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?

Expert Answers info

Angie Waters eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2012

write2,386 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Math, and Social Sciences

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...

(The entire section contains 322 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now


Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial


user8023468 | 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.