What point of view is the story told from in "Araby"?

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William Delaney | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The story is told entirely through the anonymous narrator's point of view. The reader might take this to be an autobiographical story about James Joyce himself. In the opening paragraphs the narrator frequently uses the word "we," but he is speaking for himself and other boys. It is still his point of view. When he talks to Mangan's sister the dialogue is obviously recalled from his point of view. For example:

"It's well for you," she said.

"If I go," I said, "I will bring you something."

After the main story line begins, the narrator uses the subjective "I" point of view exclusively, as in the following:

Every morning I lay on the floor in the front parlour watching her door. The blind was pulled down to within an inch of the sash so that I could not be seen. When she came out on the doorstep my heart leaped. I ran to the hall, seized my books and followed her. 

Perhaps the narrator describes himself as part of a group of boys in the beginning paragraphs in order to emphasize his intense loneliness and alienation and insignificance on the train to Araby and while he is at this very commonplace bazaar. Not only does the narrator tell about what he does, but he tells about how he feels. The story is intensely subjective. He is in love with Mangan's sister. No doubt the narrator is telling about a youthful love affair which took place a long time ago but which he still remembers vividly because it was so important to him at the time. 

The story deals with a young man's disillusionment with reality. Araby turns out to be an extreme disappointment. It fails to live up to what the narrator calls "the magical name." The name is ironic. It is just a big building with a number of stalls featuring cheap merchandise which could be bought anywhere. The narrator's point of view is conspicuous in the final paragraph.

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 experience may have destroyed the narrator's infatuation with Mangan's sister. He may have realized that she was not the exotic, mysterious creature he imagined but just an ordinary girl. That could explain why he doesn't bring her anything from Araby as he promised.

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