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Human Condition in Araby and Fly

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  • Pages: 3
  • Word count: 695
  • Category: Araby

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Sometimes fictions offer us something beyond a well-constructed plot or well-delineated characters: they just focus more on  human situation or condition. In James Joyce’s Araby the readers are forced to reflect on the struggle of a young, innocent and highly sensitive mind in the materialistic world. It is a condition which every artist with refined sensibilities has to grapple with as he journeys through the crass commercial world. Katherine Mansfield’s The Fly deal with the deep frustration and bereavement of a financially successful father who can mange his business well, but cannot cope with the stress following the death of his only son killed in the war. Both these masterpieces focus on human condition without attaching much importance to the sensations of gripping action, suspense and   plot – the ingredients of   formula writing. There is also an underlying affinity in these two stories by two different writers: they show the protagonists at odds with their immediate surroundings and the world has treated them unfairly.

            The adolescent narrator in Araby passes through the restlessness of an artistic soul trapped in the drab surrounding of Dublin. His obsession with the school girl ends in an epiphany of utter disappointment. Not only his buying of gift is foiled by the callous salespersons absorbed in their petty conversation, he is also struck by the world’s indifference to a small customer like him which only underscores the futility of his existence. This bitter experience may lead to a reassessment of his idea of womanhood. His only escape from boredom is the romantic infatuation with his friend Mangan’s sister; but his insensitive uncle delays and  spoils his attempt to buy a gift for his beloved from the make-shift fair “Araby” . The height of his experience is reached when the lights at Araby are switched off to indicate its closure. The high expectation of the boy hero also degenerates into a disillusion with the world, as described poignantly by protagonist: “I lingered before her stall, though I knew my stay was useless, to make my interest in her wares seem more real….The upper part of the hall was now completely dark. Gazing up into the darkness I saw myself as a creature driven and derided by vanity; and my eyes burned with anguish and anger.” (Literature.85)

            The protagonist of The Fly, the Boss, is caught up in a situation beyond human control. His only son who was being groomed by his affectionate father is taken to the battlefront by way of conscription. Then follows the devastating news that he is killed in war and buried at a graveyard in Belgium. While his former colleague and friend Mr.Woodifield’s son is also killed in the war, he lives a normal life with the consolation of his wife and daughter. But the Boss is overwhelmed by sorrow even six years after his death. Life has little meaning for him. The trappings of his success – the renovated office with modern furniture – are belied by an emptiness gnawing at his heart. The happiness of his life is ruined by a relentless force which Thomas Hardy calls cruel fate or Providence which is inimical to human happiness. The Boss is very much a victim of circumstances. The only choice left to him is to learn to cope with the adversities of life and not allow them to beat him down. His cruel game with the struggling fly is an expression of the psychological battle that is going on in his soul.

            Though the plotted stories of writers like Maupassant and O. Henry are more popular with common readers, the plotless stories like Araby and The Fly are more impressive for the search light they direct at some dark spots of human life which most of remain unaware of, but  Mansfield has vividly recaptured the pangs of loss of her dear brother Leslie killed in World War I.

Work Cited

Abcarian, Richard and Koltz, Marvin (eds). Literature: Reading and Writing the Human Experience. New York. Bedford.1998. pp. 81-85

Thorpe, Michael (ed.). Modern Prose. Oxford. O.U.P. 1968. pp.115-121

May 12, 2008

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