lives. Joyce then leads the reader to the late priest’s drawing room, eloping with a detailed description of the room, appealing to our senses. Joyce successfully enables the reader to smell the musty air of the room, see the littered kitchen and touch the curled and damp books found in the kitchen. “Air, musty from having been long enclosed”. In this description, the reader is exposed to a depressing scene of entrapment and paralysis, with the word “enclosed” suggesting that not even the air can escape the room in which we are. The description goes on, including words such as “yellow”, “rusty” and “damp”, all pertaining to an image of decay, age and paralysis, characterising Dublin life. The story takes place in a cold “winter” at “dusk”. The use of these words help to emphasise once more the sense of paralysis; the cold affects movement as does dusk, as it is the start of darkness, which increases the difficulty of seeing. Through the protagonist, readers can also see the “sombre” houses and “violet” sky, feel the coldness of the weather, smell the odour arouse from the “ashpits” and hear music made from shaking of the buckled harness of a horse. This realistic setting of time and place enables the reader to identify with the characters of the story. It is unusual for a reader to connect so well to a character, and this is primarily created through the development of a physical understanding of the character; we almost feel exactly what he does. It is this extremely direct approach to narration that makes Joyce’s narrative technique most successful.

Furthermore, the point of view used by James Joyce also enhances this authenticity. Araby was written from the first person viewpoint. This viewpoint enables the reader to identify more readily with the feelings of the boy. The narrator is probably not James Joyce himself but an assumed identity in order to tell the story and express his own views. In this case he did not use the viewpoint of his own as an adult but the viewpoint of a child, and it is often perceived by many critics that it could actually have been Joyce as a child. Joyce deliberately chose the first person narrative technique as this story is about a boy who secretly admired a girl living nearby. Without the omniscient viewpoint, the reader could have no understanding of the girl’s impression or feelings about the boy. With this technique, readers only know what the boy thinks of the girl but not what she thinks of him. In this way, the readers may find it more interesting as they can identify themselves more with the boy and it may help them to recall their own experience of admiring somebody secretly. “While she spoke she turned a silver bracelet round and round her wrist.” Here we see Joyce’s attention to detail once more; this creates the effect that the boy is observing the girl very closely indeed, heightening the sense of realism, and his admiration for her. James Joyce depicts the boy mainly through what he does as well as what he doesn’t do. The boy looked at her secretly, “We watched her from our shadow peer up and down the street.” Once more, the use of the word “shadow” suggests that they are dormant and watching from a paralysed stance – they can’t move out from the shadow, like they can’t move from Dublin. Even in ‘love’ therefore, they are paralysed, and have to operate in ‘secret’. “Every morning I lay on the front parlour watching her door. The blind was pulled down to within an inch of the sash so that I could not be seen.” He followed the girl secretly. “When she came out of the doorstep my heart leaped. I ran to the hall, seized my books and followed her … when we came near the point at which our ways diverged, I quickened my pace and passed her. This happened morning after morning.” The fact that he did this morning after morning, not only suggests his adoration, but also his inability to act on his feelings. He has been so hampered by Dublin life that he cannot even move to speak to her. He couldn’t even talk to her. “I had never spoken to her, except for a few casual words, and yet her name was like a summons to all my foolish blood.” “I did not know whether I would ever speak to her or not or, if I spoke to her, how I could tell her my confused adoration.” The boy is therefore completely bereft of the ability to act, he has been so paralysed that...
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James Joyce - Araby. EssayMania.com. Retrieved on 12 Oct, 2010 from