The Crush: A Psychoanalytical Look at "Araby"

Probably no other twentieth century short story has called forth more attention than Joyce's "Araby." Some universality of experience makes the story interesting to readers of all ages, for they respond instinctively to an experience that could have been their own. The story suggests the stormy period of adolescence that we have all lived through and the reader sympathizes with the protagonist as he experiences his first crush. In his brief but complex story, James Joyce employs imagery and symbolism to reveal the blind obsession and compulsive behavior characteristic of a boy in the throes of his first crush.

The nameless protagonist of "Araby" is a pre-teen boy living in Dublin, Ireland. His life is a simple one of school and play until the sister of one of his playmates enthralls him. He lovingly studies her and notes how "her dress [swings] as she moves her body" and longs to touch "the soft rope of her hair" (753). These sensual images hint at the obsessive feelings to come. Soon, she is all he is capable of thinking about. The image of her accompanies him "even in places the most hostile to romance": the market and the streets, among the "drunken men and bargaining...

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