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"Arby" by James Joyce ' - 'personification indicates its inhabitants' attitudes'


EunJeong 2 / 2  
Oct 16, 2012   #1
Hi, everyone.
I've already got marks for this essay today, but I don't understand where I lost my marks.
I'm kinda very desperate.. aiming very high. So your comments will be very very helpful. so that I can improve next essay and cover up for this essay. you can save my life!

I'm aware that my citation is not appropriate, I was confused when I was writing. And also it's bit long.
Any comments will help, general advice, any weird expression, smoother grammar, any confusions. Thanks!!
Here's my essay.

How do you think the author's historical and social context has affected the writing of this story?

There are many genius writers who represents the time and place they lived. Most of them reflects their life through their stories. Author's life is a main source of his or her writing. We can imagine the period and place with their great works. As well as many other literary masterpieces, "Araby", written by James Joyce, is a great short story which describes the author's life in late 19th Century Dublin, through a narrator boy as a reflection of his childhood that was affected by its social and historical period, religions and his family to characters and settings of the story.

First of all, the setting of the place, North Richmond dead end street, is described dark and monotonously to create images of economic poverty that the author had in his childhood. During the post modern period, late 19th century, many of the European cities suffered from poverty. Especially, Dublin was the poorest city in that period.

Important elements in the 'modernisation' process are urbanisation and industrialisation, and both were not particularly significant in late nineteenth-century Ireland. However, this view is slightly misleading since Ireland had both cities and industries and some expanded massively in this era. The problem is that these developments tended to be heavily concentrated in eastern Ulster. Belfast was one of the fastest growing urban industrial centres in the United Kingdom during these years. ... Why was the Irish experience so localised? If industry could fuel massive growth in Belfast or Derry, why not in Dublin or Cork? In fact, there is nothing unusual, in many ways, about the Irish experience of industrial development in the late nineteenth century. No country experienced industrialisation evenly or universally. Rather, it occurred in those areas that enjoyed the advantages of effective communications or a good supply of raw materials. In Ireland's case the North-East was geographically close to northern English and Scottish coalfields. It also had a strong local tradition of domestic craft industries that formed the basis of industrial development. In contrast, southern cities tended to be commercial and transport hubs rather than manufacturing centres, and did not develop extensive industrial activity. The most often quoted example of 'failed' industrialisation in this era is Dublin which certainly performed poorly compared to its northern neighbour, and as a result suffered some of the worst social conditions in nineteenth-century Ireland. (University College Cork, Ireland

Darkness symbolizes the poor condition and the poverty and appears as boys in shadow, "feeble lanterns" and most of the dark description of the city in the story. Gas was used to light the street and the first electric light were switched in 1881 and was rare novelty. In the same manner, there was no electronic based entertainment such as television, radio and of course computer which our generations do the most of the time. This increases the expectation of the boy about the bazaar, Araby, and shows how it could be undeniable enticement to the boy. This makes natural connection for the boy to fall into the Araby and emphasize the significance of the indispensable epiphany at the Araby from this poverty that the boy had to go through.

Moreover, the boy's struggle is even emphasized by lack of relationship with family and society through his anguish towards the spiritual fulfillment. In the intro, author describes the place, "The other houses of the street, conscious of decent lives within them, gazed at one another with brown imperturbable faces". This personification indicates its inhabitants' attitudes and draw an ironic images of decent isolation. In this period, every citizens were concerned about one political issue, Irish independence.

In 1904, all of Ireland was under British control, which the Irish resented bitterly. ... The question of Irish independence from Britain was one of primary importance to every citizen. (Source: Short Stories for Students, Š2012 Gale Cengage.)

In addition to it, beer and whisky industry were fairly successful as like the price of beer was cheaper than water.

Dublin did have some very successful industries, such as the brewing giant Guinness and ... (University College Cork, Ireland29 Sept 2012.)

The stereotype of the drunken Irishman arose partly in response to the poverty experienced by the majority of people in Ireland after the Great Potato Famine of the 1840s. Beer was cheap and often more sanitary than the water. The Irish were also famous for their whiskey, which many still claim to be the finest in the world. The local public house - or pub -was the central gathering place of the village, and also served as a small hotel for weary travelers. People were certain to find warm hospitality, good beer and mutton stew, and good stories around the hearth to lift their spirits there. In the evening, the men would gather at the pub to drink, talk of politics or sports, and hear music. Unfortunately, this led to many men wasting their families's meager resources, thereby reinforcing the stereotype of the drunk, irresponsible Irishman. (source:)

People gathered at pub, cared about their political issues but had narrow views about society and blind to their family. These social context made the author's childhood not only economically but also mentally poor and reflected boy's situation. In the story, the boy is like a orphan who lives with aunt and uncle. Actually, the uncle resembles author's father and can be interpreted the uncle as authors image of his father.

Despite the boys' promising education, the Joyce's family life was fractious because of financial worries and the father's drinking(Source: Short Stories for Students, Š2012 Gale Cengage.)

For example, uncle come back late when he promised to give the money to the boy for the bazaar because of drinking. Also, the uncle's attitude in dialogue between the boy and him is quiet careless about the boy. This shows broken connection with his family, lack of care from parents, especially father. This delivers the hardship the boy has to bear in order to accomplish his spiritual fulfillment and how the social context and family in this period, Dublin, makes dream unachievable and leave his aspiration discontented.

