The story “Araby,” by James Joyce, shows how people often expect more than that which ordinary reality can provide and consequently feel disappointed when they do not receive what they expect. Another fascinating piece of literature is the poetry collection The Black Riders and Other Lines by Stephen Crane. What, if anything, does one have to do with the other? This paper will compare one of Crane’s poems to Joyce’s story.
“Araby” tells the story of a young boy’s disillusionment with life as he experiences his first adult feelings of love for a girl, but is then denied expression of his feelings for her by the adult world. The key theme is frustration, as the boy deals with the limits forced on him by his situation. He has a succession of romantic ideas about a girl and an event to which he attributes magnificent qualities, a common bazaar called “Araby,” that he will attend on her behalf. On the night when he waits for his uncle to return home so that he can go to the bazaar, the reader witnesses the boy’s frustration increasing and building. By the time he finally gets to go to the bazaar, it is more or less over. His fantasies about the bazaar and about buying a special gift for the girl of his dreams are revealed as being ridiculous. The boy’s anticipation of the event, and of pleasing the object of his affections with a gift from the event, provided him with nice fantasies. However, reality turns out to be much harsher than fantasy.
Crane’s poems often carry the themes of love and human nature just as Joyce’s story, “Araby,” does. If one looks at poem III of The Black Riders and Other Lines, one can see a creature literally “eating his heart out,” presumably over a lost love. One can easily draw a parallel between this poem and “Araby,” as the boy in Joyce’s story ends up eating his heart out as well over the lost chance to impress the girl of his dreams.
Joyce created much darkness in the setting of “Araby.” This darkness represents how the boy feels about his own life. Even as he plays outside with his friends, the boy remarks, “When we met in the street the houses had grown somber. 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.” In this quote, even the lanterns can’t add lightness to the boy’s situation. The boy is young and naive and he feels that he leads a dull and boring life. Joyce uses darkness to make the boy’s reality more believable through very vivid, precise descriptions.
By contrast, when the boy thinks of or talks to the girl, the object of his affections, Joyce uses light to create a fairy tale world of dreams and illusions. When Joyce describes the boy waiting outside to watch the girl, he writes, “She was waiting for us, her figure defined by the light from the half-opened door.” Joyce later writes of the time when the boy is speaking to the girl, “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.” Joyce refers to bright light when discussing the girl in order to give her a heavenly presence, to make her seem even more dream-like, as she appears to be to the boy.
Crane’s poetry is much more mysterious than Joyce’s stories, but he uses literary devices to create setting as well. His setting is more desolate — the desert. When the narrator says, “I saw a creature naked, bestial,” it makes the reader think that the narrator and this creature are the only two beings in the desert. Although Crane’s poem is harder to pin down, the reader can surmise that the creature is eating his heart “because it is bitter, and because it is my heart,” in response to a lost love. Crane’s poem, like Joyce’s story, is infused with realism, which sets it apart from other poetry of the time. Joyce’s main character falls back to earth and