It can reflect any fresh and instant understanding that impacts the character's life. In the works of James Joyce and Robert Frost, we can see small epiphanies, knowledge with internal and personal consequence, yet possessing the power to change a character's world.
In James Joyce's short story, "Araby," the young boy lives a drab and nearly colorless life. It is only the presence of Mangan's sister that provides illumination to his world. He is literally ensconced in the shadows whenever he sees her, "her figure defined by the light" (Joyce 2236) To the young boy, she is the very definition of light, "her namea summons to all my foolish blood" (Joyce 2237). This is the beginning of the narrator's understanding about the human condition, the call of a grown-up desire. Although he does not quite know how to talk to the girl, or what he should do with her if he could earn her love, he knows that she elicits in him certain sensations that transcend his experience with his family or friends.
First, he learns to love, and his amorphous dreams about her color his burgeoning adult understanding. From an irresistible vision, she becomes something heavenly, evoking "strange prayers and praises" (Joyce 2237). In his mind, he becomes a supplicant to her beauty, and his emotions take on a religious fervor. With the attitude of a religious devout, "I pressed the palms of my hands together until they trembled, murmuring: O love! O love! many times" (Joyce 2237). He is here placing beauty on an altar and worshipping it from afar. He does this because he is still a child, and the girl, while real, does not constitute a tangible reality to him. Love is exotic and indescribable, like god.
The narrator tells us several times that he has no notion of how to act on his feelings. He says, "I did not know whether I would ever speak to her or not or, if I spoke to her, how I could tell her of my confused adoration" (Joyce 2237). She is, for the time being, a principle rather than an intention. He can feel, but not respond. When she finally speaks to him, her simple words only confirm his previous assumptions. Again, we see her as the only bright thing in a drab world, as "the light from the lampcaught the white curve of her neck, lit up her hairlit up the hand upon the railing. Itcaught the white border of her petticoat" (Joyce 2237). It is significant that she speaks of Araby, the exotic-seeming bazaar; for the boy, the very word, "cast an Eastern enchantment" (Joyce 2238) just as the girl's name "was like a summons to all my foolish blood" (Joyce 2237). These both constitute surface understandings; the narrator's perception does not run deep because he has not yet learned to see beneath the exterior of things. In terms of the girl, he has seen no deeper than the hem of her petticoat, which is just as white and perfect as the rest of her visible surfaces. Of Araby, he knows even less, only that the object of his desire "would love to go."
This all leads to the narrator's moment of epiphany, when he finally achieves the goal of Araby, which seems to him the key to the puzzle he doesn't quite understand. Once he experiences the bazaar, he feels he will finally have something to say to the girl, as well as something to give her. He will be able to translate his inexpressible