Dubliners

The Motifs of Light and Dark in "Araby" 12th Grade

Despite the often automatic preconception in literature that darkness and negativity are inextricably linked, darkness is first a protective and natural force of childhood on North Richmond Street. The narrator first mentions darkness when describing the sunset, naming the children’s time of play as beginning in dusk. While the darkness flows into the street, “the space of sky above…was the colour of ever-changing violet,” and the streetlamps ineffectively endeavor to bring light back by casting “their feeble lanterns” (Joyce, 1). This powerfully romantic image emerges as the first signal that Joyce’s contrast between light and darkness will not be a traditional, bland one. And describing the sky at sunset as “ever-changing” establishes that the coming darkness cannot be responsible for or indicative of the stuck and paralyzed Dublin that Joyce repeatedly illustrates in both Araby and Dubliners. Instead, light appears as potentially negative, intruding into the darkness, attempting to destroy even the beautiful sunset. The children then roughhouse in this darkness, “[running] the gauntlet of the rough tribes” (1). Joyce uses several details defined by darkness to describe their play, which lend a mysterious and magical air to...

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