As I ponder the question at hand, the question for me is just what constitutes imagism and modern poetry? Going to the textbook, it seems that with the death of Queen Victoria in 1901, some in the literary world were eager to bury an era along with the Queen. It took several years to see the distinguishing elements emerge, but Ezra Pound seems to have significantly influenced how literature would then be written, and it seems to be nicely packaged into “’Make It New.’” (text 1925) The writings of Nietzsche, Freud, Jung, and Einstein continued the modernity trend of questioning the status quo, but this time it shook the foundational principles in religious belief, in how man thinks, and in how the universe is ordered. Add to that the continuing specter of war – Joyce’s Dubliners short stories were published just months before World War I began, and a few years before the Irish Rebellion erupted in 1916.
Making It New involved both imagism and modernism. According to the text, imagism was “a reaction against the expansive wordiness of Victorian Poetry.” They tended to write “short spare poems embodying a revelatory image or moment. The most memorable Imagist poems have the concentrated impact of a haiku.” (text 1930) Modernism employed a revolution in “subject matter and often on the level of style.” (text 1928) “The modern writer [had] to create new and appropriate values for modern culture, and a style appropriate to those values.” (text 1939) That included an unpredictable and understated narrative, using “stream of consciousness” to reveal characters in a manner as erratic as human thought, and writing on several levels to preserve the artistic merit of the piece yet appeal to the growing middle class.
After all this, perhaps I can summarize Araby by taking my own stab at haiku:
Young man and Young girl
Oh! The anticipation
“Anguish and anger.”
Seriously, Joyce portrays a snapshot of a young boy infatuated with a neighbor girl who promises to buy her a gift at the bazaar coming up that weekend. He fails at that task when extenuating circumstances intervene.
Joyce seems to have embraced the new ways of poetry in his prose. The meager story line fits the modernist mode. The story is told from the first person perspective of the young man. The story progresses when we see what he sees (“her dress swung as she moved her body and the soft rope of her hair tossed from side to side.” (text 2219)) and we feel what he feels (“I did not know whether I would ever speak to her or not or, if I spoke to her, how I would tell her of my confused adoration.” (text 2219)) In the spirit of imagism, Joyce uses words sparingly in limited dialogue and even failing to name the main characters.
However, Joyce seems to revert to traditional poetic techniques such as personification (“The other houses of the street…gazed at one another with brown imperturbable faces.” (text 2218)), similes (“My body was like a harp and her words and gestures were like fingers running upon the wires.” (text 2219)), imagery (“We walked through the flaring streets, jostled by drunken men and bargaining women, amid the curses of labourers, the shrill litanies of shop-boys who stood on guard by the barrels of pigs’ cheeks, the nasal chanting of street-singers.” (text 2219)) internal rhyme and consonance (“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.” (text 2220)). I feel this enriches his story when combined with the new techniques.