Is the narrator of "Araby" young or mature at the time of the story?

Quick answer:

The narrator of "Araby" is an adult looking back on his childhood in Dublin.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

When the narrator tells this story, he seems to be an adult looking back on a childhood experience. He is a first-person objective narrator , one who is a participant in the events of the story and who tells it after these events have already taken place. The verbs in...

This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

the past tense are a good clue. Although we cannot know exactly how old the narrator is now, his word choices and analysis of the events he experienced as a child make it seem as though he is well into adulthood. He describes the "career of [their] play" as children and running the "gauntlet of the rough tribes" from cottages to gardens. He describes the name of Mangan's sister as being "like a summons to all [his] foolish blood." Such descriptions are not likely to come out of a very young mouth, but, rather, that of an adult who has had some time to process and reflect on his experiences. Further, the final sentence, which describes his epiphany, is very mature: "Gazing up into the darkness I saw myself as a creature driven and derided by vanity; and my eyes burned with anguish and anger." Again, these types of word choices seem to mark the narrator as a person well-advanced into adulthood, reflecting on his loss of innocence as a child.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

This is an interesting question to consider. Firstly, let us note that the story is told in the first person, by the boy himself who experiences such a significant epiphany in his adolescence. In addition, let us also be aware that the story is told in the past tense:

On Saturday morning I reminded my uncle that I wished to go to the bazaar in the evening.

Note the use of the first person in "I reminded" and also the past tense in "reminded" and "wished."

Therefore it is clear that the narrator is looking back on his youthful past as he tells this story. However, what we are not told is how old the narrator is as he tells this story. We can perhaps infer that he is telling this story in his later years, because we can guess that anybody would have needed a significant amount of time to process such an experience and its importance, and what he could have learnt from it. However, no clear indication is given in the story.

Approved by eNotes Editorial