Themes and Meanings (Masterplots II: Short Story Series, Revised Edition)
This is a story of the loss of innocence and the frustration of first love. The young boy’s exaggerated expectations about the emotional rewards of his devotion to the little girl are cruelly deflated. He interprets the disappointing circumstances of his journey as a sign of the hollowness of the ideals with which he undertook that quest. He thus connects the frivolous banter among the young people and his own earlier brief conversation with Mangan’s sister and thinks that he has perceived the banal reality behind the romantic image. However, his perceptions in each case are unreliable: His immaturity causes him to overreact in each direction. The story, then, shows that the temptations to both the romantic inflation and to the cynical devaluation of experience are but two sides of the same false coin.
“Araby” is the third of the fifteen stories in Dubliners (1914). These stories examine the hazards of the various stages in life, and “Araby” marks the end of childhood and the beginning of adolescence. This protagonist begins his story as a boy amid his peers, full of childish energy and short-lived attention. The image of Mangan’s sister gradually emerges from these confused impressions, however, gathering itself into a vision of desire, both erotic and religious. The growth of these feelings soon sets the boy apart from his fellows, and becomes even more consuming at the mention of the bazaar. He now connects his attitude toward...
(The entire section is 612 words.)
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A sensitive boy confuses a romantic crush and religious enthusiasm. He goes to Araby, a bazaar with an exotic, Oriental theme, in order to buy a souvenir for the object of his crush. The boy arrives late, however, and when he overhears a shallow conversation a female clerk is having with her male friends and sees the bazaar is closing down, he realizes that he has allowed his imagination to carry him away. He leaves without a souvenir, feeling foolish and angry with himself.
Alienation and Loneliness
The narrator never shares any of his feelings concerning Mangan's sister with anyone. He isolates himself from his friends, who seem terribly young to him once his crush begins, and from his family, who seem caught up in their own world. Mangan's sister is also completely unaware of the narrator's feelings for her. Consequently, when he suddenly realizes how foolish he has been, his anger at himself is intensified by his alienation from everyone and the resulting feeling of isolation.
Change and Transformation
The narrator experiences emotional growth—changing from an innocent young boy to a disillusioned adolescent—in the flash of an instant. This insight occurs through what Joyce called an "epiphany," which is a moment of intense insight and self-understanding. Although the narrator suddenly understands that he has allowed his feelings to get carried away, this understanding makes him neither happy nor satisfied. If...
(The entire section is 397 words.)