Imagism and aspects of modern poetry in Joyce’s “Eveline” and “Araby”

James Joyce discusses the idea of breaking away from the past/the familiar and moving towards an unknown future in two chapters from Dubliners, “Eveline” and “Araby”. In these chapters the two protagonists are faced with an opportunity to explore the future, but are either too scared to take advantage of it or are disappointed after experiencing it. This concept relates back to aspects of modern poetry that focus on moving “beyond the pale” and “overflowing what were once its borders”.  Although both characters are faced with similar situations, the imagism used by Joyce illustrates their opposing mindsets which are responsible for their decisions and realizations at the end of the chapter.

The nameless young boy in “Araby” is constantly comparing the future and Mangan’s sister to something light that will make him come out of the shadows. One example of this comparison can be seen when the boy states, “She [Mangan’s sister] was waiting for us, her figure defined by the light from the half-opened door” (Joyce 2219). Eveline, on the other hand, views the future and unknown as something dark and terrifying. This is evident when she describes the boat that will carry her away from her past as a “black mass”.  While both characters ultimately conclude that the future will disappoint them, their thought processes leading up to their decisions are reversed. The young boy looks at the present (his schoolwork, uncle’s poetry, and the Dublin trains) as dull and in complete opposition to the joy that Araby and Mangan’s sister will provide to him. Eveline also starts out with a negative attitude about the present as she “mused the pitiful vision of her mother’s life” (Joyce 2224), however, as the story progresses she begins to look back fondly on the past and eventually decides not to abandon it.

“Araby” ends with the young boy saying, “I heard a voice call from one end of the gallery that the light was out. The upper part of the hall was now completely dark” (Joyce 2222). It is clear to the reader that Araby (which also represents the future and Mangan’s sister) did not live up to what the boy thought it would. I am curious, then, what message Joyce is trying to send about the modernization of the twentieth century

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4 thoughts on “Imagism and aspects of modern poetry in Joyce’s “Eveline” and “Araby”

  1. This was a very interesting post. I liked the comparison between the different character’s attitudes towards the future. I also thought it was a great move to end your post with a statement of curiosity because as you explained, Joyce’s writing could be interpreted in several different ways.

  2. The characters look to the future as a new and perfect adventure, but as you said they kind of start to realize that maybe the past/present is not all bad. Maybe this is only because they are too scared of what the future will be like if they act on their impulses and do things that could actually make them happy. I was really surprised when “Eveline begins to look back fondly on the past,” because I didn’t think that two happy memories from a lifetime of witnessing abuse, the death of her two favorite family members, and living an unsatisfying life in general could prevent anyone from leaving behind their past.

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