“Araby” is set in Dublin, Ireland in various places around the city.
At the onset of the story, the boy is on the street where he lives, North Richmond Street. He frequently meets his friends and they play in the street until dusk falls and they go home for dinner. It is there, in the shadows, that he watches Mangan’s sister as she looks for her brother to call him home.
The setting switches to inside the narrator’s house, where he watches every morning for Mangan’s sister to leave her house. Her stepping outside cues him to grab his books and follow her; he does not have the nerve to speak to her, so he passes her on the street instead.
The narrator tells of Saturday evenings when he walks through the market with his aunt and dreams of the girl. Eventually, she speaks to him to find out if he will go to Araby, and he promises to bring her a present from the bazaar. He continues to dream of her at night in his room and during the day in his classroom, where he is unable to concentrate. Araby becomes important to him because he convinces himself that she might like him if he buys her a gift.
On the night of the bazaar, the boy waits impatiently for his uncle to come home; the sooner they eat dinner, the sooner he can go. However, it’s after 9:00 by the time his uncle returns, and the boy angrily paces the room waiting. Next, the boy walks down Buckingham Street to the train which will take him to his dream.
The story ends at the bazaar, the one place that the narrator has yearned to visit. This setting is important to the story because it is where the narrator’s epiphany takes place. Most of the stalls have closed and darkness envelops the bazaar. Of the few stalls that remain open, there is little that he might purchase as a gift for Mangan’s sister. The boy now believes that he will never have a chance with the girl because he has no opportunity to buy her a present. The truth is, he never had a chance with her. He learns that situations do not always work out the way we dream, noting, “I knew my stay was useless.”