In "Araby," what causes the sudden shift in the narrator from joy to grief at the end of the story?

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Susan Hurn eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"Araby" is an excellent initiation story in which a young person (the narrator) goes through an experience that moves him from innocence to a new level of maturity. In this story, the narrator lived a lonely, limited life in drab surroundings. He longed for adventure and dreamed of the romance and beauty that were missing in his life. He often lost himself in the dead priest's books of romantic tales, and then he became enamored of Mangan's sister. His romantic desires became wrapped up in her, as well as in visions of Araby, a local bazaar.

The idea of Araby grew in his mind into a place of beauty and exotic enchantment. It became for him the symbol of all that was missing in his life. He makes plans to go to Araby to buy something for Mangan's sister, an act of love to win her favor. When he finally manages to go to Araby, he is, in a sense, a knight on a holy mission.

When he arrives at the bazaar, however, he is shocked to find not enchantment, but a common warehouse full of cheap merchandise displayed in stalls occupied by dull, ordinary people. As this realization overwhelms him, all his illusions are destroyed. He suddenly sees the reality of his life. He feels anger at himself for the vanity of his dreams, and he grieves his personal losses--primary among them, the loss of his childhood innocence.