Why did Joyce choose a naïve narrator for "Araby"?  

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jpn001 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

James Joyce's short story, "Araby," is a tale of moving from the innocence of youth to a more nuanced, more experienced understanding of reality. The naiveté of the narrator in the story allows us to see, through him, the simple way in which he views not only his infatuation, but the world as well, and how that simple view erodes away during his trip to the bazaar.

It is obvious from the beginning of the story that the narrator is not accustomed to the feelings that he is having for the subject of his infatuation, whom we only know as “Mangan’s sister.” He is uncertain how to proceed to talk with her, and he describes himself as emotional without knowing why. In this, we see that he is naïve both about his feelings and how to deal with them.

Due to his naiveté, the narrator associates in his mind that success in having further conversations with Mangan’s sister is predicated on success in buying her a gift at the bazaar. When nothing works out for him the day of the bazaar, and he finds himself there after many of the stalls are closes and with less money than he anticipated, he understands the futility of his endeavor, and he gains experience. This experience is further bolstered by the easy banter of the woman at the stall and the two men talking with her. Their interactions show him how faltering and naïve his attempts at talking to the subject of his infatuation really were, and he leaves with a new, more experienced understanding of the world.