The world of the Dubliners which Joyce presents is laden with characters that are constantly attempting to survive in the face of hardship; trying to escape the trappings of the political, religious and social dynamic which restricts and asphyxiates the lives they lead. In both “Araby” and “Eveline” the protagonists a young, unnamed boy and a young lady are offered and attempt the chance of escape but are disappointed by its failure to succeed.
This provides Joyce’s key comparative theme throughout his whole collection of Dubliners: the opportunity and prospect of escape from the paralytic nature of Dublin life and the inability to break free. In both, Joyce presents a world of weariness and frustration, dominated by adults or parental figures, but one which also holds the promise of escape. In “Araby” escape is suggested through both the exotic enchantment of the bazaar and the attraction of Mangan’s sister who arouses the boy’s latent sexuality, whereas in “Eveline” the risk and excitement of escape is offered by a man, Frank.
In “Araby”, Joyce uses the stark contrast between light and darkness to create an illusion of possible escape for the young boy, “Her figure defined by the light”. Previously in the story, Joyce had only implemented the use of darkness but this image provides a break from this monotony and for the first time injects a bit of hope into the rhetoric. The symbol of Mangan’s sister represents an opportunity of escape.
Joyce employs this use of light to symbolise hope and a sense of liberation repeatedly to emphasise the contrast this creates with the dead, decrepit descriptions of the boy’s street, “â€¦touched discreetly by the lamplight”; “figure defined by the light from the half-opened door”. Joyce presents a sense of direction and opportunity by referring to words such as “focused” and “defined”. Moreover Mangan’s sister provides further contrast with the decaying and monotonous surroundings in that she represents an alien sense of movement and life, “â€¦her dress swung as she moved her body and the soft rope of her hair tossed from side to side”.
However Joyce emphasises the boy’s desperation to escape in the manner in which his relationship with Mangan’s sister is illustrated, “â€¦her name was like a summons to my foolish blood”; “â€¦my heart leaped”; “â€¦I had never spoken to her, except for a few casual words”. She appears to be supplying the momentum for his desire to escape, however, his love for her is more like an infatuation, a childish crush, in that it has the same all-consuming effect. His love is an illusion and is merely fuelling his desperation, “But my body was like a harp and her words and gestures were like fingers running upon the wires”.
As the story progresses the alluring qualities of the bazaar which the boy visits offer a different prospect and vision of escape. The bazaar becomes his reason for living and everything else does not seem to matter, “â€¦the tedious intervening days”, “I could hardly any patience with the serious work of life”. The Bazaar appears to assume the same position as Mangan’s sister and becomes an infatuation, an obsession, “The syllables of the word Araby were called to me through the silence in which my soul luxuriated and cast an Eastern enchantment over me”.
In “Eveline”, the notion of escape is expressed predominantly through Eveline’s relationship with Frank, “â€¦kind, manly, open-hearted”, “He had tales of distant countries”. Frank offers her something new and exciting; a break from the monotony of life. He gives her the dream of going away to some far away paradise and escaping. However, in the passage on page 33, Eveline reveals her naive view of Frank’s ability as he is presented in the terms of her romantic yearning, “She must escape! Frank would save her. He would give her life”; “He would save her”.
In this section much of the language Joyce employs is idealised and highlights the fact that she herself has never been in love and therefore has no mature perceptions of what love is or the feeling it evokes. This idealisation is seen in the way she talks of, “the terrible Patagonians”; “the Straits of Magellan” and “distant countries”. Joyce’s use of free indirect speech, in which purporting in the third person to offer the objective account, Joyce in fact enters the consciousness of Eveline and makes her habitual formulations the stuff of narrative, makes her idealisation and naivety extremely effective.
Frank is merely an infatuation born out of the desperation of her situation and her deep desire to escape it, as in Araby. In both “Araby” and “Eveline” Joyce presents the setting in similar ways. There is a sense of restriction and claustrophobia expressed through the drab and decaying description. In “Araby”, “Air, musty from having been long enclosed” gives a sense that it is difficult to breathe in the atmosphere of the street in which the boy lives. The other houses of the street, conscious of decent lives within them, gazed at one another with brown imperturbable faces”. The personification of the word houses with the use of “faces” allows Joyce to emphasise the grimness of the poverty and the monotony of living in Dublin through these unflappable, stagnant symbols of decay and erosion. This is enhanced by Joyce’s placement of the story at a “blind end” or dead end, which highlights the limitation and lack of direction present in the boy’s existence causing his desperation.