Author: James Joyce
At the beginning of this short story, it is very evident that Joyce has a talent for description. The picture created of the street is ripe with vivid imagery and a rich sense of atmosphere is present because of it. Passages as simple as “Air, musty from having been long enclosed, hung in all the rooms” each contribute to the larger picture.
Most of the imagery conveys an overwhelming sense that everything is old, brown, and unused. In the description of the priest’s house, books are described as “curled and damp” and their “leaves were yellow”. The same visual idea comes back at the end of the story in the atmosphere at Araby itself where “nearly all the stalls were closed and the greater part of the hall was in darkness”.
Joyce’s use of description does not end with visual imagery. He occasionally employs olfactory descriptors, mentioning “where dark odours arose” and “the dark odorous stables”. Unfortunately, his creativity when dealing with smell doesn’t seem to go beyond the word “odour” as much as would be desired. In contrast, there is one particular passage where auditory imagery is introduced expertly — “I pressed the palms of my hands together until they trembled, murmuring: “O love! O love!” many times.”
The plot when considered alone is rudimentary, barely developed to a satisfying degree for a story of this length. Nonetheless, it does hold the interest of the reader. The major fault of “Araby” is the way in which the plot is executed. Joyce has a terrible technique when addressing time shifts, setting or scene changes, and plot development in general.
The descriptive passages at the beginning are lovely but they appear to have little relevance to the story. Why the priest’s house is describe at all is a complete mystery. The only point at which we see it after the original description is one isolated moment when the boy visits it. There is no action in this room, but a horrible change of scene and time makes it seems as if the conversation following takes place there. Joyce seems to have major difficulty both with establishing what is relevant to his work and maintaining continuity within it.
The central portion of the story moves along quite nicely, with some nice plot development and no outlandishly confusing portions. However the ending is abrupt with almost no closure, indicating once again the poor general structure of the piece.
To sum “Araby” up in one word, it is choppy. The individual passages, such as the opening descriptions, are nice in themselves, but they are assembled haphazardly with no evidence of good thought or design.