What is James Joyce's short story "Araby" like? Please describe some of the major points of the story.   

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iandavidclark3 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

James Joyce's "Araby" is an intriguingly subtle story, and its overall meaning is not immediately apparent. However, in general, the story can be said to be about the deconstruction of romantic childhood illusions. 

The story follows a pretty basic plot. It follows a little boy who plays with other children who live on his street and is interested in the exotic books left behind by the previous tenant of his aunt and uncle's house. He also has a huge crush on a girl (known only as "Mangan's sister") who lives nearby. He idealizes the girl, and so he is understandably thrilled when she asks him if he will attend a local bazaar called "Araby." The boy promises to buy Mangan's sister something from the bazaar, but, due a series of misfortunes, the boy gets to the bazaar too late to buy anything. The tale ends with the haunting image of the disappointed boy standing alone in the deserted bazaar.

Though a simple story, "Araby" relates first the romantic illusions of childhood, followed by their destruction. The little boy is entranced not only by his exotic illusion of Mangan's sister, but also by the exotic, "oriental" theme of Araby itself. However, his childish illusions are exposed as follies when the boy actually visits Araby, and the story ends with the boy comprehending his foolishness. As one would expect, "Araby" is a sad story of dashed childhood hopes, but it also relates common childhood experiences (the imagination of exotic adventures, young love, etc.) that many readers can identify with. In that sense, "Araby" is worth reading in full.