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Symbolism in "Araby"

Colors are a form of nonverbal communication and as such are symbolic. For example, in Western culture, white signifies purity and light, while black signifies darkness, evil, and death. In literature, symbolism joins the story's external action to the theme. This use of symbolism holds true in James JoyceÆs short storyAraby where the use of color, particularly light and dark contribute to the theme and an understanding of the story.

The plot of Araby centers on a 13-year old boyÆs experiences and awakening to the reality of his life, a life of literal and symbolic darkness with only two points of light. One is the boy and his playmates, children who are too young to have become downtrodden by the drabness of their environment and existence. The street they play on is lit by feeble lantern light, and they play ôtill our bodies glowedö (295). The second point of light is reflected in the girl of the boyÆs awakening sexual desire and romantic love.

The boy lives with his aunt and uncle in a dreary, poor section of Dublin, and his environment is a key to his romantic nature, and his need to find some beauty and light in the drab world he inhabits. The story opens with a description of the dead end North Richmond Street where the boy lives, and the dark street is a symbol of the emotional dead end he lives in. The houses sit in ôdark, muddy lanesö surrounded by ôdark, dripping gardensö near ôdark, odorous stablesö (295). The setting is winter when the boyÆs neighborhood is even darker and more deadening. Adjectives Joyce uses to describe the street include ôblindö and ôsomber,ö where the houses ôgazed at one another with brown imperturbable facesö (294).

ôBrownö is the most frequent color used in the story and is a form of darkness. Even the girl who represents light, MagnanÆs sister who is a ôfigure defined by lightö (295) is dressed in dull brown, perhaps symbolic of her true nature that the boy disc...

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Symbolism in "Araby". (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 22:24, May 24, 2020, from