Araby

Light and Darkness Symbol Analysis

Light and Darkness Symbol Icon

The story uses a great deal of light and darkness in its descriptions. The story begins in the dark, with the “short days of winter” where the boys played in the “dark muddy lanes behind the houses.” And then the text follows the boys back to the street where the light from windows now illuminates the area.

Darkness also comes into play in understanding the narrator’s epiphany. Normally light represents enlightenment or knowledge, but at the end of the story the narrator’s newfound knowledge instead coincides with darkness. As the lights are turned off at the bazaar the narrator stares up into the darkness and realizes the harsh truth about his feelings for Mangan’s sister and his vain motives for coming to the market. In this case, his new knowledge is of a dark and depressing nature, as his epiphany has revealed to him the darkness in himself (his vanity) and in the larger world, which does not offer the sort of romantic escapes he had believed.

Light and Darkness Quotes in Araby

The Araby quotes below all refer to the symbol of Light and Darkness. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Coming of Age Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin Classics edition of Araby published in 1993.
Araby Quotes

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.

Related Characters: The narrator (speaker), Mangan’s Sister
Related Symbols: Light and Darkness
Page Number: 24
Explanation and Analysis:
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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.

Related Characters: The narrator (speaker), Mangan’s Sister
Related Symbols: Light and Darkness
Page Number: 25
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

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…

Related Characters: The narrator (speaker), Young female shopkeeper
Related Symbols: Light and Darkness
Page Number: 27
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

Gazing up into the darkness I saw myself as a creature driven and derided by vanity; and my eyes burned with anguish and anger.

Related Characters: The narrator (speaker)
Related Symbols: Light and Darkness
Page Number: 28
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
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Light and Darkness Symbol Timeline in Araby

The timeline below shows where the symbol Light and Darkness appears in Araby. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Araby
Coming of Age Theme Icon
...in the street to play before dinner, even during winter when it has already become dark by then. They play outside in the cold until their bodies “glow,” exploring everywhere from... (full context)
Religion and Catholicism Theme Icon
Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
...presses his palms together as if in prayer and repeats “O Love” continually in the dark. (full context)
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Escapism and the Exotic Theme Icon
Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
...happening the other boys are fighting over their caps. The narrator notices the way the light catches Mangan’s sister’s neck, her hair, her hand, and finally the white hem of her... (full context)
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Escapism and the Exotic Theme Icon
Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
...on the narrator. As the narrator leaves the stall he hears someone announce that the lights are going off, and as he is left in darkness, he realizes how foolish he... (full context)