In James Joyce's "Araby," why are some characters unnamed?

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mdelmuro eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The most obvious character who is not named in James Joyce's "Araby" is Mangan's sister. Throughout the story, she is known as "Mangan's sister," not as a named character despite the fact that the entire story is really about the unnamed narrator conducting a quest to win her affection. The narrator knows her name, as he admits that "her name was like a summons to all my foolish blood" and "[h]er name sprang to my lips at moment in strange prayers and praises which I myself did not understand."

So what causes him to not name her in the story? The simple answer is anger. At the end of "Araby," the adult narrator, who is recounting this story from a seminal moment in his childhood, explains he felt bamboozled by Mangan's sister. In his quest to buy her something from the Araby marketplace, he comes to realize she just asked him to buy her something because she was playing with him. He mentions this idea a few times in the story ("my body was like a harp and her words and gestures were like fingers running upon the wires").

At the end of the story, the narrator realizes he is not special in the eyes of Mangan's sister; rather, he's just another guy who was played by a woman. ThisĀ epiphany occurs when he sees a young lady at one of the stands in the bazaar flirting with two British men. After this event, the narrator leaves the bazaar dejected, saying, "Gazing up into the darkness I saw myself as a creature driven and derided by vanity; and my eyes burned with anguish and anger."