Introduction to Araby

“Araby” is a short story by James Joyce. It was originally published as part of Joyce’s 1914 collection, Dubliners. Both “Araby” and the collection as whole are considered iconic works of Irish literature, and Joyce has become canonical figure in Irish culture. His works reflect a uniquely Irish Catholic sensibility while also retaining a more widespread thematic appeal. 

“Araby” is sometimes considered a compact Bildungsroman, as it portrays the burgeoning sexuality and subsequent loss of innocence of its young narrator. Tied into the narrator’s feelings towards his friend’s sister are notions of honor, chivalry, and religious euphoria. The titular Araby bazaar becomes the setting for the narrator’s heroic quest on behalf of his beloved. However, his romantic vision of the bazaar is ultimately crushed, leading him to realize that the world cannot live up to his youthful ideals.

A Brief Biography of James Joyce

James Joyce (1882–1941), one of the greatest writers of the early twentieth century, suffered from an incurable case of wanderlust. During his fifty-eight years, he lived in many different parts of the world. He began his life in Dublin, Ireland, which was the setting for most of his great fiction. In 1903, he moved to Paris, but he returned to Dublin a year later when his mother was dying. While in Dublin he met his life partner and future wife, Nora Barnacle, a maid at a Dublin hotel. Shortly thereafter, Joyce and Barnacle moved to Zurich and then on to Trieste, where Joyce stayed for a decade teaching English and writing.

Joyce’s life was a troubled one with bouts of alcoholism, depression, and poverty. Despite his problems, he managed to write many influential pieces of literature: Ulysses, Finnegans Wake, the short story collection Dubliners, and a semi-autobiographical novel, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.

Frequently Asked Questions about Araby

Araby

After feeling excited about the prospect of going to the Araby bazaar, the unnamed young narrator ends up feeling thoroughly disillusioned and disappointed by the time he finally reaches his...

Latest answer posted December 13, 2020, 11:19 am (UTC)

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Araby

Mangan's sister gives the narrator the idea to go to the Araby bazaar. Had it not been for her mentioning it, it is unlikely that he would have resolved to go, let alone with such determination....

Latest answer posted December 12, 2020, 11:21 am (UTC)

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Araby

The main character and narrator in "Araby" is a young unnamed boy who lives in Dublin, Ireland, around the turn of the twentieth century. His family lives on a cut-de-sac in a working-class or...

Latest answer posted December 11, 2020, 12:21 pm (UTC)

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Araby

"Araby" is set in Dublin, Ireland, around the turn of the twentieth century. The narrator lives in a working-class neighborhood of townhouses on a cul-de-sac called North Richmond Street. While the...

Latest answer posted December 12, 2020, 11:40 am (UTC)

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Araby

After Mangan's sister gives the narrator the idea of going to the Araby bazaar, the boy is essentially unable to think about anything else. As he confesses, the three syllables of the word “Araby”...

Latest answer posted December 12, 2020, 11:35 am (UTC)

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Araby

In the narrator's mind, Mangan's older sister is a romantic vision he worships and long for. He says that when he would see her in the mornings leaving for school, his "heart leaped." He feels a...

Latest answer posted December 12, 2020, 12:01 pm (UTC)

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Araby

In a narrative, the rising action consists of the events that directly precede and lead to the climax. In order to determine the rising action in “Araby,” therefore, we need to identify the climax....

Latest answer posted December 12, 2020, 11:51 am (UTC)

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Araby

In "Araby," dark symbolizes the reality of life in Dublin. Light, in contrast, symbolizes the beauty of illusions and dreams. This symbolism is made more evident by analyzing the use of the words...

Latest answer posted December 12, 2020, 1:23 pm (UTC)

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Araby

In the narrator's eyes, Mangan's sister represents an idealized romantic figure. For him, she is an intoxicating combination of beauty and hope, and his fantastical longing for her takes him out of...

Latest answer posted December 11, 2020, 11:17 am (UTC)

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Araby

In "Araby," Joyce uses the literary device of a subjective point of view, a technique favored among modernist writers. Readers experience the story entirely through the sensations and thoughts of...

Latest answer posted December 11, 2020, 11:51 am (UTC)

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Araby

Mangan is one of several neighboring boys whom the narrator plays with after school. Mangan never speaks in the story and is mainly notable for having an older sister. Mangan's sister habitually...

Latest answer posted December 11, 2020, 11:33 am (UTC)

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Araby

When the unnamed young narrator comes downstairs, he finds Mrs. Mercer sitting by the fireside. An “old garrulous woman,” Mrs. Mercer is a pawnbroker's widow who collects stamps to sell for money...

Latest answer posted December 11, 2020, 11:39 am (UTC)

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Araby

"Araby" is told from a first-person point of view. This means that the narrator is a participant in the events that take place. In this case, the story's narrator is also the protagonist. The...

Latest answer posted December 11, 2020, 1:14 pm (UTC)

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Araby

The mood of a literary work is how it makes the reader feel. Mood is conveyed through setting, imagery, and word choice. This is not to be confused with tone, which is the author's attitude about...

Latest answer posted December 10, 2020, 12:09 pm (UTC)

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Araby

The main conflict of “Araby” is between the young boy and his society. He feels that he loves Mangan’s sister, but the world is constantly presenting obstacles to that love. First, he must continue...

Latest answer posted December 10, 2020, 1:03 pm (UTC)

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Araby

In James Joyce's "Araby," the narrator says that he had barely spoken to Mangan's sister, and yet her name "was like a summons to all my foolish blood." Later in the story, he describes his...

Latest answer posted December 10, 2020, 11:18 am (UTC)

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Araby

In the short story “Araby” by James Joyce, a young boy is devastated when he is unable to fulfill his heroic quest and buy a gift for the girl with whom he is infatuated. The unnamed narrator and...

Latest answer posted December 10, 2020, 11:26 am (UTC)

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Araby

The narrator's realization in "Araby" concerns the distinction between his inner world of infatuation and fantasy and the comparatively cold outer world. This realization is conveyed in the story’s...

Latest answer posted December 10, 2020, 12:42 pm (UTC)

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Araby

Oscar Wilde observed that there are two tragedies in life—one is failing to get what you want, and the other is getting it. This adage describes the structure of "Araby" rather well. The narrator...

Latest answer posted December 10, 2020, 11:38 am (UTC)

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Araby

In James Joyce's "Araby," the narrator is an unnamed boy who is in love with an unnamed girl to whom, at the beginning of the story, he has never spoken. When she does speak to him, her first...

Latest answer posted December 9, 2020, 11:35 am (UTC)

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