Araby By JameS Joyce

Presentation by Matthew Maron

Lesson Plan:

  • Quick plot summary
  • Understand major Symbolism
  • Understand major Themes
  • Question & Answer

Short Summary

A young boy develops a crush on Mangan's sister, a girl who lives across the street. One evening she asks him if he plans to go to a bazaar called Araby. The girl will be away on a retreat when the bazaar is held and therefore unable to attend. The boy promises that if he goes he will bring her something from Araby.

The boy receives permission to attend the bazaar on Saturday night. When Saturday night comes, however, his uncle returns home late, possibly having visited a pub after work. After waiting, the boy receives money for the bazaar, but by the time he arrives at Araby, it is too late. The event is shutting down for the night, and he does not have enough money to buy something nice for Mangan's sister anyway. The boy cries in frustration.

Araby and The Narrators "Promised Land"

Araby symbolizes the beauty, mystery, and romance the narrator longs for in his life. He lives in a dreary house on a shabby dead-end street. He escapes this by reading a Sir Walter Scott romance and a book of French adventures and by dreaming. When he hears the name "Araby," he says, "The syllables of the word Araby . . . cast an Eastern enchantment over me." His first-love obsession with Mangan's sister melds with his vision of Araby when she speaks to him of the bazaar. He's off on a knight's romantic quest to bring her a gift from the enchanted land, only to have his dreams crushed under the weight of reality.

Araby represents some sort of "promise land" to him, but it turns out to be just another bazaar. He's trying to win the heart of a girl, but he realizes in those last moments how silly and stupid it all was and that he'd never win her heart.

North Richmond Street and Blindness

The location of the boy's house, in a "blind" street could symbolize the boy's nature at the beginning of the story, compared with his character at the end of the story.

At the beginning of the story the narrator views himself as a kind of religious hero and confuses Mangan's sister with the Virgin Mary. Religion and infatuation are confused and he is unable to discern the difference between religion and his secular life.

At the end of the story the boy "sees", and ends his "blinded" state. He realises that Araby, although it sounds so exotic is nothing more than a church-sponsored bazaar selling trinkets. He likewise understands that Mangan's sister is just a girl and that he is just a boy. The end of the story captures this moment of epiphany and help us to see that the narrator is "blind" no longer

Frustration Theme

The narrator is first frustrated by his infatuation with Mangan's sister, as any teenager might be. He likes her and is somewhat obsessed with her, but can't really get close to her or get to know her. Then when he finally gets a chance to cement a connection with her by getting her a gift from the bazaar, he's frustrated by having to wait for the day to arrive when he can go, and by his uncle returning home late to give him his spending money.

Once at the bazaar, he is then disillusioned by the appearance of the bazaar, the useless, trivial flirting of the three workers he overhears, and, apparently, by the items available for purchase.

He experiences an epiphany, then, when he realizes how trivial he has been during the course of his infatuation. Buying Mangan's sister a gift from Araby does not merit his total obsessiveness, which led him to neglect everything else.

Epiphany and Loss of Innocence

At the end of the story, the boy overhears a trite conversation between an English girl working at the bazaar and two young men, and he suddenly realizes that he has been confusing things. It dawns on him that the bazaar, which he thought would be so exotic and exciting, is really only a commercialized place to buy things. Furthermore, he now realizes that Mangan's sister is just a girl who will not care whether he fulfills his promise to buy her something at the bazaar. His conversation with Mangan's sister, during which he promised he would buy her something, was really only small talk—as meaningless as the one between the English girl and her companions.

He leaves Araby feeling ashamed and upset. This epiphany signals a change in the narrator—from an innocent, idealistic boy to an adolescent dealing with the harsh realities of life.

Question and Answer

Who are the Narrator Uncle and Aunt?

Relatives who are rearing the narrator. The uncle, a drinker, addresses the narrator as "boy" (paragraph 14), suggesting that he is not close to his nephew.

Who is Mrs Mercer?

Widow of a pawnbroker. She visits the narrator's home to collect used stamps to support what the narrator terms "a pious cause."

Who Is the Stall Attendant?

Young Englishwoman who sells vases, tea sets, and similar wares at the Araby bazaar. To the narrator, the fact that she is English diminishes the Middle Eastern atmosphere of the Araby bazaar.

Who is Mangan?

Mangan is the same age and in the same class at the Christian Brothers school as the narrator, and so he and the narrator often play together after school. His older sister is the object of the narrator's confused feelings.

Who is Mangan's sister?

Narrator is obsessed with her, has no idea the narrators feelings towards her

What is the Setting?

1894 Dublin Ireland

What is Araby?

Name of the Bazaar

Made with Adobe Slate

Make your words and images move.

Get Slate

Report Abuse

If you feel that this video content violates the Adobe Terms of Use, you may report this content by filling out this quick form.

To report a Copyright Violation, please follow Section 17 in the Terms of Use.