What role do emotions play in the story "Araby"?

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Love is the emotion that drives the protagonist of “Araby.” With his first preadolescent infatuation, the confused narrator experiences a mix of emotions that also include generosity and pride.

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The unnamed narrator is at an age where his whole life is governed by emotion. As a young boy on the cusp of adolescence, he's experiencing all kinds of strange emotions—such as his attachment to Mangan's sister—that he doesn't really understand. But he acts on them anyway, seeing them as providing a brief respite from his boring, humdrum existence.

Emotions are exciting, liberating even, but they're also notoriously difficult to control. The young boy finds this out to his cost when he's crushed with disappointment after arriving at the bazaar, only to find out that it's closing down. He's been led by his emotions right throughout the story, acting in ways that perhaps he ought not to have done. But there was nothing to hold him back from doing this, no center of stability in his life that could've provided him with moral guidance. The boy may well be a victim of his overactive emotions, but that's only because his home life hasn't provided him with the kind of emotional support that a young lad of his age so desperately needs.

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This story is really all about the narrator's feelings. He feels himself to be in love with his friend Mangan's sister. He absolutely idealizes her, and he comes to think of himself as a sort of heroic figure, carrying his love for her.  He says, 

I imagined that I bore my chalice safely through a throng of foes. Her name sprang to my lips at moments in strange prayers and praises which I myself did not understand. My eyes were often full of tears (I could not tell why) and at times a flood from my heart seemed to pour itself out into my bosom.

This young boy feels so deeply that, when Mangan's sister expresses her interest in the Araby bazaar, he can think of nothing but of going there and purchasing a gift for her. He gets permission and makes his plans, but nothing seems to go his way: his uncle gets home late, the trains are delayed, it costs more than he expects to gain entry, and then there is nothing there any more exotic than an English tea set. The narrator has a terrible epiphany. He realizes that what seemed so important to him—his very big feelings for this girl—mean nothing to the big, dirty, money driven world.  He recognizes the vanity of his hopes, and his feelings seem to turn to ash.

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What human emotion drives the actions of the protagonist in “Araby”?

James Joyce’s story “Araby” features a preadolescent protagonist in the grip of his first infatuation. His love for his neighbor, an older girl he refers to as “Mangan’s sister,” drives him to try to win her over. His romantic ideas of love are intertwined with the stirrings of sexual desire, a combination that makes him both confused and exhilarated. His sense of generosity pushes him to offer to do something for her: buy her a gift at the bazaar. This generosity is also tinged with pride, as he imagines how she will react to this gesture, as he seeks to influence her to reciprocate his affection.

The young narrator describes his love for Mangan’s sister as stimulated by her appearance and affecting his moods. He never provides her name but nevertheless says that “her name was like a summons to all my foolish blood.” His constant strains to catch a glimpse of her border on obsession with an older girl to whom, he admits, he can barely even speak. The boy recounts numerous aspects of the “confused adoration” he has for the girl, including its varied effects on him.

My eyes were often full of tears (I could not tell why) and at times a flood from my heart seemed to pour itself out into my bosom.

As this preoccupation continues, one night while alone at home he experiences a range of sensory confusion and repeatedly murmurs to himself, “O love! O love!”

When the girl finally speaks to him, the subject of their conversation is the upcoming bazaar. Because she cannot attend, he blurts out that he will bring her something from it. By the end of the story, however, he finds himself unable to complete his mission and admits to being motivated by “vanity.”

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