Evaluate the culture presented in "Araby." What details do you notice that show this story is not taking place in the United States?

Some details that show that "Araby" is not taking place in the United States are that the Irish culture depicted is more Roman Catholic, more patriarchal, and less technological than the culture in the United States. Details such as the boy using "florins" and a "sixpenny" show that this story is not set in the US.

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"Araby" reveals many details of life in Ireland that show the differences between it and the United States. As others have noted, the Roman Catholic church plays a large role in the life of this society. The boy narrator attends a Catholic School and lives in a house rented by a priest. We can read some of the tensions between the common people and the church in the ironic comment that this dead priest

had been a very charitable priest; in his will he had left all his money to institutions and the furniture of his house to his sister.

Mangan's sister, the girl the narrator has a crush on, says she cannot go to the bazaar, Araby, because she will be spending that week at her convent school's retreat. Unlike in the US, where many Catholic-focused stories dwell on the tensions between Protestant and Catholic in the culture, in "Araby," Catholicism is presented as ubiquitous.

We can also see that this is a society in which women are dependent on men. The boy is dependent on his unreliable uncle rather than his aunt for the money to go to Araby. When the uncle comes home drunk, it is clear that the aunt simply doesn't have the money to give the boy: she has to "energetically" ask for it from her husband. He gives the boy a "florin," a coin not familiar in American society. When he arrives at the bazaar, the boy pays a "sixpenny" for entrance, another example of the Irish currency.

There also appear to be no automobiles in this society. The boy either walks places or, in the case of going to Araby, takes the train, riding in the third-class carriage.

The culture presented is more saturated in religion than US culture, while the 1914 story shows a society lacking in the technology of the United States.

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The narrator refers to a number of street names which place the story squarely in Dublin, the capital city of Ireland. As we're told in the very first sentence, the unnamed boy lives in North Richmond Street, the location of the Christian Brothers' School. The school, now known as the O'Connell School, still stands to this day. The opening sentence's reference to the school also hints at the important part that the Catholic Church played in the Ireland of Joyce's day.

Later on, the boy makes his way to the Westland Row station, where he catches a special train to the bazaar. The station still stands to this day, although it's now known as the Dublin Pearse railway station, named after Padraig Pearse, one of the leaders of the Easter Rising against the British in 1916.

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James Joyce's "Araby" is one story taken from Dublinersa compilation of narratives set in Dublin, Ireland, an area in which many English dominated in the political positions and better jobs of the city. There, too, the Roman Catholic Church held dominance over the lives of the Irish.

  • Influence of the Roman Catholic Church

Because the authority of the Catholic Church is unopposed by the Irish, it exerts a profound influence upon the Dubliners, much more than it would in America where Protestants live among Catholics. Catholicism is, indeed, an intrinsic component of the Irish culture; priests mingle much more with their congregations and exert influence upon them.

--In "Araby" the boy's adolescent imagination and passion--an "Araby of the mind"--conflicts with the sacred symbols of religion. He views Mangan's sister with passion, but religious faith intermingles with this passion as she stands, "her figure defined by the light from the half-opened door, much as Mary and the saints are depicted with an aureole behind them. She becomes "shrouded in mystery." 

--When the boy accompanies his aunt to the market, he imagines that he is like the knights who seek the Holy Grail as he narrates, 

...I bore my chalice safely through a throng of foes. Her name sprang to my lips at moments in strange prayers and phrases....

--Then, in the evening, he goes into the back drawing-room where the priest who lived there before had died. Again, his infatuation with the girl intermingles with religious faith as his senses seem "to desire to veil themselves" and the boy presses the palm of his hands together praying, "O love! O love!" many times.

--When he learns of Araby, the bazaar, his aunt hopes it is "not some Freemason affair," one that then would be strictly off limits for any Catholic, as they are strictly forbidden to associate with Freemasons.

  • Affect of the English presence

After the boy finally arrives at the bazaar from Westland Row Station, instead of an exotic atmosphere he is met with the sounds of a young woman laughing with two gentlemen. "I remarked their English accents" and he listens to their palaver:

"O, I never said such a thing!"
"O, but you did!"
"O, but I didn't!" 
"Didn't she say that?"
"Yes, I heard her.
"O, there's a...fib!"

When the Irish boy is observed, the English girl asks him if he wishes to buy anything, but "the tone of her voice was not encouraging; she seemed to have spoken to me out of a sense of duty." When the boy declines, she turns away and joins the young men again.

In Ireland the presence of Catholicism dominates the atmosphere of Irish life, and the invasive nature of the English occupation is felt keenly by the Irish, whereas in America. there are many nationalities who reside in cities, so that people do not pay such attention to others' languages or cultures. A few critics have detected the theme of Irish nationalism in this story, with attention given to such songs as "Come-All-You" about O'Donovan Rossa, a Fenian revolutionary. 

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