I need help understanding the short story "Araby" by James Joyce.

Expert Answers
thanatassa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"Araby" was published in 1914 in as part of a book by James Joyce titled Dubliners. The book was a collection of fifteen short stories about middle class life in Dublin. Because Ireland was in the middle of a struggle with England over independence, Joyce blends the struggle of his characters to discover their own identities with the struggle for Irish identity. 

"Araby" chronicles the development of a young boy who has his first experience of having a crush on a girl, the slightly older sister of her friend Mangan. He sees her standing in a lighted doorway and is struck with an almost mystical sense of her beauty. He slowly begins to try to spend more time in her company, although he is shy and somewhat nervous about talking with her. 

There is a local bazaar called "Araby" with a middle eastern theme that she mentions she wants to attend but cannot. The boy decides to make a grand gesture and visit the bazaar and bring the girl a gift from there. He gets to Araby late, when it is almost closed, and realizes that rather than being a magical land of mystery, it's just a place where goods are sold. A subtext of this discovery is that the crush he has on his friend's slightly older sister is just a crush, not a grand passion. These discoveries form an epiphany, a life-changing moment in which the narrator starts to make the transition to adulthood.