Each of the stories in Dubliners consists of a portrait in which Dublin contributes to the dehumanizing experience of modem life. The boy in the story “Araby” is intensely subject to the city’s dark, hopeless conformity, and his tragic yearning toward the exotic in the face of drab, ugly reality forms the center of the story.
On its simplest level, “Araby” is a story about a boy’s first love. On a deeper level, however, it is a story about the world in which he lives a world inimical to ideals and dreams. This deeper level is introduced and developed in several scenes: the opening description of the boy’s street, his house, his relationship to his aunt and uncle, the information about the priest and his belongings, the boy’s two trips-his walks through Dublin shopping and his subsequent ride to Araby.
North Richmond Street is described metaphorically and presents the reader with his first view of the boy’s world. The street is “blind”; it is a dead end, yet its inhabitants are smugly complacent; the houses reflect the attitudes of their inhabitants. The houses are “imperturbable” in the “quiet,” the “cold,” the “dark muddy lanes” and “dark dripping gardens.” The first use of situational irony is introduced here, because anyone who is aware, who is not spiritually blinded or asleep, would feel oppressed and endangered by North Richmond Street. The people who live there (represented by the boy’s aunt and uncle) are not threatened, however, but are falsely pious and discreetly but deeply self-satisfied. Their prejudice is dramatized by the aunt’s hopes that Araby, the bazaar the boy wants to visit, is not14some Freemason affair,” and by old Mrs. Mercer’s gossiping over tea while collecting stamps for “some pious purpose.”
The background or world of blindness extends from a general view of the street and its inhabitants to the boy’s personal relation-ships. It is not a generation gap but a gap in the spirit, in empathy and conscious caring, that results in the uncle’s failure to arrive home in time for the boy to go to the bazaar while it is still open. The uncle has no doubt been to the local pub, negligent and indifferent to the boy’s anguish and impatience. The boy waits well into the evening in the “imperturbable” house with its musty smell and old, useless objects that fill the rooms.
Free Essays on Wharton’s Ethan Frome: Isolation
Isolation in Ethan Frome
Ethan Frome is a story of ill-fated love, set during the winter in the rural New England town of Starkfield. Ethan is a farmer who is married to a sickly woman named Zeena. The two live in trapped, unspoken resentment on Ethan’s isolated and failing farm. Ethan has been caring for his wife for six years now. Due to Zeena’s numerous complications they employ her cousin to help in the house, the animated Mattie Silver. With Mattie’s youthful presence in the house, Ethan is awoken of the bitterness of his youth’s lost opportunities, and a dissatisfaction with his life and empty marriage. Ethan and Mattie in turn, fall in love. However, they never follow their love due to Ethan’s morals and the respect he has for his marriage to Zeena. Ethan eagerly awaits the nights when he is able to walk Mattie home from the town dances. He cherishes the ground she walks on.
After a visit to the doctor, Zeena is told that she needs more sufficient hired help. Thus, she decides to send her incompetent cousin away and hire a new one. Ethan and Mattie are desperate to stay together. However, Ethan’s lack of financial means and Zeena’s health are factors that will never allow him to leave Starkfield. Unable to find any solutions to this problem, Ethan and Mattie decide to commit suicide by sledding into a tree. They figure it is the only way they can be together. The attempt fails, and the two are left paralyzed. Now Ethan’s wife must care for the two for the rest of their lives.
There were many themes found in Ethan Frome, but the greatest of them all is loneliness and isolation. In college Ethan acquired the nickname “Old Stiff” because he rarely went out with the boys. Once he returned to the farm to care for his parents, he couldn’t go out with them even if he wanted to. Whatever he’s done has kept him apart from others: tending to the farm and mill, nursing his sick mother and caring for Zeena. Ethan’s isolation is intensified, because he is often tongue-tied. He would like to make contact with others but can’t. For example, when he wants to impress Mattie with beautiful words of love, he mutters, “Come along.”
In their own ways, Zeena and Mattie are solitary figures, too.