What is the setting of "Araby"?

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dule05 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is the third story in the Dubliners collection and the final one in the group of stories that are concerned with childhood. It was written in October 1905, and it was the 11th story that Joyce wrote for the collection. The story takes place in Dublin, Ireland, at the beginning of the 20th century. Dublin at the time was seen by Joyce as the place of spiritual paralysis, where aspirations and dreams died:

My intention was to write a chapter of the moral history of my country and I chose Dublin for the scene because that city seemed to me the centre of paralysis.

The story begins with a vivid description of the street where the narrator lived as a boy:

North Richmond Street, being blind, was a quiet street…an uninhabited house of two storeys stood at the blind end…the other houses of the street, conscious of decent lives within them, gazed at one another with brown imperturbable faces.

The exterior evokes the images of suffocation and restriction in which the protagonist dwells. The text continues to focus on an atmosphere of waste and abandonment, as the former tenant of the house, a priest, has died in the house’s back drawing-room. Readers understand that the protagonist has to grapple with living in such stifling conditions.

The last part of the story takes place at “Araby,” a fair that comes to Dublin. The narrator’s idealized vision of the bazaar, which previously “cast an Eastern enchantment” over him, is completely obliterated. “Eastern enchantment” is replaced by the image of emptiness and a feeling of silence. The narrator realizes that there is nothing exotic and oriental about the bazaar and that it cannot make Dublin a more appealing place to live in.

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