FROM INNOCENCE TO INSIGHT: "ARABY" AS AN INITIATION STORY
"Araby" tells the story of an adolescent boy's initiation into adulthood. The story is
narrated by a mature man reflecting upon his adolescence and the events that forced him to face
the disillusioning realities of adulthood. The minor characters play a pivotal role in this initiation
process. The boy observes the hypocrisy of adults in the priest and Mrs. Mercer; and his vain,
self-centered uncle introduces him to another disillusioning aspect of adulthood. The boy's
infatuation with the girl ultimately ends in disillusionment, and Joyce uses the specific example of
the boy's disillusionment with love as a metaphor for disillusionment with life itself. From the
beginning, the boy deludes him-self about his relationship with Mangan's sister. At Araby, he
realizes the parallel between his own self-delusion and the hypocrisy and vanity of the adult
From the beginning, the boy's infatuation with Mangan's sister draws him away from
childhood toward adulthood. He breaks his ties with his childhood friends and luxuriates in his
isolation. He can think of nothing but his love for her: "From the front window I saw my
companions playing below in the street. Their cries reached me weakened and indistinct and,
leaning my forehead against the cool glass, I looked over at the dark house where she lived." The
friends' cries are weak and indistinct because they are distant emotionally as well as spatially.
Like an adult on a quest, he imagines he carries his love as if it were a sacred object, a chalice:
"Her image accompanied me even in places the most hostile to romance. . . . I imagined that I
bore my chalice safely through a throng of foes." Even in the active, distracting marketplace, he is
able to retain this image of his pure love. But his love is not pure.
Although he worships Mangan's sister as a religious object, his lust for her is...