Can desire be one of the themes of James Joyce's Araby?

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coachingcorner eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the masterful short story 'Araby' by Irish author James Joyce, we see a boy on the edge of adolescence wanting to impress a girl. James Joyce spins out the action slowly and vividly, while all the time concentrating on the lad's desire to please, to help, to be noticed - to be of use. From the description of the evening light in the street outside to the eye for detail in skirt crease and girlish hair, we see the young lad's keeness of feeling as his senses are heightened by the wish to be in a particular young lady's world. Just to revolve in the same sphere that she does would be desire enough for him at that moment. However, it is not to be and Joyce spins out the agony in the interminable waiting until the uncle arrives home to give him the money for the train to market to buy her a gift. But the market is closing and the lad's desires are not to be met-

mrsbundy eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Yes, desire is one of the themes of "Araby."  The boy desires Mangan's sister in a way he can't necessarily articulate to himself, and the nature of his desire isn't made clear to the reader.  He likens Mangan's sister to an angel and his aim, to bring her something from the bazaar, is a quest.  His admiration for her is figured in chivalric and not sexual terms.  He also desires to be noticed, to be important to someone, and to earn the admiration of someone who is dear to him.  The boy lives with his aunt and uncle who don't notice him all that much, and who don't treat him as if he is an important or central part of their lives.

Desire drives his quest - a quest that ultimately fails and reveals itself to be empty of meaning or fulfillment for him - but a quest just the same.