In "Araby" by James Joyce, what does Mangan's sister do to make a trip to the bazaar so important to the narrator?

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D. Reynolds eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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All Mangan's sister does is to mention how much she would like to go the bazaar called Araby, which is coming to Dublin. She thinks it will be "splendid," but she is going away on a school trip, so she can't attend.

The narrator has a crush on Mangan's sister, who has no other name in the story, so when she speaks to him about the splendid bazaar, it gets conflated (combined) in his mind with his desire for her. His desire for her is heightened as she speaks about Araby, for the light illuminates her neck and the white hem of her petticoat. He mentions getting something for her at the bazaar:

If I go, I said, I will bring you something.

From that time on, the narrator dreams of going to the bazaar, and can't concentrate on anything else. School, schoolwork, and the neighborhood seem dull and mundane against his expectations:

The syllables of the word Araby were called to me through the silence in which my soul luxuriated and cast an Eastern enchantment over me.

However, the enchantment will prove to be an illusion.

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Jennings Williamson eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Really, the only thing Mangan's sister does to make going to the bazaar so important to the narrator is to speak to him about it.  She had never actually spoken to the narrator before, and so, when "At last she spoke to [him]," he becomes confused and flustered.  She tells him that it will be a "splendid bazaar" and that "she would love to go"; however, she cannot because she'll be on a retreat with her convent school.  This is enough.  Mangan's sister has spoken to the narrator, and upon this subject, expressing her desire to go to the Araby bazaar and her regret that she cannot.  He seems to imagine this as some kind of quest: he can go in her place and bring her something that will make her happy, and this will make him happy.  In the days between his vow and the bazaar, the narrator finds that he cannot even concentrate on "the serious work of life" because it now seems like "child's play" in comparison to the thing that he desires. 

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