Interpret the closing passage in "Araby."

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Susan Hurn | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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"Araby" ends with this passage:

Gazing up into the darkness I saw myself as a creature driven and derided by vanity; and my eyes burned with anguish and anger.

The narrator speaks these words as he leaves the bazaar after failing to find a gift for Mangan's sister that will impress her and win her love and approval. The passage expresses his disillusionment and the end of his dreams. The bazaar, Araby, had lived in the narrator's mind as a place of beauty and enchantment in contrast to the drabness of his life on North Richmond Street. To him it held the allure of romance. He says, "The syllables of the word Araby [sic] . . . cast an Eastern enchantment over me."

The narrator's illusions about Araby coincide with his feelings of first love for Mangan's sister. When he learns she wants to go to the bazaar but cannot, he promises to bring her a gift from Araby. He thus goes on a quest to win the heart of the woman he loves, a romantic adventure.

Araby turns out to be a cavernous warehouse filled with cheap goods. There is no enchantment. Araby is ordinary. Arriving at closing time, the narrator finds the lights going out and the help going home. He leaves, angry and disillusioned. He blames himself for being so foolish in believing that somehow his life could become more beautiful and exciting than the circumstances in which he lived.

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podon | College Teacher | eNotes Newbie

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The narrator reflects on his own vanity in the story's final sentence; this comes about through his recognition that the fantasy of romance cannot be purchased with objects, cheap or otherwise, and that love is something that transcends the material.  More broadly, Joyce paraodies the quest-romance tradition which imagines the ideal or scared embodied in an object; implicitly, the story rejects the notion that the point of the quest for the ideal can be fulfilled in life or art.

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