As the intro tells, “the young Joyce first concentrated on writing poetry” (2215). Although Joyce eventually abandoned poetry to write prose fiction, his works still carry a hint of the poetic, especially in regards to modern poetry and Imagism.
In “Araby” we’re introduced to a boy who is consumed by his obsession with his friend’s sister. In keeping with the tenets of Imagism Joyce is able to fully convey the moods of the boy without giving us so much as his name. In fact, we don’t know the name of the girl either, but we can understand the deep infatuation the boy has with her through Joyce’s clear descriptions as he says “I had never spoken to her, except for a few casual words, and yet her name was like a summons to all my foolish blood” (2219). Joyce focuses on surfaces, describing in great detail 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, who sang a come-all-you about O’Donovan Rossa, or a ballad about the troubles in our native land,” and uses these surface details to create a rich setting that somehow isolates the main character (2219). The focus on trivial things and the mood of chaos leaves the boy alone with his feelings. The story is open ended, not having a definite finish, but just a stopping point which is a major indication of Joyce’s dedication to modernism. The helplessness of the protagonist as he lingers at the bazaar even though he “knew [his] stay was useless” mirrors the inertia of the modern age (2222).
“Eveline” even further relates to modernity. Eveline’s unhappiness with her current life but indecision on whether to leave it suggests the confusion of the modern age and the inability of some to choose the ways of the past or to move towards the future. The detail in “Eveline” also surpasses that of “Araby.” Joyce captures a moment eloquently but with efficiency as he relates that “She felt her cheek pale and cold and, out of a maze of distress, she prayed to God to direct her, to show her what was her duty” (2225). He needs only a few words (“out of a maze of distress”) to explain Eveline’s confusion and melancholy, similar to the way many modern poems convey complex ideas and feelings concisely. Joyce’s clarity of language ties his prose fiction to Imagism.