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The Stagnation - Disruption Dichotomy in Dubliners


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

The concluding line from ’Araby’, the third story in Dubliners sums up the feelings of most of the protagonists of the different stories in the collection. In this story, Joyce depicts the unimaginative, conventional, narrow minded existence of the Dubliners and how the protagonist desperately tries to escape from it. He depicts it with unsparing realism with an abundance of descriptive phrases such as "the waste room littered with old papers", "the dark odorous stables", "the dark dripping gardens", and "the few straggling bushes in the garden". Joyce symbolically indicates the stagnated existence of Dubliners where the protagonist is compelled to take refuge in his reveries for a better existence amidst the stifling surroundings. The impression of this stagnation is further intensified by the details like the ’musty’ air and the ’brown’ unpainted facades of the houses in the locality. The turning point which provides a disruption amidst this stagnation is the boy’s decision to go to the oriental fair called ’Araby’ to buy a token of love for Mangan’s sister whom he is infatuated with. His definition of ideal love is ruptured when he receives a rude shock upon witnessing the shameless flirtation of a female shop assistant with two men. Like the other protagonists, he is confronted with a disturbing self-revelatory epiphany that his imaginative superiority over the crestfallen Dubliners is eventually fruitless. This ultimately transforms him from an idealistic state of innocence to the complexity of adult experience.

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