Setting and Atmosphere in Araby
A relatively dark, isolated mini paradise best describes the setting of James Joyce’s short story Araby. North Richmond, Dublin, Ireland, (where Joyce grew up) is the setting of the story. The setting is dark and isolated, being a “blind” street, or street with a dead end. And yet the inhabitants of North Richmond Street, especially the adolescent boys thrive in these conditions. Being dark and isolated, the young boys felt that this was their perfect world. The dark and isolated setting of the story created an atmosphere that roused the romantic idealism of the unnamed protagonist.
Unfortunately or rather, fortunately for him, he would see the real world during his trip to Araby. Light in/and Darkness Despite the dark descriptions of the street, its inhabitants are able to live, or at least see the world idealistically. Though this kind of living is desired by most people, it is not always good to live with idealistic views. The word “dark” or any word resembling darkness is probably the most repeated word in the story (the word dark is repeated nine times, a staggering three repetitions in a single sentence).
The people in North Richmond Street are able to live “imperturbable” or undisturbed lives amidst the chaos of the real world that is alien to them because of their idealistic views caused by their isolation. These are of course, coming from the point of the story’s narrator, a young boy who has yet to see beyond what is presented to him. The people see the “light” side of things even if things seem bleak. In a sense, the people of North Richmond are blind, they are surrounded by the darkness, but like the optimistic persons that they are, they just live with it.
In contrast to the darkness that seems to dominate the story, the word “light” is repeated seven times, but always as a subordinate to the darkness. Only glimpses of light were present in the setting of the story. Light usually emerges with the appearance of Mangan’s sister, the object of desire of the narrator, “…her figure defined by the light from the half-opened door. ” The boys watch this image of the girl from the shadows, in a way, the narrator was stalking the girl in an innocent, childish, way. This light, gave the narrator, not just a glimmer but a lot of hope.
Unfortunately for him, the world is not as perfect as he had hoped, a classic case of having blind hopes and romantic dreams. Having his romantic idealisms crushed by his visit to the Araby, the story became a coming of age story. The Dead Priest and the Drawing Room The old drawing room also created an atmosphere of isolation that housed the hopes of the narrator. A priest used to live in the narrator’s house before they moved in, but he died, and now remnants of his past lingers in the drawing room and is frequented by the narrator.
The drawing room itself is an isolated place within an isolated North Richmond Street. The air in the drawing room is “musty from having been long enclosed. ” A sense of time being frozen can be inferred from the setting of the story, shown by the things left behind by the dead priest that are still in the house that are virtually untouched. Books like The Abbot, by Walter Scott, The Devout Communicant, and the Memoirs of Vidocq are still in the house. Joyce’s choice of books to be included in this story may have some significance that is related to the theme.
He would not have mentioned them if they weren’t related in any way. Even an old bicycle pumps remains in the garden behind the house, rusty, but still there. The dwelling place of the dead priest is just as intricately described as the street or the Araby itself. It serves as a comparison to the other settings of the story. The drawing-room became a haven for romantic idealisms for the narrator; it is in the drawing room that he professed her love to Mangan’s sister, murmuring “O love! O love” many times. Isolation makes people do the craziest of things.
Setting’s effect to the Action of the Characters The isolated setting makes characters act differently than they normally would in an “exposed” environment. The inhabitants of the houses emulate the feeling of detachment brought about by their isolated location. It works both ways, the attitude of the people is reflected in the structure, and the physical location of the houses affects the attitude of the people.
“The other houses of the street, conscious of decent lives within them, gazed at one another with brown imperturbable faces. The darkness around the Street does not seem to disturb them, but an outsider would see North Richmond Street as a very depressing place. But for the residents, everything is just fine, but of course, it isn’t, they are just blinded by their idealism. Conclusion The setting of Araby created an atmosphere of darkness and isolation, but despite these negative things, the residents of North Richmond Street still see the lighter side of things even if things are not really as pleasant as they think. The residents of the neighborhood are not bothered by their situation; they remain oblivious to what their real condition is.
The narrator is blinded by his romantic idealisms towards Mangan’s sister. In the end, he saw the world for what it really is, thanks to the Araby. The old drawing room of the dead priest contributed to the idealistic views of the narrator, its isolation made it the dreaming place of the narrator. North Richmond’s isolation affected how the characters view their world, instead of seeing the world for what it really is, they are blinded by their optimistic views, and in the narrator’s case, his romantic idealisms.