What exactly is the epiphany in "Araby"?

The epiphany in "Araby" takes place when the unnamed narrator realizes that the bazaar is not the place of romance and color that he'd originally thought it was. As a result, the boy becomes thoroughly disillusioned and humiliated.

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James Joyce is associated strongly with the concept of epiphany. This was a new way modernists invented of ending a short story: the resolution came with a flashing, often life-changing moment of interior realization or insight on the part of a character, rather than a traditional outward plot resolution, such as finding a buried treasure or eluding a criminal. The term epiphany is based on the story of the wise men in the Bible coming to see the infant Jesus and realizing he was the Messiah.

The epiphany in "Araby" occurs in the last sentence, in which the boy narrator has a realization:

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 has arrived very late to the bazaar, the object of his youthful desire for a more romantic, exotic existence. Once there, he finds that it is just an another example of drab, ordinary Dublin life. He has built it up in his mind into a glamorous, beautiful place, just as he built up Mangan's sister into an object of adoration and worship. He has believed he could find a better life through both Araby and the sister.

Now, however, he realizes he has deluded himself. His epiphany is a moment of self-loathing in which he blames himself for the vanity of harboring false hope of finding something sublime and awe-inspiring in Dublin. He then feels a sense of anger and deep emotional pain over the way his hopes have been dashed.

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An epiphany is a moment of blinding realization in which a person sees the light—or, often, recognizes a truth which causes them to see something in their world in a different light. It usually results in an important emotional shift for the person experiencing it. An epiphany might be religious, but it can also be, as in this story, simply a moment of understanding which changes how a person relates to the world.

The narrator in this story is a boy whose life is lived amid the poorer quarters of Dublin. He has little to distract him from the drab and the mundane. The story’s title gives an indication of how he views the bazaar: he imagines it to be a little bit of Araby, or the exotic Arab world, within Dublin. The idea of visiting the bazaar, then, becomes a sort of romantic quest for the boy. He imagines it as an opportunity to journey into another world—perhaps one in which Mangan’s sister, the object of his desire, will love him back.

The idea of the bazaar as the route out of his boring existence and into his crush’s heart begins to obsess the boy until he has built the bazaar up in his mind into a fantasy land. His epiphany, then, occurs when he finally visits the bazaar. It is late, it is dark, and the stalls are being put away. What the boy sees is not a fantasy land, a place of romance, but, rather, just a rundown market in a grubby part of town. He realizes that the exoticism he imagines is not real and possibly that he cannot hope to attain his dreams after all.

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In answering this question, we need first of all to establish what an epiphany is. An epiphany can be defined as a sudden great moment of realization, such as that which often precedes a religious conversion. Whether an epiphany is religious or not, the person who experiences it undergoes a radical change.

And that's precisely what happens to the unnamed narrator in Joyce's “Araby.” For much of the story, the young lad was excited about going to the bazaar and buying Mangan's sister, the girl upon whom he has an enormous crush, a nice gift. Thoughts of both the bazaar and Mangan's sister fill the boy's every waking hour, giving his otherwise drab, humdrum existence some much-needed color and excitement.

However, when the boy finally reaches the bazaar towards the end of the story, he experiences an epiphany in which he realizes that the color, romance, and excitement he'd previously associated with the bazaar was all just a mirage. He's arrived at the bazaar too late, just as the stalls are closing down. In the darkening hall, there is no trace of the exotic or the romantic—just traders packing away their goods, ready to be sold another day.

As a result of his epiphany, the boy becomes thoroughly disillusioned—not only that, but hurt, angry, and humiliated. All of a sudden, he's been unceremoniously dumped back into the everyday world he'd tried so hard to escape.

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James Joyce is famous for creating characters who undergo an epiphany—a sudden moment of insight—and the narrator of "Araby" is one of his best examples At the end of the story, the boy overhears a trite conversation between an English girl working at the bazaar and two young men, and he suddenly realizes that he has been confusing things. It dawns on him that the bazaar, which he thought would be so exotic and exciting, is really only a commercialized place to buy things. Furthermore, he now realizes that Mangan's sister is just a girl who will not care whether he fulfills his promise to buy her something at the bazaar. His conversation with Mangan's sister, during which he promised he would buy her something, was really only small talk—as meaningless as the one between the English girl and her companions. He leaves Araby feeling ashamed and upset. This epiphany signals a change in the narrator—from an innocent, idealistic boy to an adolescent dealing with the harsh realities of life.

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