The Religious Undertones in James Joyce's Works: A
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The Religious Undertones in James Joyce\'s Works: Araby by James Joyce
Joyce uses religious references throughout "Araby" to express his
resentment towards the Cathoulic Church, and Catholicism as a whole. The
story revolves around religious symbolism and a boy\'s "bazzar" desire fora girl.
Joyce\'s reasons for rejecting the Catholic Church are unknown, but in many
scenes his attitude towards religious hypocracy becomes clearer.
"Araby\'s" introduction sets the religious tones, which flow through a
neghborhood, dark and full of desire. The story opens on "a quiet street,
except atthe hour when the Christian Brothers\' School set the boys free"(368).
The example given is a reflection of long days oppressed by the church, which only
cometo and end when the boys are set free. This example allows us a glimpse of
Joyce\'s early life, if you consider his works to be "fictionalized autobiographies." In
the story there is a room where a previous tenant, a priest, died. Joyce\'s resentment
toward religious literature is shown in the passage, "the waste room... was littered
with old useless papers"(368). In writing the "waste" room and refering to the
papers as "useless," the value Joyce assigns the readings
of a priest becomes clear. Joyce describes the environment as dispirited and
"The space of sky above us was the color of ever-changing violet, and
towards it the lamps of the street lifted their feeble lanterns"(368). Joyce
uses symbolism of "light" to represent religion, which protects us from
"darkness." A connection can be drawn between Joyce\'s lack of effort
towards religion and the feeble attemptofthe lamps to lift their lights
The relationship with the girl in the story talkes on a religious quality.
"Her name sprang to my lips at moments in strange prauers and praises
which I myself did not understand"(369). Joyce clearly outlines the lack of
understanding he has for the hyms of the Catholic Church. They too are
"strange to his lips," as though he has not spoken them with cynicism.
Joyce\'s character is obsessed with this girl. She is seen outside her
house as the light from the half-open door defines her figure. And again
later in the story, "The light from the lamp ... caught the white curve of
her neck, lit up her hair that rested there, and falling, lit up the hand upon
the railing"(369). The girl is seen as something holy here by being placed
in the "light." Joyce\'s character shows his infatuation with the girlwhen he
watches her door from the window every morning. Joyce shows the religious
confusion between the girl and the Church when, he writes, having seen
"nothing but the brown clad figure cast by my imagination, touched discretely
by the lamp light..."(370). The figure described here is a man of the cloth,
a friar, who is touched by the "light." Again this is Joyce\'s religious undertone.
Joyce\'s character labors to attend Araby. We read of his difficulties with his
Uncle and Aunt, one forgetting completely of the boy\'s request to attend Araby
and the other concerned of it\'s being "some freemason affair"(370). The
Freemason\'s are an organized religion that does not associate itself with the
Catholic Church. Joyce casts the Freemasons in a dim light by having the
Aunt question the purpose of the event. The ride to Araby on teh special
train symbolizes Joyce\'s feelings of misery and despair and reflectshis view
of himself in his native country. Araby is described as a big hall with the greater
part of the hall in darkness. The silence the narrator recognizes is "like that which
pervades a church after service"(371). Joyce symbolizes the uselessness of the Church
with the word "darkness."
In the final paragraph, Joyce writes, "Gazing up into the darkness I saw
myself as a creature driven and derived by vanity, and my eyes burned
with anguish and anger"(371) The biblical meaning of vanity is the idea that life is
useless, pointless, and of no meaning unless you believe in God. Joyce\'s character
is driven by vanity in his pursuit of the girl by going to Araby, and derived of vanity in the
life that his "parents" chose for him. Joyce\'s early education in the Catholic religion is
a memory that can not be altered. His saying that his "eyes burned with anguish and anger"
reflect how upset the narrator is with himself that his "eyes were often full of tears" and he
"could not tell why"(369).
Joyce\'s religious allusions throughout Araby image a man perturbed
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Araby, James Joyce, Dubliners
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