What is Mangan's sister's role in "Araby", and how does she affect the narrator?

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dymatsuoka eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The narrator has a crush on Mangan's sister.  She has no idea about how the narrator feels about her, however, so when the two of them discuss the bazaar that is coming to town, she is only being polite and friendly when she expresses regret that she cannot go.  The narrator tells her that if he goes, he will get her something.  To Mangan's sister, the promise is insignificant, just something mentioned in the course of conversation.  The narrator, however, has long been fascinated by the girl, worshipping her, so to speak, from afar.  He takes his promise to get her something at Araby very seriously, and in his imagination, his gift is romanticized and develops great significance.

In the narrator's boyish mind, romantic fervor and religious enthusiasm are quite confused.  He has not yet been able to reconcile his strong Catholic upbringing with the draw of the secular world.  In his perception, Mangan's sister has many of the qualities of the Virgin Mary.  As such, he attempts, for a short time and in a small way, to reconcile both his romantic longings and his religious fervor in his tentative pursuit of her attentions.  In the story, then, Mangan's sister assumes the role of symbolically representing the conflicting forces of religion and secularism in the narrator's mind.