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Analysis of Joyce’s Story a Boy’s First Love

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A story of a bashful boy’s unrequited first love may seem to be dull; however, Araby proves different. The subtle bursts of love, frustration, and hope are captured and framed in Araby. James Joyce ignites a monotonous topic by cascading a flood of images to the reader. Joyce’s use of metaphors that contrasts according to situation, foreshadowing caused by the deceased priest and the books, and differentiating syntax effectively synthesizes to captivate readers with the raw emotions of first love.

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Metaphors are a faint detail for readers to notice; yet, choice of comparisons is pivotal in molding the intensity of love and tone of the short story. One such use of metaphors is the contrasting correlations made within the story. Such contrast manifests the girl as a shining light inside the narrator’s gloomy life. Metaphors related to Mangan’s sister tend to be elegant whereas other metaphors are crude. For example, his neighborhood is personified as a street with houses that “gazed at one another with brown imperturbable faces”. The people in the market are illustrated as “a throng of enemies” walking on “flaring streets”. On the other hand, the girl’s actions are “like fingers running upon the [harp] wires” and her name alone was “like a summons”. The myriad of similes, personifications, and metaphors ultimately divide into figures of speech that laud the girl and negatively connoted comparisons to show the rest of the narrator’s life. These clashing figures of speech represent how the narrator sees the girl as an illuminating presence compared to other aspects of his life. Diverged metaphors show the intensity of the narrator’s love, but the absence of metaphors also show an aspect of the story’s tone. Araby starts with moderate use of metaphors – most used to set the setting of the story. For instance, the book pages are described as “leaves” and lamps on the street “lift their feeble lanterns”. Deeper into the plot, as the narrator is overtaken by love, Joyce utilizes majestic metaphors to set the tone accordingly to a young boy’s experience of first love. However, any sign of similes, hyperboles, or personification are absent from then on. As the narrator immerses himself upon accomplishing a goal, Joyce rids the story of inordinate figures of speech much like the narrator rids himself of other details in his life give the favor made to him by his puppy love. Joyce moderates his use of metaphors accordingly to the tone that the plot sets. All in all, metaphors contribute in conveying emotions to the reader by emphasizing the feelings of love and fostering the tone of the story.

Although technical rhetoric does pitch into the theme of the story, foreshadowing cast by the priest and books help construct the theme of first love in Araby. A notable case of foreshadowing is the deceased priest. The death of the priest predicts the failure of the boy’s fantasized romance. A priest is a being who is supposed to connect heavens and man. They are responsible of performing sacred rituals in order to worship deities. In the context of Araby, we may view the girl as a heavenly presence. This assumption can be assured by the fact that narrator speaks her name “at moment in strange prayers”. Granted that the girl is a heavenly presence and the narrator is a worshipper, a priest would have to connect these two figures. The priest would have to represent love – a completed relationship between the girl and the narrator. However, the priest has passed away. Love is dead. The relationship that the narrator wishes for is not possible for the mediatory agent, the priest, is dead. Therefore, the deceased priest foreshadows the failure of love by representing a dead possibility. Another example of foreshadowing is the books mentioned in the start of the story: The Abbot, The Devout Communicant, and The Memoirs of Vidocq. The first two books, The Abbot and The Devout Communicant, are both books related to love and commitment. These book parallel the narrator’s actions. The boy portrays his love and later commits himself to completing his love’s whimsical tasks. The Memoirs of Vidocq shows the life of François Eugène Vidocq, an expert criminal who later uses his knowledge of crime to the benefit of society by becoming a detective. Vidocq comes to his senses during a midlife crisis and decides to use his skills for justice rather than greed. Therefore, The Memoirs of Vidocq represents realization. The narrator finally discerns that his love is indeed unrequited and his efforts are worthless. The realization strikes at the end, “I saw myself as a creature driven and derided by vanity; and my eyes burned with anguish”. Much like Vidocq, the narrator realizes the true form of his actions and repents his pathetic love. The order of the books foreshadows the plot of the story. As a result, various objects foreshadow failed love and the inherent sadness revolving around it, creating an early focus and a deeper understanding of the emotions of first love.

The emotions of first love are also subtlety set by the syntax that underscore essentially elements of the story that are essential in understanding the theme of Araby. One aspect of the syntax is that a plethora of sentences start with the word “I”. For example, the second to last paragraph alone contains three (out of five) sentences that start with “I”. This type of syntax expresses the narrator’s tendency to think of him as a priority. He puts himself and his emotions first. Such behavior can be verified by his actions. He “lay on the floor…watching her door” and “kept her brown figure always in my eye”. The narrator acts as a stalker in order to please his puppy love desires, not caring whether the Mangan’s sister would feel uncomfortable or not. Later on, the narrator realizes it himself too and calls himself “a creature driven and derided by vanity”. A self-centered narrator creates a story self-centered upon his emotions, causing the reader to drown in the narrator’s sentiment. Additionally, the sentences of Araby tend to be long, creating a sense of emotional climax. These elongated sentences create an illusion of hope. Therefore, before the narrator faces the tragic reality that he is a speck of dust in the girl’s life, all the sentences tend to be lengthy. It is rare to see a terse sentence in the beginning of Araby; however, at the conclusion of Araby, the sentences become curter. They become shorter in length and more straightforward in matter. Comparing “We walked through the flaring streets, jostled by drunken men…about the troubles in our native land.” a six line sentence on the first page, and “I listened to the fall of the coins.” we can observe a shorter and more concise latter sentence. This contrast of a loss in jabber and detail represents a loss of narrator’s hope and joy. Overall, the syntax of Araby characterizes the narrator and follows the tapering of his hope and love.

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With first love come many emotions, most of which Araby manages to reconstruct within its story. Joyce uses metaphors to illustrate fiery love and to set the tone, foreshadowing to create an early focus and deeper understanding of the plot’s sentimental values, and syntax to characterize the narrator and his fading hope. Combined, Araby thrives to convey the emotions of first love ranging from heart-fluttering hope to gut-wrenching sadness.

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Analysis of Joyce’s Story A Boy’s First Love. (2018, December 11). GradesFixer. Retrieved June 5, 2023, from
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