Jim Smiley’s bull-pup, Andrew Jackson, was used by Jim in various bets. The dog is described as a good dog that does not look like much, and other dogs often seemed to get the better of him in fights. The narrator notes, however, that Andrew Jackson never seemed to be bothered by these temporary setbacks because once a bet was involved, his behavior would change. As the stakes in the bets were raised, Andrew Jackson would bite the other dog in the hind leg and stay there, hanging on, until the owner of his opponent would give in and forfeit the fight. In this way, Jim’s bull-pup would win his fights. Andrew Jackson died when Jim arranged for him to fight a dog that did not have any hind legs. The narrator implies that Andrew Jackson was a proud dog and died of embarrassment. Like the former President of the United States with whom he shares his name, Andrew Jackson is described as being determined and . . . Read More
“The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” has an “as-told-to” framework. A talkative man named Simon Wheeler relates to Mark Twain (the narrator) the story of a gambler named Jim Smiley and the amazing animals Smiley used in his schemes. Twain has gone to see Wheeler at the urging of a friend back East who is in search of information about a boyhood companion named Leonidas W. Smiley. Leonidas W. Smiley had supposedly become a minister and gone to a western mining settlement called Angel’s Camp. The narrator notes he has come to believe there is no such person as Leonidas W. Smiley, and that the inquiry was designed to provide Wheeler with an excuse to talk about Jim Smiley. The narrator finds Wheeler in a run-down tavern in Angel’s Camp and politely asks about Leonidas W. Smiley. The name means nothing to Wheeler, but he thinks almost immediately of Jim Smiley and begins filling his visitor with tales of this bizarre . . . Read More
In his early story “Araby,” James Joyce prefigures many, if not all, of the themes which later became the focus of his writing. Joyce, often considered the greatest English-language novelist of the twentieth century, published few books in his lifetime. Chamber Music, a book of poems, appeared in 1907; Dubliners, a collection of short stories from which “Araby” is taken, was published in 1914; and hi first novel, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, came out in the same year. The book for which Joyce is most famous, Ulysses, appeared in 192 and was quickly banned. Finally, in 1939, Joyce published Finnegans Wake. Notwithstanding his small output, Joyce’s work has been highly influential, and many of the themes and details he uses in his work have become common currency in English literature. In “Araby,” a story of a young boy’s disillusionment, Joyce explores questions of nationality, religion, popular culture, art, and . . . Read More
While Dublin, Ireland, has seen change since the turn of the twentieth century, when Joyce wrote “Araby,” many of the conditions present then remain today. In 1904, all of Ireland was under British control, which the Irish resented bitterly. The nationalist group, Sinn Fein (part of which later became the Irish Republican Army—the IRA), had not yet formed, but Irish politics were nonetheless vibrant and controversial. The question of Irish independence from Britain was one of primary importance to every citizen.
Ireland’s major religion, Roman Catholicism, dominated Irish culture. Many families sent their children to schools run by Jesuit priests (like the one the narrator in “Araby” attends) and convent schools run by nuns (like the one Mangan’s sister attends). Folklore, fairy tales, and homespun stories—told and retold for generations—provided a common form of family entertainment. Many turn-of-the-century stereotypes about the . . . Read More
Through the use of a first person narrative, Joyce communicates the confused thoughts and dreams of his young male protagonist. Joyce uses this familiarity with the narrator’s feelings to evoke in readers a response similar to the boy’s “epiphany”—a sudden moment of insight and understanding—at the turning point of the story.
Point of View
The first-person point of view in “Araby” means that readers see everything through the eyes of the narrator and know what he feels and thinks. If the narrator is confused about his feelings, then it is up to the readers to figure out how the narrator really feels and why he feels that way, using only the clues given by the author. For example, when the narrator first describes Mangan’s sister, he says that “her figure [is] defined by the light from the half-opened door.” In other words, she is lit from behind, giving her an unearthly . . . Read More
A sensitive boy confuses a romantic crush and religious enthusiasm. He goes to Araby, a bazaar with an exotic, Oriental theme, in order to buy a souvenir for the object of his crush. The boy arrives late, however, and when he overhears a shallow conversation a female clerk is having with her male friends and sees the bazaar is closing down, he realizes that he has allowed his imagination to carry him away. He leaves without a souvenir, feeling foolish and angry with himself.
Alienation and Loneliness
The narrator never shares any of his feelings concerning Mangan’s sister with anyone. He isolates himself from his friends, who seem terribly young to him once his crush begins, and from his family, who seem caught up in their own world. Mangan’s sister is also completely unaware of the narrator’s feelings for her. Consequently, when he suddenly realizes how foolish he has been, his anger at himself is intensified by his . . . Read More
Mangan is the same age and in the same class at the Christian Brothers school as the narrator, and so he and the narrator often play together after school. His older sister is the object of the narrator’s confused feelings.
Mangan is one of the narrator’s chums who lives down the street. His older sister becomes the object of the narrator’s schoolboy crush. Mangan’s sister has no idea how the narrator feels about her, however, so when they discuss Araby, the bazaar coming to town, she is only being polite and friendly. She says she would like to go to the bazaar but cannot because she has to attend a school retreat that weekend. The narrator promises to buy her something at the bazaar if he goes, but it is unlikely that she takes this promise seriously. While on the one hand the narrator describes her romantically, he also describes her in reverential terms . . . Read More
“Araby” opens on North Richmond street in Dublin, where “an uninhabited house of two storeys stood at the blind end, detached from its neighbours in a square ground.” The narrator, who remains unnamed throughout the story, lives with his aunt and uncle. He describes his block, then discusses the former tenant who lived in his house: a priest who recently died in the back room. This priest has a library that attracts the young narrator, and he is particularly interested in three titles: a Sir Walter Scott romance, a religious tract, and a police agent’s memoirs.
The narrator talks about being a part of the group of boys who play in the street. He then introduces Mangan’s sister, a girl who captivates his imagination even though he rarely, if ever, speaks with her. He does stare at her from his window and follow her on the street, however, often thinking of her “even in places the most hostile to romance.” While in the . . . Read More
Critics read Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale as a cautionary story of oppression against women as well as a critique of radical feminism. Some who focus on Offred, the narrator and main character, criticize her passivity in the face of rigid limitations on her individual freedom: Gayle Green in her article, “Choice of Evils,” published in The Women’s Review ofBooks insists, “Offred is no hero.” Barbara Ehrenreich in her New Republic article, “Feminism’s Phantoms,” finds her to be “a sappy stand-in for [1984’s] Winston Smith. Even her friend Moira characterizes her as “a wimp.” Yet, although Offred cannot be considered a more obvious traditional hero like Moira, an examination of her more subtle rebellion against the oppressive totalitarian regime which governs her life illustrates the indefatigable nature of the human spirit.
The Republic of Gilead is a typical totalitarian society . . . Read More
In the 1980s, the political climate around the globe turned toward fiscal restraint and social conservatism. In general, this shift was a response to the permissiveness and unchecked social spending that occurred in the 1970s, which were in turn the extended results of the freedoms won by the worldwide social revolutions of the 1960s.
This conservative trend appeared in different forms in different countries. In Margaret Atwood’s home country of Canada, Pierre Trudeau, the Liberal Party leader who had been Prime Minister since 1968 (with an eight-month gap in 1979-80), resigned in 1984, and the voters replaced him with Progressive Conservative Brian Mulroney. Margaret Thatcher, who was elected Prime Minister of England in 1979, reversed decades of socialism by selling government-run industries to private owners. In the United States, the 1980 election of Ronald Reagan created such a turbulent . . . Read More