What is the central theme of Araby? How would you justify the title of the story in terms of its theme?


What is the central theme of Araby? How would you justify the title of the story in terms of its theme?

The central theme of Araby is surely the universal search for an ideal. Here the ideal is close-connected with the idealism of beauty, the idealism of love, and the idealization of place.

The boy, supposedly an embodiment of the creator himself is thrilled by the sensation of ideal means. The resource of the ideal in the celebrated story is surely Mangan’s sister, his heart’s throb. The central theme of the protagonist’s search for the ideal is evident in the very introductory portion of this acclaimed short story Araby-

“At the same time, the boy’s frustrated quest for beauty in this drab surrounding is representative of man’s universal- a universally frustrated-search for an ideal” The boy in this story has an unquenching thirst and authentic determination to unveil the substantiality of idealism. Mangan’s is the item that has fueled his solid desire to discover idealism and to take the adventure to unload the essences of idealistic genres which is far away from the drab reality. In respect of exploring the regions and perspectives of the central pin-pointed idealism, the boy is alike to that Tennyson’s Ulysses whose philosophy of life is –
“To follow like a sinking star/ Beyond the almost bounds of human thought.”

In this thought track of the ‘stream of consciousness’, the boy intends to touch the height of ideal means, greater than the filthy reality. The central theme can also be interpreted by means of expressing the fact that the boy is an ordinary, higher sensitive teen-aged creature who has taken an extraordinary adventure (Like Homer’s Odyssey.) His journey is from realism to idealism, from triviality to essence, and from earthly limitation to eternity. It is a kind of ‘crossing the bar,’ where the boy desires to transport himself to his ideal land, which is Araby, only to bring, an ideal gift for his sweetheart. The boy’s dream girl herself is the embodiment of idealism, whereas, Araby is the representation of Eastern enchantment. The idealization and the craze of the boy are like that of Arsat’s assessments of his mental frame when he has got the enchantment of love through Diamelan in Joseph Conrad’s story “The Lagoon.” In his word- “I could see nothing, but one face, hear nothing but one voice.”

The boy’s search for an ideal has received a boost because of the unexpected and sudden proposal of Mangan’s sister to go to the oriental fair, held in Dublin, Araby as she cannot go there for the terminal examination in her convent school. The girl to the boy is the representation, of idealism. He has weaved a huge garland of love for his dream girl. His sensation and search for ideal love are much more fascinating because of the sordid environment of North Richmond Street where the boy is living. The surrounding is hostile, whereas, the search for love is ideal. The idealism in discovering pure love is symbolically presented by the reference of the Holy Grail, the chalice in which Jesus Christ had taken his last supper. The expression of the Holy Grail is expressed by the following Lines in an outstanding fashion-

“I imagined that I bore my chalice safely through a throng of foes. Her name sprang to my lip at moments in strange prayers and praises which I myself did not understand.”

This inability to understand is the feature of idealism as well as its demarcation from realism. The boy is bogged down by the universally solid rhythm of ideal love. His entire body and mind have reacted to the ideal charm of love. The gestures, the figure, the words, the manners, in a word everything that is related to Mangan’s sister has another meaning to the sensitive soul of the boy: In his confession-

But my body was like a harp, and her words and gestures were like fingers running upon the wires.”

From the ideal land of Araby, the boy desires to bring an ideal gift as a token of his ideal love for Mangan’s sister, a representation of the idealistic resource of sensation regarding ideal love. His search for an ideal has got a tremendous blow from the very beginning of the day when he has planned to take the journey to his ideal land. In the very morning, his effort to intimidate his uncle about his journey has got the reverse effect. Although the uncle has said that he has it in his mind, in real manifestation, he has made it late to return home excessively. This late retreat of his uncle has made the boy restless and uncertain about the success of his taking journey. Like the other days at the time of going to school, the boy’s inquisitive soul has not been smooth by the glimpse of Mangan’s sister. So, the day from the very beginning is echoing the coarse rhythm regarding the fulfillment of his idealistic journey for the sake of his ideal lady. Uncle has come late. By the supervision of the aunt, the boy has been permitted to go to Araby. The boy is in a hurry to catch the train, but the compartment is vacant. When he has reached Araby, the syllable of his heart’s joy, a large portion of his fear has already been closed. The boy has heard counting the coin, which is a death blow to his search for the ideal. His adventure and dream regarding his ideal, the land is ground by the cruel blow of Araby as it is. In front of a stall, the boy has heard the gossip of a very sub-standard Lady with two men. In a very mechanical fashion, the Lady has asked whether the boy will take anything from the stall.
Observing me the young Lady come 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.”The boy is extremely frustrated with the absolute failure in his search for the ideal.

Idealism is principally a journey that is without any destination and hence is bound to have a frustrating end. The boy’s failure in finding out an ideal gift for his ideal Lady as well as his infertile exercise to discover an ideal land is futile to the principles of idealism. If Araby will be the replica of the boy’s dream and the gift will be suitable to offer as a token of love to Mangan’s Sister, then it will become real and thereby lose the sanctity and gravity of idealism. Realism and idealism are contrary to each other. Realism is an achievement, and idealism is thought. Thoughts are always greater than achievements. What the boy has experimented with was reality, what he has accessed is idealism. The boy’s failure in getting the gift in Araby is the victory of idealism and the success of the central theme which is a search for the ideal’.
The boy’s failure in finding out an ideal gift from his ideal land is a marvelous mileage to build up ideal love. In reality, his failure has hampered his advancement of a real love relationship with Mangan’s sister. This failure will keep the status of ideal love intact because in Shelley’s words, it is a desire’-

“… of the moth for the star of the night for the morrow/ a desire of something after beyond the sphere of sorrow.”

Thus, the central theme is unified with the universal frustration in the search for the ideal. In idealism, failure is greater than real success. The boy fails only because he is idealistic and ideally searching for the land and the gift which will have the eternal vitality to be idealistic.
It is destined to be failed. Goutam Buddha fails to win man from their iniquities. Jimmy Porter in Osborne’s Look Back in Anger fails in family and social life, and so also the teen-aged boy in Araby. His final realization of anger and anguish is due to the demarcation between realism and idealism.

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