Furthermore, author's suspicious attitude about the religion, Roman Catholic, is appeared through a confused love towards the Megan's sister and boy's own blindness of the religion. Boy observe previous tenant, priest's room and find few books; The Abbot, The Devout Communicant, The Memoirs of Vidocq, and useless papers.

The Abbot, written in 1820, was about Mary Queen of Scots (1542-1587). The novel presented her life in a sincerely religious and romantic fashion, in contrast to the usual picture of her as a "harlot queen" in history. The presence of this romantic/religious/sexual complex is central to Joyce's story, as the boy confuses and conflates Romantic Love, Religious Love and Materialist Love. As the story proceeds, we find that he deceives himself about the sexual, spiritual, and the financial.

The Devout Communicant could refer to any one of three works with this title. The one by the English Franciscan Friar Pacificus Baker (1695-1774) is noted for its lush, pious language and could have influenced the boy's couching his sexual feelings for the girl in pious images. William York Tindall, one of the pioneers of Joyce studies in the United States, held that the work Joyce had in mind was one by Abednego Sellar, as the author's name reinforces the materialistic themes of "Araby." Joyce's anti-clerical views also support this choice, as Abednego was a Protestant clergyman -- as was James Ford, the author of a third book by this title in print at the time. More important than specifically identifying which work Joyce had in mind here is the fact of the influence of the devoutly pious language of any of these works on the young boy's vocabulary and outlook.

The Memoirs of Vidocq, written by Francois-Jules Vidocq and published in 1829, was a popular 19th century novel about a Parisian Police Commissioner who was also a thief, and was thus able to hide his crimes (at one point in the novel, he escapes capture by dressing as a nun). Joyce's use of the book here supports the theme of deception and dishonesty in the story. But just as the reader is simultaneously aware of the meaning of the mention of these novels, and that the boy does not understand these meanings, so the theme of deception merely strengthens the sense that the boy is deceived about himself. (page : )

These books signifies corruption of the religion by the priest's sexual interests or desire who should not looking for it and how futile the religion is. On the top of this, the boy describes the priest is charitable without much reason and this shows how blind the boy is. "He had been a very charitable priest; in his will he had left all his money to institutions and the furniture of his house to his sister." This is subtle manipulation of raising questions about reliability of the priest and his money. In addition, many religious symbolic description of the girl and boy's twisted feeling about her are sprinkled through the story. "her figure defined by the light", "the brown-clad figure cast by my imagination, touched discreetly by the lamplight at the curved neck, at the hand upon the railings and at the border below the dress.", "my body was like a harp and her words and gestures were like fingers running upon the wires." He perceives her some kind of religion and think that she is divine in his imagination and illusion but also boy's desire appears by physical forces such as her figure below the dress and her voice. The boy describes his love as "confused adoration" and feel guilty about his desire. "all my foolish blood.", "I bore my chalice safely through a throng of foes. Her name sprang to my lips at moments in strange prayers and praises which I myself did not understand." The boy is lost between his desire and innocence from religious honor that is similar to what author had suffer.

"James rejected his country and its repressive religion"(1:42) "He saw himself as a sinner."(1:58) "Joyce's idea of woman is very troubled one ... rigid Irish Catholicism has done to him, woman is either virgin or whore, there seems to be no happy medium." (2:57) ("James Joyce Biography", The Biography Channel website. )

Accordingly, James Joyce manipulates the epiphany by breaking down the boys illusion and realizing the vanity from disappointment at the Araby, which means goal of love, adulthood and religious accomplish to the boy, to feature this attitude.

In summary, this story is associated with late 19th Century Dublin's historical and social period and James Joyce's religions and family life through reflection of dehumanizing experience in his childhood. The epiphany at the end demonstrates how he feels about it. He doesn't strongly make readers to criticize about any of historical or social context, religions, family but raises some questions through the boy's unapproachable crush. However readers can feel the boy's situations and mind closely so that we can answer ourselves with further research and study.

ps. My teacher wrote whether I wrote this sentence(meaning plagiarism)

This personification indicates its inhabitants' attitudes and draw an ironic images of decent isolation.

I wonder why she thought so. Because, we studied literary skill, irony and personification in class together. I read that social context was blinded to some important values by my research. So I wanted to create link why author uses irony, which expresses the society that is apparently decent but actually isolated. I think this idea in not completely new nor creative. Maybe I've got the idea by reading lots of resources but I think anyone could think this way. Did I plagiarized? How can I avoid? My teacher didn't mention directly to me, but I don't want to do anything wrong. Thanks.

ktann87 1 / 1  
Nov 6, 2012   #2
Although I have not read the short story you are referring to, I think your essay answers the question beautifully. However, I do not mean to assume things, but your essay reads as if English may be your second language growing up? It is readable, and it all makes sense, but there are some issues with grammar and sentence structure that may have been the reason for lower marks.

This is just an example, but it is seen throughout most of your essay: "In this period, every citizens were concerned about one political issue, Irish independence."

I would rewrite this as "In this period, the majority of citizens were concerned about one issue: Irish independence."

If your teacher knows your writing style, I am not sure why she would take marks off unless it is strictly for grammar and sentence structure because you do get your point across and I think it addresses the essay topic very well.


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