What are the conflicts of the main character in the story "Araby"?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The conflicts in the boy of "Araby" arise between his fantasy and reality. Discontent in his "brown" neighborhood, in his home that once belonged to a dead priest, living with his uncle and aunt, the boy embraces the escape that watching through his window affords him as he can see Magan's sister in her house and watch walk down the street, murmuring like Romeo, "O love! O love!" Also influenced by Sir Walter Scott's romantic tale, "Ivanhoe," the boy imagines himself the knight who seeks the holy grail.  As he shops for groceries, he pretends,

that I bore my chalice safely through a throng of foes.Her name sprang to my lips at moments in strange prayers and praises which I myself did not understand.

Engrossed in this fantasy of his idealized love, the boy wishes to take Magan's sister to the bazaar with an exotic name, Araby.  However, she is going on a retreat and cannot accompany him.  So, he promises to buy her something there.  Unfortunately, this plan is foiled by the late return of his uncle who has stopped off for drinks.  Flippantly apologetic, the uncle mocks the intensity of the boy's feelings by asking him if he knows a poem entitled "The Arab's Farewell to his Steed" and gives the boy a coin, always a symbol for pettiness to Joyce.

When the boy arrives at the bazaar, the booths are closed, the conversations are all but exotic as the few remaining gossip.  Fighting back the tears in his Joycean epiphany, the boy realizes his disillusionment and disappointment in the shattering of his fantasy:

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

kc4u | Student

The basic conflict in the adolescent boy in Joyce's story 'Araby' is that between his boyish imagination and the hard realities of the market-dominated work-a-day life. His 'confused adoration' for Mangan's sister leads to an imaginative excitement for Araby, not so much the actual Araby held in the outskirts of the city of Dublin, but some sort of an oriental utopia--an Araby of the mind. At last making a belated and abortive visit to Araby, the boy feels disillusioned, his passions for the land of heart's desire falling into pieces.

However, this basic conflict can be seen in terms of other antinomies in the story:

a) that between the boy's regular weekend visit to the noisy and overcrowded market-place and his long-awaited visit to Araby as proposed by Mangan's sister;

b) that between the boy's waiting for his uncle in the evening of the proposed visit and Mrs. Mercer's waiting for the uncle at the same place and at the same time;

c) that between Mangan's sister talking to the boy and the vending woman gossiping with some young men in Araby;

d) the dim darkness of the winter evenings in the North Richmond Street and the complete darkness enveloping Araby.

bebsalex | Student

It is a story  of the transition from childhood to adolescence as a boy becomes infatuated with a girl and reality dashes his romantic illusions. Reality, in the form of the disappointing bazaar of Araby, falls far short of his dreams and throws cold water on his budding romance.

It is a wonderful portrait of a time and place, late 19th or early 20th century Dublin and the austere Catholic environs in this brown town. Another painful step on the road to maturity is completed.

The talent, perspicacity and understanding of Joyce is evident. If this were your introduction to James Joyce, you would know from this story what a great writer he was.