“Araby” and “Shooting an Elephant”

 

In both “Araby” and “Shooting an Elephant,” there is an important task at hand for both speakers. The speaker in Araby must go to this bazaar in order to impress the girl he likes. As soon as he gets to the bazaar, he is met with defeat. His wish to impress the girl is not fulfilled, because he reaches the realization that he had been deceived by both her and the allure of the bazaar. His hopes were too high and in the end, he was disappointed. This scenario is somewhat comparable to the speaker in “Shooting an Elephant” because the speaker also had expectations for himself that were not met. For example, the speaker did not plan, in the slightest, to kill the elephant. The idea did not cross his mind, and he repulsed by the idea of killing the elephant. Even when he realized that he “had” to kill the elephant in order to please the crowd, he was still against it. I think that both speakers have something/someone that they want to please, but in the end, they are only disappointed in themselves. The final sentence in Araby could easily be added to “Shooting an Elephant” because both speakers are feeling the same way. “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) is the point in which the young boy in “Araby” comes to the realization that he is nothing more than a part to the machine. I think that the speaker in “Shooting an Elephant” surely felt the same way after doing something that he considers evil. The speaker in “Shooting an Elephant” comes to the realization that he is nothing more than a puppet being controlled by those who easily outnumber him. The self-reflective nature of both characters is a similarity that stands out the most. Both speakers take a look inside themselves, and come to the conclusion that they ultimately do not like what they see.

Empire: The Duty of the English

Orwell and James Joyce provide insight into the natives feelings toward England.  Joyce notes that a few street singers in Ireland sang a song about the Irish nationalist, O’Donovan Rossa.  They also sing about “troubles in our native land” (2219).  He is showing discontent among the people.  Orwell mentions similar feelings in India.  He comments that a group of Buddhist priest’s sole purpose was to “stand on street corners and jeer at Europeans” (2567).  These two authors are portraying how the natives publicly displayed their hatred toward England, the Imperial power.

Another interesting similarity between the two authors is their perception on the duty of the English rulers.  Joyce mentions in Araby that an English lady spoke to the narrator “out of sense of duty” (2222).  Orwell fully explains this duty by observing that when a foreign nation rules another nation, the rulers of that nation “wear a mask” with the purpose of “trying to impress the ‘natives’” (2570).  He explains that it was the perceived duty of the English to appease the indigenous people.  Both Orwell and Joyce wrote against the Imperial stance of Britain, so they incorporated the  animus feeling of the native people to convict the British people that the Empire was dying.

“Eveline” and “In a Station of the Metro”

(I just remembered I forgot to do this one so here it is.)

One of the elements that most connected “Eveline” by James Joyce and “In a Station of the Metro” by Ezra Pound was the voyeuristic nature of them. In Pound’s poem, the speaker is reflecting upon “…these faces in the crowd” (Pound) and experiencing how it feels to view them. Similarly, in “Eveline”, the titular character spends the majority of the story staring out the window, reflecting upon her life while viewing others’ lives happening all around her. Both of these visual experiences seems to invoke a deeper emotion than one would expect. Pound takes a single moment in time, standing in a metro, and posits on the way it makes the reader feel, while Joyce uses the image of Eveline, sitting “at the window watching the evening invade the avenue” (2222) to relate to a multitude of past experiences in her life.

Furthermore, both pieces deal with dehumanization. At the end of “Eveline”, she stands, paralyzed, unable to get on the boat with Frank. As this happens, the narrator describes her composure: “She set her white face to him, passive, like a helpless animal. Her eyes gave him no sign of love or farewell or recognition” (2225). In this singular moment, Eveline loses her humanity and, in a way, ceases to be anything at all. The idea of dehumanization is echoed in the way that the face in Pound’s poem lose any sense of individualism: “Petals on a wet, black bough” (Pound). Here, the faces of strangers become plant material stuck to a tree branch, being stripped of all humanity as well. Both of these instances happen just for a brief moment, but neither author offers up any sort of explanation or deeper meaning; the reader is left to decide what it all means.

Isolation and Fading Happiness in Joyce’s “Eveline” and Pound’s “In a Station of the Metro”

            James Joyce’s “Eveline” and Ezra Pound’s “In a Station of the Metro” both share a gloomy tone and address the similar theme of isolation.  Eveline experiences many of the same emotions as rider on the metro would.  While Eveline yearns to “explore another life with Frank” (2223), she is struck by feelings of melancholy for her old family life.  Someone waiting at the metro station is likely traveling somewhere, which is usually an exciting affair, yet he or she cannot seem to find any joy in the activity.  These sensations set the vapid scene of each piece. The “petals on a wet, black bough” (Pound) is representative of this notion of fading happiness as people, like all things in life, are eventually lost.             

