analysis of the james joyces araby and william faulkners barn burning

Analysis of the James Joyce’s ‘Araby’ and William Faulkner’s ‘Barn burning’ using details from the authors’ biography


            The works of James Joyce and William Faulkner are considered to be among the greatest of the modernist tradition. In this paper, the lives of these two authors will be used in the analysis of one work respectively.

James Joyce (Biography)

            James Aloysius Augustine Joyce was born in 1882 to John Stanislaus Joyce, a bankrupt businessman with pretensions of grandeur and Mary Jane Murray, a strict Roman Catholic and a very good pianist. Roman Catholicism was part of James’ life while growing up. He attended Clongowes Wood College at Clane. The college belonged to the Jesuits and aspects of their belief and tradition affected his thinking throughout his life despite his rejection of religion later in his life. From 1893 to 1897, he was a student of Belvedere College in Dublin. In 1898, he became an undergraduate in the University College, Dublin. In the University College, Joyce developed an interest in the works of Henrik Ibsen, Thomas Aquinas and W.B Yeats. He started writing poetry during the same period.

            Graduating in 1902, Joyce went to France, spending a year there as a teacher, journalist among other things in the bid to make ends meet. The news that his mother was dying brought him back to Dublin, he left immediately after her death taking along with him Nora Barnacle, his new bride. He and his bride toured Europe, making the longest stay in Trieste. It was in this busy port city, that Joyce wrote some of his best works. His children Giorgio and Lucia were born in this city. In Trieste, he fell in love with a woman named Ann Schleimer but did not leave Nora for her.

            Joyce later went to Dublin to convince the publishing house he had contract with to publish Dubliners, and fulfill their contractual obligations. This was the last time he went to Ireland. He later moved to Zurich at the beginning of the First World War, (Petri Liukkonen)

            By 1917, Joyce’s eyesight had worsened. He therefore underwent eye operations to correct it. He wrote Finnegan’s Wake while suffering from eye problems. This was not the only problem, Joyce was to face. His daughter Lucia, a talented choreographer, linguist and performer became insane as a result of unrequited love. (Petri Liukkonen) She later died in Northampton, England in 1982. Joyce returned to Zurich when France fell to the Germans and in Zurich he was diagnosed with perforated duodenal ulcer, which led to his death in January 13, 1941. He was buried in Zurich

Biographical detail in the short story “Araby”

            The short story ‘Araby’ found in the collection of short stories titled Dubliners is about a young boy’s gradual movement from the ideal or dream world to the real after experiencing a sort of epiphany. The story is believed by some critics to contain some aspects o Joyce’s experiences in it.

            The first aspect of Joyce’s life present in the story is the fact that the setting is Dublin. This being where Joyce was born and where he lived while he was still growing up. Joyce makes use of the real names of places, prominent figures and events in this story. These were places he knew and had seen and persons he had heard spoken of when growing up. The title of the story itself is believed to be gotten from an entertaining event that occurred in Dublin when Joyce was just twelve.

            Another aspect is Joyce’s disillusionment with love. The boy on finally realizing that the world in which he lived in was drab and corrupt, the idealistic love he had for Mangan’s sister which is as a result of the romantic notions he held dissipated. He experiences an eye opener like Stephen in The Portrait of the Artist as a Youngman and in that moment realizes the nonsensical nature of his love. Joyce is noted for his philosophy of the artist outside his society. He rejects his religion and his family. He has no strong bond with his family, only going to his mother’s side when she was close to death. The madness of his beloved and talented Lucia as a result of love added more flame to the already burning fire of rebellion against man’s favorite topic of discussion.

            The epiphany the boy experience makes him see his neighborhood as being a well religious blindness. The people in the neighborhood are so concerned with pious living that they do not see the sad and pitiful existence they led. This neighborhood portrays Joyce’s mother who despite the fact that her husband was not prosperous in his business, blinded herself to it with her Roman Catholic fervor and devotion. These were probably the reason why Joyce rejected religion and family.

