What would be a good thesis statement for a short story analysis of "Araby" by James Joyce?

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favoritethings eNotes educator| Certified Educator

James Joyce's characters often experience some kind of epiphany near the end of his stories, and the narrator of "Araby" is no exception. Although the narrator seems, now, to be an adult, he is recalling his first childhood experience with love. Hoping to impress Mangan's sister, the girl with whom he feels himself to be in love, he longs to go to the Araby bazaar to purchase some exotic gift for her.

However, before he can get there, he must pass what feels like an interminable week of drudgery in school; then, on the night itself, his uncle is late to come home and wants to discuss poetry over dinner before giving the boy the money to go. When he finally gets the money, the train runs on an "intolerable delay" and merely "crept" once it does get moving. Finally, upon arriving, the boy cannot find a cheap entrance, and when he does get in, he sees that there is nothing more exotic to purchase than "porcelain vases and flowered tea-sets." He feels delay after delay and disappointment after disappointment. In the end, he says,

Gazing up into the darkness I saw myself as a creature driven and derided by vanity; and my eyes burned with anguish and anger.

This is the epiphany. A good thesis statement which analyzes the story might address this. What is it that the narrator realizes? In what way has he been vain? He seemed to think that his love for Mangan's sister in any way mattered; it was so important to him, that he expected things to work. When all his plans fell apart, he realized that his plans and hopes matter little to the world.

Thesis example: In "Araby," the narrator experiences an epiphany in which he realizes that his hopes and his love do not matter to the world; this realization results in his loss of innocence.

jmj616 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"Araby," by James Joyce, is the story of a young boy, probably on the verge of adolescence, who is obsessed with a girl in his neighborhood. The boy, who narrates the story in the first person, tells us in his brief introduction that he has never actually spoken to this girl; still,

Her name sprang to my lips at moments in strange prayers and praises...My eyes were often full of tears ...and at times a flood from my heart seemed to pour itself out into my bosom...I did not know whether I would ever speak to her or not or, if I spoke to her, how I could tell her of my confused adoration.

When he finally speaks to the girl, the boy promises her that he will go to a fair, called "Araby," and he will bring back a gift for her.

During the days leading up to the fair, the boy can think of nothing but the fair and the girl.  

When the boy finally arrives at the fair, it is a great disappointment. He arrives shortly before closing time, and most of the booths are already closed.  There is nothing to buy.  The lights are turned off, and "the upper part of the hall [is]...completely dark."

The narrator now experiences a classic Joyceian epiphany (a moment of self-discovery):

Gazing up into the darkness I saw myself as a creature driven and derided by vanity; and my eyes burned with anguish and anger.

It was vain and ridiculous to think that he could become friends with this angelic girl by buying her a trinket from this worthless fair.


a) People often delude themselves with false hopes.

b) We only come to recognize reality through personal experience.