What human emotion drives the actions of the protagonist in “Araby”?

Love is the emotion that drives the protagonist of “Araby.” With his first preadolescent infatuation, the confused narrator experiences a mix of emotions that also include generosity and pride.

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James Joyce’s story “Araby” features a preadolescent protagonist in the grip of his first infatuation. His love for his neighbor, an older girl he refers to as “Mangan’s sister,” drives him to try to win her over. His romantic ideas of love are intertwined with the stirrings of sexual desire, a combination that makes him both confused and exhilarated. His sense of generosity pushes him to offer to do something for her: buy her a gift at the bazaar. This generosity is also tinged with pride, as he imagines how she will react to this gesture, as he seeks to influence her to reciprocate his affection.

The young narrator describes his love for Mangan’s sister as stimulated by her appearance and affecting his moods. He never provides her name but nevertheless says that “her name was like a summons to all my foolish blood.” His constant strains to catch a glimpse of her border on obsession with an older girl to whom, he admits, he can barely even speak. The boy recounts numerous aspects of the “confused adoration” he has for the girl, including its varied effects on him.

My eyes were often full of tears (I could not tell why) and at times a flood from my heart seemed to pour itself out into my bosom.

As this preoccupation continues, one night while alone at home he experiences a range of sensory confusion and repeatedly murmurs to himself, “O love! O love!”

When the girl finally speaks to him, the subject of their conversation is the upcoming bazaar. Because she cannot attend, he blurts out that he will bring her something from it. By the end of the story, however, he finds himself unable to complete his mission and admits to being motivated by “vanity.”

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