Araby and Eveline
Instructions for your paper
Here are some questions, comments, thoughts, etc., I would like you to consider about the two James Joyce stories we are looking at this week: here’s a general tip on approaching the text as a whole: Something to keep in mind while reading that Joyce was interested in the ideas of paralysis (emotional, social, physical, sexual, economic, spiritual, etc.) and epiphany (a sudden, eye-opening realization–a moment of profound realization and enlightenment). It is often helpful, in talking and thinking about the text, to locate the paralysis and epiphany in each story.
I wouldn’t just want you to skip around, paragraph to paragraph, sharing brief, surface-level comments about different stories, I’m not interested in reading too much summary–I’ve read the stories!–but in your personal responses to the readings. You may even want to consider larger social, historical, or cultural issues that the stories dealt with that interested you since you might want to do your final research paper on one of these issues. Play around! And, of course, feel free to quote from the story(ies) you discuss, but please know I don’t want you eating up the page length with a bunch of block quotes either! 😉 Remember that this CRP might be a mini-rough draft of what might become your research paper, so be sure to get your ideas down.
Some story-specific thoughts:
•”Araby” is a story about burgeoning sexuality and frustrated desire. A truly Joycean welcome to the joys of adolescence for our young lad! This story is so heavily anthologized and discussed in terms of the epiphany at the end of the story that I would be very surprised if you’re not familiar with it. Unfortunately, much of the fullness of the rest of the story is usually lost in classroom treatments of it because of Joyce’s exemplary use of epiphany. However, you will still need to carefully consider the last sentence of the story (an exquisite sentence, indeed) and be sure to understand how the narrator gets to this emotional state.
•What is “Araby” and what are its mysteries and enticements? What promise does it hold for the narrator? What does it deliver?
•What is the relationship between the narrator and Mangan’s sister? Is there a relationship at all? How do you think the narrator would respond to this question? Would that answer change by the end of the story? How would Mangan’s sister respond to the relationship question?
•How are the adults in this story characterized? What purpose do they serve in the narrator’s life (and in the story)? How are the adults in this story similar to/different from the adults in the previous two stories? What role do guardians (since there don’t seem to be many biological parents here) play in the lives of the narrators?
With “Eveline,” I do want you to think about the same kinds of things I mentioned about “Araby.” Pay attention to conversations (what is included, implied, and left out altogether–sometimes through the use of elipses), colors, lighting/tonality/mood, physical surroundings, allusions to historical, spiritual, and/or cultural people and/or places, social and economic concerns, etc.
There’s something I would like you to keep in mind with both stories, the one question that screams out in my mind whenever I’m reading these Joyce stories, and that is whether the main characters are going to continue in their present circumstances and/or behaviors or change the path of their lives forever. The next question that arises for me is “Do these characters really have any choices or does fate/circumstance doom them to remain on their current paths?”
I do not want to give anything away, so I’ll ask you to think about the end of each of these stories, and decide whether you think each character has made the “right” decision or the only decision they possibly could make. What are the consequences of their experiences/choices? Did these characters really have choices?
Well, I think that should get you thinking a bit about the Joyce stories! Please feel free to respond to any of these questions in your paper. 3 to 4 pages response
NORTH RICHMOND STREET being blind, was a quiet street
except at the hour when the Christian Brothers’ School set the boys
free. An uninhabited house of two storeys stood at the blind end,
detached from its neighbours in a square ground The other houses
of the street, conscious of decent lives within them, gazed at one
another with brown imperturbable faces.
The former tenant of our house, a priest, had died in the back
drawing-room. Air, musty from having been long enclosed, hung
in all the rooms, and the waste room behind the kitchen was
littered with old useless papers. Among these I found a few
paper-covered books, the pages of which were curled and damp:
The Abbot, by Walter Scott, The Devout Communnicant and The
Memoirs of Vidocq. I liked the last best because its leaves were
yellow. The wild garden behind the house contained a central
apple-tree and a few straggling bushes under one of which I found
the late tenant’s rusty bicycle-pump. He had been a very charitable
priest; in his will he had left all his money to institutions and the
furniture of his house to his sister.
