“Gazing up into the darkness I saw myself as a creature driven and derided by vanity; and my eyes burned with anguish and anger.”
— Last sentence of Araby, by James Joyce.
I read Araby a couple days of ago. I read, then re-read, then re-read yet again the last sentence. Why vanity? I can understand disillusionment and disappointment, but what does vanity have to do with his love for Mangan’s sister and not finding a suitable present to bring back to her?
I think the narrator is imposing his adult consciousness on the memory of his boyhood. He “sees himself” … the words suggest that he is coloring the memory through the lens of manhood. The narrator is all too conscious of his station in life–a man of meager means, born to the lower classes and to a working class family that struggled to survive.
Perhaps Araby represents to him a promised land given by birthright to the rich. He both strives for it and is repelled by it because he is both proud of and detests his heritage.
I made my way back to the forest called Solitude.
I play the tops of trees
like piano keys.
“What is needed is this, and this alone: solitude, great inner loneliness. Going into oneself and not meeting anyone for hours – that is what one must arrive at. Loneliness of the kind one knew as a child, when the grown-ups went back and forth bound up in things which seemed grave and weighty because they looked so busy, and because one had no idea what they were up to.Rainer Maria Rilke, from Letters to a Young Poet
And when one day you realise that their preoccupations are meagre, their professions barren and no longer connected to life, why not continue to look on them like a child, as if on something alien, drawing on the depths of your own world, on the expanse of your own solitude, which itself is work and achievement and a vocation? Why wish to exchange a child’s wise incomprehension for rejection and contempt, when incomprehension is solitude, whereas rejection and contempt are ways of participating in what, by precisely these means, you want to sever yourself from?”