In Araby by James Joyce, define the narrator's feeling for Mangan's sister. To what extent is she the cause of those feelings? What, as they say, does he see in her?

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durbanville eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Araby by James Joyce is one of the short stories from the Dubliners series in which Joyce explores various life stages or potentially transformative events which stand to change the lives or circumstances of the characters.  

The boy in Araby is infatuated by Mangan's sister and is apparently coming to an age where awareness of, in this case, girls, is still bewildering. Even the boy does not really understand his feelings, his "confused adoration." He has barely ever said a word to her and yet he idolizes her. Thoughts of her invade all his activities and he takes every opportunity to watch or think of her:

My body was like a harp and her words and gestures were like fingers running upon the wires. 

The first time she speaks to him he is overcome by the "curve of her neck" and does not remember part of their conversation, only that he is alone with her. He undertakes to being her something from the local bazaar and is then consumed by all thoughts of the forthcoming event. Only later does he accept that she will not have waited with the same anticipation. 

The boy's thoughts are typical of a young boy beginning to explore his attachment to girls and the emotional feelings that accompany his expectations. He barely knows what to expect but, when he does actually make it to the bazaar, he is overcome by his confusion and, instead of buying something, he stands dazed and somewhat perplexed by the situation. He has been so eager to go to the bazaar and to bring something back for the girl but, now that he has the opportunity, he is unable to complete the transaction which would have transferred his childish imaginings and adoration into something more concrete which maybe he is not ready for. The boy comes to a realization that perhaps his feelings were exaggerated and more about himself than the girl.  

roushfik del | Student

"Araby" is a short story by James Joyce published in his 1914 collection Dubliners."Araby" is about a somewhat introverted boy fumbling toward adulthood with little in the way of guidance from family or community. 
The narrator is the most complex and developed character in the story. The narrator is the boy who is in love with mangan's sister.He is suffering from the disillusionment, he experiences when he goes to the bazaar. And the narrator’s dreams is the heroic ones, romantic ones; he goes on a quest. When he fails in his quest, he sees the world for what it is, and thus takes his first steps into adulthood.

The most important minor character in the story is that of Mangan’s sister, as she gives rise to all of the major action in the story. Although she inspires the story’s action, the reader learns almost nothing about her. Her hair is like soft rope and that her dress moves when she walks, she owns a silver bracelet and that she cannot go to Araby because her convent has a retreat that conflicts with it.Without all this there is no response or action form the girl at all.

It is clear from the way that Mangan's sister is presented that the narrator is interested not so much in Mangan's sister herself, but in what his fevered, romantic imaginings make her. The very fact that Mangan's sister is never given a name, and that he is able to develop such an attraction towards her without ever exchanging a word with her strongly supports this view. However, the behaviour of the boy towards Mangan's sister borders on the obsessive, as he appears to be always watching out for her. Note how she is presented as he peers through his window at her when she calls her brother in for tea:

“She was waiting for us, her figure defined by the light from the half-opened door. Her brother always teased her before he obeyed and I stood by the railings looking at her. Her dress swung as she moved her body and the soft rope of her hair tossed from side to side.”

The way in which Mangan's sister is often presented with light behind her suggests that there is something angelic about her in the narrator's mind, which adds to the sense that Mangan's sister exists less as a real person in her own right but more as a receptacle of the narrator's dreams and romantic imagination.

As the narrator realizes at the end of the story, his "relationship" with Mangan's sister is built on nothing substantial except his own dreams and imagination, and this is supported through the vague and indistinct way in which her character is presented in this short story.

So,it is very clear that there was no role of the girl in the narrrator's imagination.he himself is responsible for everything.