When the short days of winter came dusk fell before we had well
eaten our dinners. When we met in the street the houses had grown
sombre. The space of sky above us was the colour of
ever-changing violet and towards it the lamps of the street lifted
their feeble lanterns. The cold air stung us and we played till our
bodies glowed. Our shouts echoed in the silent street. The career
of our play brought us through the dark muddy lanes behind the
houses where we ran the gauntlet of the rough tribes from the
cottages, to the back doors of the dark dripping gardens where
odours arose from the ashpits, to the dark odorous stables where a
coachman smoothed and combed the horse or shook music from
the buckled harness. When we returned to the street light from the
kitchen windows had filled the areas. If my uncle was seen turning
the corner we hid in the shadow until we had seen him safely
housed. Or if Mangan’s sister came out on the doorstep to call her
brother in to his tea we watched her from our shadow peer up and
down the street. We waited to see whether she would remain or go
in and, if she remained, we left our shadow and walked up to
Mangan’s steps resignedly. She was waiting for us, her figure
defined by the light from the half-opened door. Her brother always
teased her before he obeyed and I stood by the railings looking at
her. Her dress swung as she moved her body and the soft rope of
her hair tossed from side to side.
Every morning I lay on the floor in the front parlour watching her
door. The blind was pulled down to within an inch of the sash so
that I could not be seen. When she came out on the doorstep my
heart leaped. I ran to the hall, seized my books and followed her. I
kept her brown figure always in my eye and, when we came near
the point at which our ways diverged, I quickened my pace and
passed her. This happened morning after morning. 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.
Her image accompanied me even in places the most hostile to
romance. On Saturday evenings when my aunt went marketing I
had to go to carry some of the parcels. We walked through 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. These noises
converged in a single sensation of life for me: I imagined that I
bore my chalice safely through a throng of foes. Her name sprang
to my lips at moments in strange prayers and praises which I
myself did not understand. My eyes were often full of tears (I
could not tell why) and at times a flood from my heart seemed to
pour itself out into my bosom. I thought little of the future. I did
not know whether I would ever speak to her or not or, if I spoke to
her, how I could tell her of my confused adoration. But my body
was like a harp and her words and gestures were like fingers
running upon the wires.
One evening I went into the back drawing-room in which the priest
had died. It was a dark rainy evening and there was no sound in the
house. Through one of the broken panes I heard the rain impinge
upon the earth, the fine incessant needles of water playing in the
sodden beds. Some distant lamp or lighted window gleamed below
me. I was thankful that I could see so little. All my senses seemed
to desire to veil themselves and, feeling that I was about to slip
from them, I pressed the palms of my hands together until they
trembled, murmuring: “O love! O love!” many times.
At last she spoke to me. When she addressed the first words to me
I was so confused that I did not know what to answer. She asked
me was I going to Araby. I forgot whether I answered yes or no. It
would be a splendid bazaar, she said she would love to go.
“And why can’t you?” I asked.
While she spoke she turned a silver bracelet round and round her
wrist. She could not go, she said, because there would be a retreat
that week in her convent. Her brother and two other boys were
fighting for their caps and I was alone at the railings. She held one
of the spikes, bowing her head towards me. The light from the
lamp opposite our door caught the white curve of her neck, lit up
her hair that rested there and, falling, lit up the hand upon the
railing. It fell over one side of her dress and caught the white
border of a petticoat, just visible as she stood at ease.
“It’s well for you,” she said.
“If I go,” I said, “I will bring you something.”
What innumerable follies laid waste my waking and sleeping
thoughts after that evening! I wished to annihilate the tedious
intervening days. I chafed against the work of school. At night in
my bedroom and by day in the classroom her image came between
me and the page I strove to read. The syllables of the word Araby
were called to me through the silence in which my soul luxuriated
and cast an Eastern enchantment over me. I asked for leave to go
to the bazaar on Saturday night. My aunt was surprised and hoped
it was not some Freemason affair. I answered few questions in
class. I watched my master’s face pass from amiability to
sternness; he hoped I was not beginning to idle. I could not call my
wandering thoughts together. I had hardly any patience with the
serious work of life which, now that it stood between me and my
desire, seemed to me child’s play, ugly monotonous child’s play.
