James Joyce

Similarly to what we read for Monday, James Joyce has a quiet underlying tone connected to TS Elliot. There is a sense of anxiety and discomfort, as well as sometimes the sense of (semi) youth struggle into adulthood. The images in “Araby” such as; “When we met in the street the houses had grown sombre.  The space of sky above us was the colour of ever-changing violet and towards it the lamps of the street lifted their feeble lanterns.  The cold air stung us and we played till our bodies glowed” (2219) really raised an important image for me of the differences of classes in society. In addition of commentary on society, there is also commentary on individualism, in “Araby” there is the line, “The high cold empty gloomy rooms liberated me” (2220) giving the reading the poetic idea of allowing oneself to be calm and free just the way they are.

Poetry is so often written in the first person, so since Joyce sticks to this with his dialogue and such throughout the piece, it gives the reader more of the sense that there is an intentional message through poetry, versus when writing in prose, sometimes it is simply to (for lack of better word) vent and also may not have as much internal dialogue.


In Eveline, Joyce uses poetic imagery to represent emotion. “She sat at the window watching the evening invade the avenue. Her head was leaned against the window curtains and in her nostrils was the odour of dusty cretonne. She was tired” (2222). The way this passage opens allows the reader to become Eveline. I can imagine myself sitting by the window and observing life pass me by. I am tired and all I can do is watch as life passes me by. Eveline is reminiscing and remembering parts of her life. She is struggling with the decision to stay with her abusive father or to run away and meet with Frank. Will life be any different if she stays or if she goes? Or no matter her decision will she continue to watch through the window? Joyce uses the imagery in this poem to create more meaning than simple words. There is so much emotion in this poem and a struggle to find out who she (Eveline) is and who she wants to be.

Joyce comes back to the window and Eveline’s struggle with, “Her time was running out but she continued to sit by the window, leaning her head against the window curtain, inhaling the odour of dusty cretonne. Down far in the avenue she could hear a street organ playing. She knew the air. Strange that it should come that very night to remind her of the promise to her mother, her promise to keep the home together as long as she could” (2224). The poetic flow of these lines are sad and hold so much meaning. Should I stay or should I go? Does it matter anymore? The struggle and the pain is there. If Eveline leaves will the pain go away or will it only follow her because she will be breaking a promise to her mother? Does it even matter because her mother is not there to see her fail? She is failing either way. Neither decision will be better than the other. Neither decision can make her truly happy and because of that life will always pass her by.


“Home! She looked around the room, reviewing all it’s familiar objects which she had dusted… Perhaps she would never see again those familiar objects from which she had never dreamed of being divided”

In Eveline, James Joyce’s description of Eveline’s surroundings shows a modernist concept of exploring those things which are new. Even though at this time in history change is inevitable and wanted, there is also apprehension towards new ventures of a new society. Throughout Eveline, she alludes to the harshness of her father and how she wants to leave, but I feel that with Eveline sitting at the window, contemplating an escape, she is hesitant about leaving. She is scared. It’s not that she has anything to lose, but she is afraid that there is nothing to gain. Will life be better with Frank? All of these apprehensions that Eveline faces can also be said and alluded to those who now face the inevitable change in the modern society.


With Imagists, Imagism, and Imagistic poetry in general, the goal was to write short, concise, and concentrated poetry that revealed some important insight or painted a picture of a brief moment in time. These poems had “the concentrated impact of a haiku,” as our book puts it. This was all in contrast to the “wordiness” of the eras of literature that directly preceded this movement. In fact, most of modernism was focused on the difficulties in coming up with something new, something fresh, or with depicting old stories in new ways. Joyce’s “Araby” can be seen as an augmented version of an Imagist’s poem, as the short story focuses on one revelatory moment of insight for the young narrator of the story. Joyce himself called these moments “epiphanies,” and relied on them for much of his literary work.