            Both characters are disconnected from the world in which they live.  The metro would likely be buzzing with a multitude of people and subways, but it still very easy to feel alone.  The bustling people look more like an “apparition” (Pound).  They are all so isolated from one another that all the metro-goers seem more like ghosts.  Eveline is in a similar state of limbo as she dreams of her future and reminisces about her past.  She remembers happier times when “the children of the avenue used to play together in that field” (2222) and wishes to return to her past.  Joyce is hinting at one of the prevailing themes of modernity: alienation.  Similarly, the advent of advanced technology, such as the subway system, evokes sadness and a longing for a simpler time. 

In a Station of the Metro : On a Dock in Dublin

The resemblance between Ezra Pound’s shockingly short “In a Station of the Metro” and ‘Eveline’ an excerpt from James Joyce’s Dubliners, comes from its vividly sombre imagery and solemn tone. Even though Pound’s poem is only fourteen words in entirety compared to the substantial section of Joyce’s ‘Eveline’, both tell equally of emotional numbness, imposed by one’s self and one’s surroundings.

For instance, as Eveline prepares to embark on her new life with Frank, the scene of the crowd at the dock reminds her of her life at home and awakens a fear of the unknown that lies ahead of her. She is suddenly rendered motionless, and worse, emotionless. Because of her inability to discern her emotions, she is now doomed to live an unfulfilling life, just like her mother. A similar lack of emotional stimulus is evoked in the “apparition” of faces in Pound’s poem. Indifference in the crowd prevents individuals from protruding and quashes their appearance, and by extension, their existence.

James Joyce

In both selections from Dubliners, James Joyce uses very poetic prose to get his meaning across.  The way he uses his words has a significant effect on how the story is received.  In Araby, the nameless main character is infatuated with a neighbor girl.  The representation of his emotional state is full of rich imagery and character, such as when he writes, “my body was a harp and her words and gestures were like fingers running upon the wires” (page 2219).  He is almost consumed by his crush on this girl, which is very poetic in and of itself; however, Joyce does a superb job at effectively conveying his emotion, with lines such as, “at times a flood from my heart seemed to pour itself out into my bosom” (2219).

Eveline is less longing and more unsure and desperate.  She has an opportunity to leave her relatively unhappy life, but she backs out at the last second, feeling obligated to stay by a promise she made to her dying mother.  The final scene at the station is full of emotional imagery which evokes a strong sense of desperation.  When she hears the boat’s “long mournful whistle” (2225) and when “a bell clanged upon her heart” (2225), she panics and clings to the railing, looking “like a helpless animal” (2225).  One of the lines that really struck a chord with me was, “She gave him no sign of love or farewell or recognition” (2225), because it provides such a strong sense of helplessness, as though she were completely taken over by her emotions and can no longer function.

Picture Perfect Detail

For me, the single most striking aspect of both “Araby” and Eveline” is Joyce’s extraordinarily precise, yet beautifully artistic use of language to state something quite simple. Before this assignment, I had never read Joyce, and I was absolutely stunned at the combination of art and precision found all throughout “Araby” and “Eveline.”

One line of “Araby” struck me in particular. The narrator goes back into the drawing room where the priest died, and he describes the sound of the rain outside: “I heard the rain impinge upon the earth, the fine incessant needles of water playing in the sodden beds,” (2220). Joyce could have written this line, not especially important to the overall plot of the story, in a much blander, simpler way. He just as easily could have said, ‘Outside, I heard raindrops falling to the ground.’ However, Joyce does not do that. Instead, he gives life to this picture, describing the delicacy of the raindrops as “fine, incessant needles.” He creates lively motion using words like “impinge” and “playing” in a scene that would otherwise seem extremely commonplace. The attention to detail, a characteristic of imagism, is phenomenal in “Araby.” Even though a certain sentence might not be crucial to the plot, Joyce writes it with the same care and precision as if it were absolutely vital.

Joyce uses this same precision in “Eveline.” One powerful example of this is at the very beginning of the story: “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 ordour of dusty cretonne,” (2222). With this short passage, Joyce completely draws his readers into the story. He does not say, ‘While it was getting dark, she stared out the window.’ Instead, he uses vivid sensory language, describing the “evening invade the avenue,” and the “odour of dusty cretonne.” Joyce’s choice of words makes the piece both artistic and enjoyable to read. Without resorting to wordiness, Joyce gives beautifully clear descriptions of detail.