On Saturday morning I reminded my uncle that I wished to go to
the bazaar in the evening. He was fussing at the hallstand, looking
for the hat-brush, and answered me curtly:
“Yes, boy, I know.”
As he was in the hall I could not go into the front parlour and lie at
the window. I left the house in bad humour and walked slowly
towards the school. The air was pitilessly raw and already my heart
When I came home to dinner my uncle had not yet been home.
Still it was early. I sat staring at the clock for some time and. when
its ticking began to irritate me, I left the room. I mounted the
staircase and gained the upper part of the house. The high cold
empty gloomy rooms liberated me and I went from room to room
singing. From the front window I saw my companions playing
below in the street. Their cries reached me weakened and
indistinct and, leaning my forehead against the cool glass, I looked
over at the dark house where she lived. I may have stood there for
an hour, seeing nothing but the brown-clad figure cast by my
imagination, touched discreetly by the lamplight at the curved
neck, at the hand upon the railings and at the border below the
When I came downstairs again I found Mrs. Mercer sitting at the
fire. She was an old garrulous woman, a pawnbroker’s widow, who
collected used stamps for some pious purpose. I had to endure the
gossip of the tea-table. The meal was prolonged beyond an hour
and still my uncle did not come. Mrs. Mercer stood up to go: she
was sorry she couldn’t wait any longer, but it was after eight
o’clock and she did not like to be out late as the night air was bad
for her. When she had gone I began to walk up and down the
room, clenching my fists. My aunt said:
“I’m afraid you may put off your bazaar for this night of Our Lord.”
At nine o’clock I heard my uncle’s latchkey in the halldoor. I heard
him talking to himself and heard the hallstand rocking when it had
received the weight of his overcoat. I could interpret these signs.
When he was midway through his dinner I asked him to give me
the money to go to the bazaar. He had forgotten.
“The people are in bed and after their first sleep now,” he said.
I did not smile. My aunt said to him energetically:
“Can’t you give him the money and let him go? You’ve kept him
late enough as it is.”
My uncle said he was very sorry he had forgotten. He said he
believed in the old saying: “All work and no play makes Jack a
dull boy.” He asked me where I was going and, when I had told
him a second time he asked me did I know The Arab’s Farewell to
his Steed. When I left the kitchen he was about to recite the
opening lines of the piece to my aunt.
I held a florin tightly in my hand as I strode down Buckingham
Street towards the station. The sight of the streets thronged with
buyers and glaring with gas recalled to me the purpose of my
journey. I took my seat in a third-class carriage of a deserted train.
After an intolerable delay the train moved out of the station
slowly. It crept onward among ruinous house and over the
twinkling river. At Westland Row Station a crowd of people
pressed to the carriage doors; but the porters moved them back,
saying that it was a special train for the bazaar. I remained alone in
the bare carriage. In a few minutes the train drew up beside an
improvised wooden platform. I passed out on to the road and saw
by the lighted dial of a clock that it was ten minutes to ten. In front
of me was a large building which displayed the magical name.
I could not find any sixpenny entrance and, fearing that the bazaar
would be closed, I passed in quickly through a turnstile, handing a
shilling to a weary-looking man. I found myself in a big hall
girdled at half its height by a gallery. Nearly all the stalls were
closed and the greater part of the hall was in darkness. I recognised
a silence like that which pervades a church after a service. I
walked into the centre of the bazaar timidly. A few people were
gathered about the stalls which were still open. Before a curtain,
over which the words Cafe Chantant were written in coloured
lamps, two men were counting money on a salver. I listened to the
fall of the coins.
Remembering with difficulty why I had come I went over to one of
the stalls and examined porcelain vases and flowered tea- sets. At
the door of the stall a young lady was talking and laughing with
two young gentlemen. I remarked their English accents and
listened vaguely to their conversation.
“O, I never said such a thing!”
“O, but you did!”
“O, but I didn’t!”
“Didn’t she say that?”
“Yes. I heard her.”
“0, there’s a … fib!”
