Overall in "Araby," the narrator uses the description of his play with his friends to serve as a contrast to his behavior after speaking with Mangan's sister. Before meeting her, the narrator describes how he and his friends run around the neighborhood where they:
"[R]an the gauntlet of the rough tribes from the cottages, to the back doors of the dripping gardens where odours arose from the aspits, to the dark odorous stables where a coachman smoothed and combed the horse or shook music from the buckled harness."
Above all, the boys stayed out as late as possible, with the narrator hiding "in the shadow" to avoid his uncle calling him in. However, all of this is a prelude to what the narrator himself did at night. After their play, the narrator stared at his friend Mangan's sister. While the boy hid in shadow to avoid being called in by his uncle, Mangan's sister, who was also someone who ends the boys' nights, had a figure "defined by the light from the half-opened door." This heavenly description of her is coupled with a line that could come straight from a romance novel: "I stood at 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."
As the story progresses, the narrator has no more mention of his friends nor of the adventures they had before. Instead, his entire focus is on Mangan's sister. He stares at her door from his front parlor in hopes of catching a glance at her. He imagines himself on a quest and says as he thought of her, "I bore my chalice safely through a throng of foes."
The next time he mentions his friends playing in the streets he is not with them. He sits at his front window and he hears their cries in a "weakened and indistinct" way and instead decides to look "over at the dark house where she lived." To the narrator, play no longer matters. Only Mangan's sister matters.