In James Joyce’s short story “Araby,” several different micro-cosms are evident. The story demonstrates adolescence, maturity, and public life in Dublin at that time. As the reader, you learn how this city has grown to destroy this young boy’s life and hopes, and create the person that he is as a narrator.
In “Araby,” the “mature narrator and not the naive boy is the story’s protagonist.”(Coulthard) Throughout the story this is easily shown, especially when it refers to “the hour when the Christian Brothers’ school set the boys free.”(Joyce 2112) Although they were freed, they were placed into an “equally grim world, where not even play brought pleasure.”(Coulthard) Joyce demonstrates this culture by showing a boy’s love for a girl throughout the story. This young boy, is completely mystified by this girl, but at the end, the girl is replaced by the girl with an “English accent” attending the booth at the bazaar. This shows the power and persuasiveness that England has at that time over Dublin.
The antagonist in this story, which can easily be determined is the culture and life in Dublin. This has a great effect on the boy and the rest of the people from this city. Dublin is referred to as the “center of paralyses,”(Internet) and “indeed sterile.”(Joyce) This plays a huge role in the forming of this boy’s life, where there is no fun. “Araby” is a story “of a soul-shriveling Irish asceticism, which renders hopes and dreams not only foolish, but sinful.”(Coulthard) In the story, the only thing that the young boy has to look forward to is buying something for the girl he loves, and in the end he can’t even do that; and by making the final characters English, the story leaves an impact on the reader about the Dublin society. It shows the antagonist of the story to be “a repressive Dublin culture.”(Coulthard)
Through this allegorical piece, the reader can understand the harsh life that people are forced to deal with in Dublin society. “The narrator has become embittered rather than wiser, which was his destiny from the first for desiring joy in an environment that forbade it.”(Coulthard) “Araby” seems to be reflection on Joyce’s own life in a repressive Dublin culture.
Coulthard, A.R.. World Literature in Review. (Internet)