How are James Joyce’s prose works “Araby” and “Eveline” like poetry? I read several of the other posts here, and a lot of them start out with “it’s poetic” and move on to describe how it matches imagism. Well, there’s a difference between being similar to imagism and being poetic, in my opinion, and I’m not so sure he does the latter. I’m not saying the work isn’t well written—I like the style—though the claim at it being poetic is a little vague. Yes, it is similar to imagism, though it reads to me like any well-written fiction. Nothing exceptionally poetic about it. Perhaps that’s me not looking hard enough, but it didn’t strike me as “poetic” when I first read it.
Anyway. There are many similarities to imagism, a school of literary thought that sets up different images that the reader must draw from to both understand what is happening and the meaning of the images themselves. Every time I think if imagism, I always think of Ezra Pound’s “In a Station of the Metro.” Two lines of poetry; “they don’t use any unnecessary words” is how it was described in class. Joyce’s works are like that. They’re short and sweet, and display a set of vibrant, surface images that do have a connection, though they’re not always perfectly linked. For example, in “Eveline,” at first the woman (whom we assumed is Evelin) “sat at the window watching the evening invade the avenue” (2222), and after a page or so of explanation, she is suddenly “among the swaying crowd in the station at the North Wall” (2224). Two completely different images that the reader must reconcile, for there is not a narrative in the traditional sense. It’s interesting, though I’m not sure how much I like the style, myself.
“Araby” is similar, and it has just the same vibrant images. The bazaar, though quiet and dark, appears in the minds eye, as does the sight of the “uninhabited house of two storeys” at “the blind end” (2218) of North Richmond Street. There’s a kind of hopeful element in the beginning—fresh love, that kind of butterflies-in-the-stomach feeling that confuses the young child, but in the end all the hopes are dashed away, and rather suddenly, I might add.
“Gazing up into the darkness I saw myself as a creature driven and derided by vanity; and my eyes burned with anguish and anger” (2222). These are the last lines of the work, and the fact he came to this conclusion both startled and confused me at first. There was a depressing quality about these words, which added to the confusion. There is an aspect of modernity that is trying to create new ways to deal with the changing world, a mourning for times past, but coupled with an understanding that those times are gone. I found the last element most present within these lines; the boy realizes that this love was stuck in vanity (and, if I recall, the Victorians were very concerned with image, and there seems to be an element of irony in here when you associate the image and surface with vanity, considering this is imagism, which is surface images) and he best let it go, that the times past are gone. In his “anguish” he accepts that.