Describe the context in Mangan's sister is introduced and in what ways is she part of the world of North Richmond Street?"Araby" by James Joyce

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In James Joyce's short story, "Araby," Mangan's sister is the neighbor of the narrator who becomes infatuated with her.  Joyce describes the street as a quiet one with a dead-end.  The houses, other than the vacant one, "gazed at one another with brown imperturbable faces."  This reference to the brown of the houses is referred to in another of his works, Stephen Hero, in which Joyce writes,

one of those brown brick houses which seem the very incarnation of Irish paralysis.

The street of this brown neighborhood have "dark muddy lanes" behind them that lead to dark gardens and dark "odorous" stables.  But, when the boys who play in the streets return from the muddy lanes to the street, the light from the kitchen windows fills the area.  If Mangan's sister came out, the boys watch her from their shadowed spot, "her figure defined by the light from the half-opened door."  They watch as her dress swings and the "soft rope of her hair tossed from side to side."

While she is part of the brown neighborhood, Mangan's sister comes out of the shadow of their existence for the narrator who perceives her "defined by the light."  His perception, of course, becomes unrealistic as he idealizes her.  This idealization and voyeuristic nature of the narrator is suggested in the second paragraph by the narrator's discovery of the books The Abbot, Sir Walter Scott's novel that idealized Mary Queen of Scots, The Devout Communicant, which suggest the boy's almost spiritual worship of the girl, and The Memoirs of Vidocq, a popular adventure story of a criminal turned detective that contains a blend of invention, sensationalism, and prurience.

That she is not given a name in Joyce's narrative also indicates that the narrator's confused perception of her in both a religious and romantic way are unrealistic, for, in reality, she is simply part of the neighborhood of brown houses of "Irish paralysis." 




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