Observing me the young lady came over and asked me did I wish
to buy anything. The tone of her voice was not encouraging; she
seemed to have spoken to me out of a sense of duty. I looked
humbly at the great jars that stood like eastern guards at either side
of the dark entrance to the stall and murmured:
“No, thank you.”
The young lady changed the position of one of the vases and went
back to the two young men. They began to talk of the same
subject. Once or twice the young lady glanced at me over her
I lingered before her stall, though I knew my stay was useless, to
make my interest in her wares seem the more real. Then I turned
away slowly and walked down the middle of the bazaar. I allowed
the two pennies to fall against the sixpence in my pocket. 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.
Gazing up into the darkness I saw myself as a creature driven and
derided by vanity; and my eyes burned with anguish and anger.
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 odour of dusty cretonne. She was tired.
Few people passed. The man out of the last house passed on his
way home; she heard his footsteps clacking along the concrete
pavement and afterwards crunching on the cinder path before the
new red houses. One time there used to be a field there in which
they used to play every evening with other people’s children. Then
a man from Belfast bought the field and built houses in it–not
like their little brown houses but bright brick houses with shining
roofs. The children of the avenue used to play together in that field
–the Devines, the Waters, the Dunns, little Keogh the cripple, she
and her brothers and sisters. Ernest, however, never played: he was
too grown up. Her father used often to hunt them in out of the field
with his blackthorn stick; but usually little Keogh used to keep nix
and call out when he saw her father coming. Still they seemed to
have been rather happy then. Her father was not so bad then; and
besides, her mother was alive. That was a long time ago; she and
her brothers and sisters were all grown up her mother was dead.
Tizzie Dunn was dead, too, and the Waters had gone back to
England. Everything changes. Now she was going to go away like
the others, to leave her home.
Home! She looked round the room, reviewing all its familiar
objects which she had dusted once a week for so many years,
wondering where on earth all the dust came from. Perhaps she
would never see again those familiar objects from which she had
never dreamed of being divided. And yet during all those years she
had never found out the name of the priest whose yellowing
photograph hung on the wall above the broken harmonium beside
thecoloured print of the promises made to Blessed Margaret Mary
Alacoque. He had been a school friend of her father. Whenever he
showed the photograph to a visitor her father used to pass it with a
“He is in Melbourne now.”
She had consented to go away, to leave her home. Was that wise?
She tried to weigh each side of the question. In her home anyway
she had shelter and food; she had those whom she had known all
her life about her. O course she had to work hard, both in the
house and at business. What would they say of her in the Stores
when they found out that she had run away with a fellow? Say she
was a fool, perhaps; and her place would be filled up by
advertisement. Miss Gavan would be glad. She had always had an
edge on her, especially whenever there were people listening.
“Miss Hill, don’t you see these ladies are waiting?”
“Look lively, Miss Hill, please.”
She would not cry many tears at leaving the Stores.
But in her new home, in a distant unknown country, it would not
be like that. Then she would be married–she, Eveline. People
would treat her with respect then. She would not be treated as her
mother had been. Even now, though she was over nineteen, she
sometimes felt herself in danger of her father’s violence. She knew
it was that that had given her the palpitations. When they were
growing up he had never gone for her like he used to go for Harry
and Ernest, because she was a girl but latterly he had begun to
threaten her and say what he would do to her only for her dead
mother’s sake. And no she had nobody to protect her. Ernest was
dead and Harry, who was in the church decorating business, was
nearly always down somewhere in the country. Besides, the
invariable squabble for money on Saturday nights had begun to
weary her unspeakably. She always gave her entire wages–seven
shillings–and Harry always sent up what he could but the trouble
was to get any money from her father. He said she used to
squander the money, that she had no head, that he wasn’t going to
give her his hard-earned money to throw about the streets, and
much more, for he was usually fairly bad on Saturday night. In the
end he would give her the money and ask her had she any intention
of buying Sunday’s dinner. Then she had to rush out as quickly as
she could and do her marketing, holding her black leather purse
tightly in her hand as she elbowed her way through the crowds and
returning home late under her load of provisions. She had hard
work to keep the house together and to see that the two young
children who had been left to hr charge went to school regularly
and got their meals regularly. It was hard work–a hard life–but
now that she was about to leave it she did not find it a wholly
She was about to explore another life with Frank. Frank was very
kind, manly, open-hearted. She was to go away with him by the
night-boat to be his wife and to live with him in Buenos Ayres
where he had a home waiting for her. How well she remembered
the first time she had seen him; he was lodging in a house on the
main road where she used to visit. It seemed a few weeks ago. He
was standing at the gate, his peaked cap pushed back on his head
and his hair tumbled forward over a face of bronze. Then they had
come to know each other. He used to meet her outside the Stores
every evening and see her home. He took her to see The Bohemian
Girl and she felt elated as she sat in an unaccustomed part of the
theatre with him. He was awfully fond of music and sang a little.
