Throughout the story, the narrator is enamored of Mangan's sister. He watches for her through the mostly-drawn blinds, waiting until she appears on her doorstep, and then he runs "to the hall, seize[s] his books and follow[s] her" to school. He thinks of her often, imagining that he is like a hero, bearing "[his] chalice safely through a throng of foes." He dreams of her, prays for her, and cries over her, though he can scarcely even describe the intensity of his feelings. He often describes her as being lit up, as on the first night she speaks to him. "The light from the lamp opposite our door caught the white curve of her neck, lit up her hair that rested there, and, falling, lit up the hand upon the railing." It is as though she is his angel, and he seems to believe that some how, some way, he will win her. This is why he promises to bring her something from the Araby bazaar.
However, the narrator must then endure a week of school before the bazaar is to take place. He says, "I had hardly any patience with the serious work of life which, now that it stood between me and my desire, seemed to me child's play, ugly monotonous child's play." And though he reminds his uncle, his uncle forgets the boy's plans and comes home very late. Worse, when he does arrive, the uncle wants to eat his dinner and talk poetry before he will give the boy money to go. It is so late, and now the train merely "crept" after "an intolerable delay." Next, the poor boy cannot find a cheap entrance and must part with much of his money just to get in. Finally, and perhaps worst of all, the bazaar is not full of exotic items that will impress his love and win her to him: English tea sets and vases stock the shelves instead. After all this waiting and build up, nothing has worked out for the narrator and he suddenly realizes how vain it was to believe that it would. He says, "Gazing up into the darkness, I saw myself as a creature driven and derided by vanity; and my eyes burned with anguish and anger." He has learned that his feelings for Mangan's sister matter so little, if at all, to the world. He has waited and hoped and prayed, believing that the "monotony" of the time intervening between he and the bazaar would end, that it was only a phase. It appears, now, to be more like the reality, a reality that will not change for him and all his passions, and in the end, he can only return to and accept it, his dreams wasted and innocence lost. Finally, the darkness of the bazaar with the lights gone out contrasts with the narrator's romantic descriptions of his love all lit up; it is as though his hopes of romance and love, of fairy tales and heroes, have gone out as well.