William Faulkner (Biography)

            William Cuthbert Faulkner was born on the 25th of September 1897 to Murray and Maud Butler Faulkner in New Albany, Mississippi. (The University of Mississippi English Department) He was the first of four sons and was named after his great-grandfather who was a legendary figure in his own right. His father Murray changed jobs frequently before settling for one. At an early age, he showed a very developed artistic ability, writing poetry and drawing. These attributes made Phil Stone, a lawyer, befriend him. He invited Faulkner to stay with him and from there he joined the Royal Air Force in Canada. Though he was not opportune to participate in the war, he told stories of his varied imaginary exploits and injury sustained during the war. He would later use this brief experience of military life in his writings.

            Faulkner became a student of the University of Mississippi in 1919, as a result of the special grant given to war veterans. While there, he wrote poetry, short stories and created works of art which was circulated in the school through the campus newspaper and the school yearbook (The University of Mississippi English Department) He also founded a drama club in the school. He dropped out of school after three semesters in favor of writing and doing any job that came his way. He was not very good at the jobs he did. He was either told to leave as a result of negligence of duty or alcoholism.

            Faulkner moved to New Orleans, then Italy. He later moved to France, where spent several months. In these places, he wrote several of his works mainly essays and novels. In June of 1929, he married the love of his youth, Estelle Oldham who had secured a divorce from her husband in the April of that year. She gave him two girls Alabama, who died a few days after birth and Jill. She also came to the marriage with two children from the former, Malcolm and Victoria.

            On December 10, 1950, Faulkner received the Nobel Prize for literature from the Swedish Academy. This prize was met for 1949, as Bertrand Russell was the winner for 1950. His acceptance speech was considered to be one of the best that has ever been given in the Nobel Prize giving ceremony. He received other awards after this.

            He went on to represent the United States in various cultural functions. He also started taking a stand in social issues that affected the south. Issues like segregation and school integration were issues that bothered most southerners both Caucasian and Negro alike. His stands were sometimes controversial.

             In October 16, 1961, his mother whom he was very close to died at the age of 88, leaving behind a large body of painted works numbering about 600. (The University of Mississippi English Department) After experiencing several falls from his horse, he was rushed to a hospital where he died on July 6th, 1962. He was buried on July 7, at the St Peter’s Cemetery in Oxford.

Biographical detail in the short story “Barn Burning”

            William Faulkner infused some of the elements of his physical experiences in the short story. Abner Snopes and his family move from place to place as a result of Abner’s inability to keep a job for a long time. Every time, he got a place to work, a tragedy makes them leave. Murray Falkner, William’s father is also noted for this attribute. It is said that he changed jobs severally before settling down for one.

            Another issue in Faulkner’s life that is present in the short story is the fact that the narrator in the story is known as Colonel Sartoris Snopes. The “colonel” can be seen as a reference to Faulkner’s great-grand father, Colonel William Falkner. The elder Falkner is said to have been involved in several murder trials in which he was accused of. This is not unlike Abner’s continual clash with the law as a result of his unsavory ways.


            Every writer as has been shown in this paper, tends to put in a little of his or her own personal experiences in the bid to create reality. James Joyce and William Faulkner are no exception to the rule.

WORK CITED James Joyce’s Araby – Analysis of Araby:. 2000-2010. 25 may 2010 <>.

eNotes. com. “Araby” James Joyce. 2010. 26 may 2010 <>. Barn Burning . 2010. 26 may 2010 <>.

Eserver. Araby by James Joyce . 1994-2010. 25 may 2010 <>.

gradesaver llc. Biography of William Faulkner (1897-1962). 1999-2010. 25 may 2010 <>.

Petri Liukkonen, Ari Pesonen. James Augustine Aloysius Joyce (1882-1941) . 2008. 24 May 2010 <>.

—. William (Cuthbert) Faulkner (1897-1962) – original surname until 1924 Falkner. 2008. 25 may 2010 <>. Araby. 2010. 26 may 2010 <>.

The University of Mississippi English Department. William Faulkner. 2008. 25 may 2010 <>. Barn Burning by William Faulkner. 2010. 26 may 2010 <>.


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