People knew that they were courting and, when he sang about the
lass that loves a sailor, she always felt pleasantly confused. He
used to call her Poppens out of fun. First of all it had been an
excitement for her to have a fellow and then she had begun to like
him. He had tales of distant countries. He had started as a deck boy
at a pound a month on a ship of the Allan Line going out to
Canada. He told her the names of the ships he had been on and the
names of the different services. He had sailed through the Straits
of Magellan and he told her stories of the terrible Patagonians. He
had fallen on his feet in Buenos Ayres, he said, and had come over
to the old country just for a holiday. Of course, her father had
found out the affair and had forbidden her to have anything to say
“I know these sailor chaps,” he said.
One day he had quarrelled with Frank and after that she had to
meet her lover secretly.
The evening deepened in the avenue. The white of two letters in
her lap grew indistinct. One was to Harry; the other was to her
father. Ernest had been her favourite but she liked Harry too. Her
father was becoming old lately, she noticed; he would miss her.
Sometimes he could be very nice. Not long before, when she had
been laid up for a day, he had read her out a ghost story and made
toast for her at the fire. Another day, when their mother was alive,
they had all gone for a picnic to the Hill of Howth. She
remembered her father putting on her mothers bonnet to make the
Her time was running out but she continued to sit by the window,
leaning her head against the window curtain, inhaling the odour of
dusty cretonne. Down far in the avenue she could hear a street
organ playing. She knew the air Strange that it should come that
very night to remind her of the promise to her mother, her promise
to keep the home together as long as she could. She remembered
the last night of her mother’s illness; she was again in the close
dark room at the other side of the hall and outside she heard a
melancholy air of Italy. The organ-player had been ordered to go
away and given sixpence. She remembered her father strutting
back into the sickroom saying:
“Damned Italians! coming over here!”
As she mused the pitiful vision of her mother’s life laid its spell on
the very quick of her being–that life of commonplace sacrifices
closing in final craziness. She trembled as she heard again her
mother’s voice saying constantly with foolish insistence:
She stood up in a sudden impulse of terror. Escape! She must
escape! Frank would save her. He would give her life, perhaps
love, too. But she wanted to live. Why should she be unhappy? She
had a right to happiness. Frank would take her in his arms, fold her
in his arms. He would save her.
She stood among the swaying crowd in the station at the North
Wall. He held her hand and she knew that he was speaking to her,
saying something about the passage over and over again. The
station was full of soldiers with brown baggages. Through the wide
doors of the sheds she caught a glimpse of the black mass of the
boat, lying in beside the quay wall, with illumined portholes. She
answered nothing. 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. The boat blew a long mournful whistle into the mist.
If she went, tomorrow she would be on the sea with Frank,
steaming towards Buenos Ayres. Their passage had been booked.
Could she still draw back after all he had done for her? Her
distress awoke a nausea in her body and she kept moving her lips
in silent fervent prayer.
A bell clanged upon her heart. She felt him seize her hand:
All the seas of the world tumbled about her heart. He was drawing
her into them: he would drown her. She gripped with both hands at
the iron railing.
No! No! No! It was impossible. Her hands clutched the iron in
frenzy. Amid the seas she sent a cry of anguish.
He rushed beyond the barrier and called to her to follow. He was
shouted at to go on but he still called to her. She set her white face
to him, passive, like a helpless animal. Her eyes gave him no sign
of love or farewell or recognition.