Araby

by

James Joyce

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Araby: Motifs 1 key example

Definition of Motif
A motif is an element or idea that recurs throughout a work of literature. Motifs, which are often collections of related symbols, help develop the central themes of a book... read full definition
A motif is an element or idea that recurs throughout a work of literature. Motifs, which are often collections of related symbols, help develop the... read full definition
A motif is an element or idea that recurs throughout a work of literature. Motifs, which are often collections of... read full definition
Motifs
Explanation and Analysis—Isolation:

Throughout “Araby,” images of isolation form a motif that emphasizes how growing up—or coming of age—can lead to loneliness and despair. At the beginning of the story, for example, Joyce establishes that the narrator’s house is physically separate from the rest:

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.

Here at the beginning of the story, the narrator has not yet lost his childhood innocence, but the image of his house being disconnected from its “neighbors” foreshadows the way that he will soon develop an infatuation with his friend Mangan’s sister and end up heartbroken and alone.

As the story goes on, the narrator starts to find himself alone more and more. Once he becomes infatuated with Mangan's sister, he declines to spend time with his friends, instead watching them play through the window. His uncle also abandons the narrator by not returning home on time to give him fare for transportation. Even on the way to Araby, the narrator notes that he “remained alone in the bare carriage.”

The final image in the story solidifies the motif of isolation: the narrator stands in the middle of the empty Araby market as the lights go off, leaving him alone in the darkness. All of these moments underline the fact that coming of age can lead to can lead to disillusionment and a loss of innocence, which can lead to isolation (both physical and emotional) from friends and family.