Off the Tourists’ Path

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy

North Richmond street was decorated with solemn brick houses just as Joyce describes. The area seems to be poor, with fences and yards laced with barbed wire. There was litter scattered around porches and down the sidewalks. The surrounding area had small convenience stores and electronic repair shops. The Christian Brother’s School, also called O’Connell Primary School, is still on the corner of the blind street. The school takes up a large part of the road. I saw no playgrounds or signs of children playing.

“North Richmond Street, being blind, was a quiet street except at the hour when the Christian Brother’s school set the boys free. An un inhabited house of two stories stood at the blind end, detached from its neighbors in a square ground. The other houses of the street, conscious of decent lives within them, gazed at one another with brown imperturbable faces.” (Joyce, Araby)

Unlike the rest of what I have seen in Dublin, the street itself seemed dead. There were some people driving and others looking out their windows at our Camera flashes, but their faces were expressionless. Peoples faces seemed to match those of the house facades; solemn or somber. A woman at the corner lit up a cigarette standing in front of her decayed grey apartment building. I pictured what it must have been like for a young boy to grow up in the bleak area. Even the blue sky and warm sun could not illuminate the street enough to call it anything but grim. I felt that the street’s atmosphere was very appropriate for the story of Araby.

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

At the end of Araby, the protagonist feels despair, he has given up his hope and faith that his romantic fantasies about the girl he loves, would ever come true. He realizes the lack of appeal to himself as a young boy. He realizes the lack of romanticism in the reality of his life. I think that the appearance of North Richmond Street was a reflection of the reality of the protagonist’s despair. It was quiet and dull, being a dead end, and lacked the overall liveliness I have seen in other residential areas.
There was something claustrophobic about it too. The houses loomed over the narrow street, and the intense red brick and grey cement houses made it hard to feel entirely free. The Street is secluded and isolated, reminding me a bit of a cubbyhole. I think that Joyce consciously chose North Richmond Street for Araby because of the exact atmosphere I am describing. The young boy lived in the claustrophobic figurative ‘womb’ in Dublin, where it was dark and quiet. I think that the boy’s romantic passion reflects someone who would desire an adventure but the street itself offers no adventure of the sort. Buildings are tightly knit next to each other, leaving little to no room for any child to play.

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