In “Araby” and “Eveline” Joyce uses religious symbols to show the importance of the Catholic religion in both of the main characters’ lives. Both of these stories take place in Dublin, Ireland, a place that is very strong in its belief in the Catholic religion. In “Araby,” the imagery of the infamous “Fall” is presented to the reader within the second paragraph to indicate its importance. The themes of religious masses can be found in “Eveline.” The concept of the Catholic Ash Wednesday is presented throughout both “Araby” and “Eveline.”
The second paragraph of “Araby” presents the idea of the Adam and Eve story known as “The Fall.” “The wild garden behind the house contained a central apple tree and a few straggling bushes under one of which I found the late tenant’s rusty bicycle pump.” (21/14-17). In the Catholic religion, the Adam and Eve story is thought to be the time when sin became present in the world. It is the time in Catholicism when the innocent life that Adam and Eve shared in the beautiful garden, violently changed into a life of responsibility, pain, heartbreak, suffering, and most important in the Catholic religion, separation from God. This transformation can not only be seen in the story of Adam and Eve, but in the change from the innocent life of a child to the turbulent life of an adult. The latter change is the one that the main character of “Araby” is going through. Joyce is trying to show how important this theme was by repeating the word “fall” throughout the entire story. Catholic religion plays an important role in the main character’s life, because the Catholic religion gives specific standards for believers to follow. This religion, along with its rules and regulations, is the one that the main character was raised by, and he feels obligated to follow them, even through the very tough time of adolescence. In the story, the boy becomes infatuated with a girl. This crush on Mangan’s sister is very tough on the main character for many reasons. The first being that she does not share the love he has for her, and secondly, his crush conflicts with his strict religion. He becomes obsessed with her, watching her every move. The girl has taken over his every thought, which is why the crush conflicts with the Catholic religion. Catholicism is the worship of a single, all-powerful God. When Mangan’s sister invades the young mind of the main character, he is no longer thinking about his religion, instead, he is focused on the girl, which causes confusion about what is more desirable.
In “Eveline” images of religious masses come up in the story. “Through the wide doors of the sheds she caught a glimpse of the black mass of the boat lying in beside the quay wall, with illumined portholes.” (32/45-47). The theme of religious masses is written into a very important time of the main character’s life. Eveline is faced with the decision whether or not to go with Frank to Buenos Aires. If she went, she would flee the responsibilities of her family and be able to finally live in a land where she could be carefree. Black mass is the traditional ceremony that witches will perform to invoke evil spirits and mock the mass of the Catholic Church. Since the theme of the black mass is used, it hints to the reader that maybe Eveline does not want to be held down by her religion. By using the words “black” and “mass” together, Joyce not only indicates the importance of Catholicism, but it shows the idea that Eveline is trying to break free from the constrictive power of the church and religion.
Finally, the topic of Ash Wednesday is brought up in “Araby” and “Eveline.” Ash Wednesday is one of the most important days in the Catholic religion. It is the day of repentance in the Catholic Church, as well as the first day of lent. Lent is a time where a Catholic follower is deprived from one of the most important things in jhor life. Dust is always used to represent Ash Wednesday because in the Ash Wednesday mass, the priest will put dust on the foreheads of everyone there and the Catholic priest says, “From dust you were made, and to dust you shall return.” In both of the stories the word dust comes up a number of times. Joyce repeats the words that he finds to be important. Because the word dust is written so many times, it is a good assumption to believe it has some importance. In “Araby” dust is important as a symbol of Ash Wednesday because the main character has to give up something very important to him, which is buying the object of his affection a present from the bazaar. In “Eveline” Ash Wednesday and dust are very important because the two images can be associated with duty and responsibility. Eveline is faced with an important decision between living a carefree life with Frank, or living a life of responsibility and duty. The word “dust” also appears in “Eveline” indicating that the Catholic religion is important to her. She chooses to live the life of duty and responsibility, proving that her belief in the Catholic religion is indeed something she thinks is important; and also when she gives up her chance to escape to a carefree life, she gives up something else important to her, Frank.
The above examples come together to show that the Catholic religion plays a major role in the lives of Joyce’s main characters. He uses repeated words and religious symbols to show just how important Catholicism is to the lives of the population of Dublin, Ireland. Joyce intentionally uses religion as the main conflict in the situations in both of the stories. James Joyce believes Catholicism is important, and he uses the religion to affect the characters’ lives. Without having the Catholic background both Eveline and the main character in “Araby” have, their choices concerning their life would have been less difficult. Instead of having to decide between their religion and their desires, they would only have to consider their desires. Joyce believes that the Catholic religion affects the characters and their situations, which is the reason why he writes in religious symbols throughout “Araby” and “Eveline.”