Just to set the record straight so you don't leave this page believing a misconception about James Joyce, he was Irish, not English as I think coachingcorner writes. He is a cornerstone of 20th-century Irish literature, and he is definitely Irish. The enotes Study Guide on the short story collection Dubliners, which "Araby" comes from says:
James Joyce was born in 1882 in a suburb of Dublin, Ireland in a large, Catholic family, and received a private education in Jesuit schools; thereafter, he attended University College, Dublin, on scholarship. His family life, though warm, was immersed in the turbulent Irish politics of the time and the early arguments Joyce overheard about various Irish leaders filtered their way into Joyce’s fiction.
But you don't need to take my word or even the word of enotes for this. Read any criticism on Joyce and you'll find he is Irish. Many consider him the greatest novelist writing in English of the 20th century. The Irish are very proud of him.
In the short story "Araby" from the collection "Dubliners" by James Joyce, it is also important to consider how the political atmosphere of the time pervades the Dublin city setting. Ireland at that time was considered part of England by the British - many of whom (such as Joyce himself) had become partly at one with the Irish - there were many well-to-do so-called Anglo-Irish families in Dublin and they lived a life not dissimilar to the upper middle classes in England. They went to balls in Georgian houses eith crystal chandeliers in the hall. There were servants and horse cabs to take people home. "Araby" takes place in one of the more 'faded gentility' areas of Dublin at the cusp of its passing into a new era of bitter civil war.
"Araby" takes place in Dublin, Ireland, around 1905, when the story was written. It is the third story in James Joyce's collection of short stories entitled The Dubliners. This collection of stories is Joyce's portrayal of the problems that face the Irish people around the turn of the century. "Araby" is one of the most well known stories from this collection.
The story begins with a description of North Richmond Street, which is portrayed as quiet and "blind." "Blind" is particularly well chosen because it means both a dead end as well as without vision. The narrator's house on North Richmond Street is "musty" and "enclosed." But the narrator, in his youth, is oblivious to the staleness that pervades his surroundings. His attention is focused on Mangan's sister whose image allows him to escape the dreariness of his surroundings.
Within this general setting of Dublin, Joyce depicts such specific settings as the narrator's house, the neighborhood streets and yards, Mangan sister's house, the market place, the train station, and finally Araby, the bazaar--the narrator's destination, the destination that allows the narrator to see himself for what he is: "A creature driven and derided by vanity."
‘Araby’ the story opens with a description of North Richmond Street, a “blind”, “cold” “Silent”, street where the houses “gazed at one another with brown imperturbable faces”. The street symbolizes a decent conformity and a false piety. Once again the boy’s house indicates the same sense of a dead present and lost past.
The reference of the dead priest symbolizes the religious decay. The bicycle pump, rusting in the backyard, becomes the symbol of intellectual cum religious aspects of the bygone days.
The story ‘Araby’ is replete with symbols. The situations, circumstances and the atmosphere that occur in the story signify moral deprecation and spiritual paralysis. In such situation the boy hero experiences the confused idealism and dreams of his first love. His awakening becomes incompatible with and irony to the contrast of the world around him.