Araby & Clay

James Joyce’s “Araby” and “Clay” have many similarities between them. One theme that really stuck out to me was how both the boy and Maria appear to have little control over the paths of their own lives, literally and figuratively. In “Araby,” the boy focuses his time around the girl he likes, following her around, making sure their paths meet whenever possible. It is her mention of the bazaar that leads to his overwhelming urge to go to Araby in the first place. Whereas in “Clay,” Maria’s path is mostly decided by the people around her. It was Joe that got her a job, and Joe that invited her to his house. When she is at her job, she is told where to go and what to do by everyone around her. When she is not at her job, she runs errands to get things to give to others, such as the cakes for the children and the plum cake for Joe. Most noticeably, at the party, her “path” is decided by others during the Hallows Eve game where she touches the clay, an omen for death, but everyone around her tells her to try again, and that’s when she receives the book, an omen for a religious life.

Another similar thing that caught my attention was the distinct feelings of disappointment felt by both protagonists in both stories. In “Araby,” it’s when the boy arrives at the bazaar and realizes that it’s not really where he wants to be, and in “Clay,” it’s when Maria loses the plum cake she intended to give to Joe. It’s that precipitous feeling of looking forward to something with joy, and then having your hopes dashed.

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2 thoughts on “Araby & Clay

  1. I got the same impression you did about both of the main characters being swept through life on the whims of others. In “Araby” the nameless protagonist is always following his friends or choosing a path because of a casual comment from a girl he liked. In “Clay” Maria happily allows herself to be lead through life as well. The one big difference I saw though was a self awareness at the end of “Araby” that didn’t seem to be present in “Clay.” Like you said, both main characters give the sense of unhappiness at the end of their story’s, but only the main character in “Araby” seems to be aware of the fact that his impressionability was the source of that unhappiness.

  2. I like the analysis of how the two main characters’ lives revolve around other people. I was also struck by how dictated their lives are, as if they had everything planned perfectly. For instance Maria knew exactly how much the tram fare would leave her with, and when out shopping, visited different stores because there wasn’t quite enough icing. Also she lives her day to the minute, even setting her alarm and planning her evening to the minute. Similarly, the boy in “Araby” plans his morning walks perfectly to coincide with the girls’. When it is time to go to the bazaar, he is waiting for his father even before it is time. He notices the exact time, the specific train car he is in, and looks for a “sixpenny entrance”. His life is very exact and dictated, which is similar to having little control.

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