In “Araby,” the protagonist, if you can call it that of such a short story, is introduced to us without the background information and build up that was typical of the Victorian Era that came prior. We also don’t know anything about his young love except what is briefly told to us. And even this information isn’t helpful in the traditional sense: instead of getting a sense of her appearance or personality, we simply see her through the emotions and desires of the narrator. He tells us of how the light plays with her image, as “the light from the lamp opposite our door caught the white curve of her neck, lit up her hair that rested there and, falling, lit up the hand upon the railing” (2220). Not only does this talk about his mysterious lover, but it does so in a way that was typical of the metaphysical poet’s revival, brought about primarily by T.S. Eliot. Treating the light as a thing that can travel and “fall,” as if it were a concrete object, is an unusual thing, and through this Joyce shows that he is part of the Modernist movement. Also typical of Modernist prose and poetry is the ending of the story or poem without the feeling of resolution. Joyce does this with “Araby” as the protagonist doesn’t ever gain his true love, but neither does he get completely rejected by her. Instead, he is left in a sort of stupor as he suddenly sees himself “as a creature driven and derided by vanity; and my eyes burned with anguish and anger” (2222). It is in the moment when the boy finally enters the bazaar and realizes just how childish his notions of love are, a sharp contrast from the one who stated that the rest of the world and his schoolwork was as “child’s play, ugly monotonous child’s play” (2220). Once again, it is in a single instant at the conclusion of the short story that the protagonist realizes all of this, and he is extremely dismayed about it.

James Joyce and Modern Poetry

What immediately struck me as poetic was Joyce’s use of personification, which was used a lot in Araby. One line in particular that caught my eye was “the other houses of the street, conscious of decent lives within them, gazed at one another with brown imperturbable faces”. This also reminded me of when we talked about the city being a living thing itself in Eliot’s poem. Something that also made Joyce’s writing poetic was his detailed descriptions that were able to create an image for me, like with Eliot’s poem. This line in particular really seemed to do this: “The space of sky above us was the colour of ever-changing violet and towards it the lamps of the street lifted their feeble lanterns”.

Also in common with Eliot’s poem was a sense of inaction and anxiety. In Eliot’s poem the man is unable to put himself out there and talk to the woman he likes, while worrying about he worthiness of her. In Araby, the young man is walking through a bazaar and stops at one of the stalls, but does not buy anything. Despite this, he still lingers in front of the stall knowing he still wont buy anything.

This same inaction and anxiety is seen even more in Eveline. She is a young woman who is supposed to be running off with a man to Buenos Ayres, but you can tell she is anxious about the whole thing throughout the poem and afraid to leave her family (which she promised her mother she would take care of). When it comes time to leave with him, he takes her hand but she clutches the railing and cannot bring herself to go with him.

Joyce “Araby”

Joyce’s short story “Araby” is filled with symbolic images of a church. It opens and closes with strong symbols, and in the body ofthe story, the images are shaped by the young), Irish narrator’s impres-sions of the effect the Church of Ireland has upon the people of Ire-land. The boy is fiercely determined to invest in someone within thisChurch the holiness he feels should be the natural state of all withinit, but a succession of experiences forces him to see that his determi-nation is in vain. At the climax of the story, when he realizes that hisdreams of holiness and love are inconsistent with the actual world,his anger and anguish are directed, not toward the Church, but to-ward himself as “a creature driven by vanity.” In addition to the im-ages in the story that are symbolic of the Church and its effect uponthe people who belong to it, there are descriptive words and phrasesthat add to this representational meaning.

James Joyce

James Joyce’s writing, although prose, has a very poetic quality.  Like many modernist poets, Imagism was a key element for Joyce.  As I read these two short stories, there were many places that struck me as particularly poetic, usually because of his treatment of images.  For instance, near the beginning of “Araby,” Joyce describes spending time outside in the evenings.  He writes, “When we met in the street the houses had grown sombre.  The space of sky above us was the colour of ever-changing violet and towards it the lamps of the street lifted their feeble lanterns.  The cold air stung us and we played till our bodies glowed” (2219).  This whole passage felt very poetic to me.  Joyce is so descriptive that he creates an image that, like much in modernist poetry, can stand on its own.

There were several places where the narrator describes Mangan’s sister, and also his feelings for her.  These places also seemed as if they could be poetry, rather than prose.  He writes, “Her dress swung as she moved her body and the soft rope of her hair tossed from side to side” (2219).  It’s a very simple, elegant description, that again seems to stand on its own.  The descriptions of the narrator’s own feelings seemed very poetic to me as well.  “Her name was like a summons to all my foolish blood” and “My body was like a harp and her words and gestures were like fingers running upon the wires.”  I was particularly intrigued by these similes, and thought them to be very poetic.  The image of the harp is easy to picture as it is, but it also creates the image of the effect the girl has upon the narrator.  There were other examples as well, but these were the ones that struck me as showing how Joyce’s writing embodied Imagism and was very poetic in his prose.