“North Richmond Street being blind, was a quiet street except at the hour when the Christian Brothers’ School set the boys free. An uninhabited house of two storeys stood at the blind end, detached from its neighbours in a square ground. The other houses of the street, conscious of decent lives within them, gazed at one another with brown imperturbable faces” (Dubliners “Araby”).
Blind. This word strikes me with such simple clarity, so fitting in a short story following a young boy’s first love. Joyce repeats this word, first describing the whole street as blind, then only the end. The word is first overarching, consuming, then isolated and unique. I find Joyce’s portrayal of “blind” parallels the format of young love. This format is also followed in Joyce’s “Araby”. First, the boy becomes utterly obsessed with the much older and entirely unattainable girl. He is willing to do whatever he can to please her, including attending a bazaar for the sole purpose of purchasing a gift for her. Then, upon witnessing mature romance, he is dealt a blow of reality; his love is, all of the sudden, infatuation. He realizes that the romance that he has been pursuing is impossible. This devastates the boy, just as many have experienced the sullen realization that their beloved is beyond grasp, that the shared attraction they have dreamt of is actually one-sided. The boy was blind to the world due to his love, and then he was blind to his love due to the world. He is plunged into the cold loneliness that I imagine that uninhabited house must have been all too familiar with.
The boy in “Araby” remains unnamed. While some may believe this deficiency to be an oversight or meaningless artistic choice, I see it as more. By omitting his name, the boy is allowed to lack definite identity. The reader no longer is reading the story of a fictional character, but rather an outline of young love. Desperation, yearning, obsession, and finally rejection. The reader can place themselves in the shoes of this boy and relive their youth, allowing the reader to walk along that blind street not alongside the boy, but rather as the boy. His love interest also lacks a name, as well as detailed description, allowing her to manifest in the reader’s mind as their first love. This detail gives the story a tangible quality, blurring the lines between fiction and reality. The reader adopts a sort of blindness as the boy: a hope beyond reason that the girl will love him back.