Analysis of Araby by James Joyce Essay Example

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  6
Wordcount:  1601 Words
Date:  2022-12-08


Araby is among the earliest stories in the Dubliners collection created by James Joyce in 1914 (Gunes 200). The collection, consisting of fifteen short stories, is considered one of the most important texts in modernist literature. Araby is a coming of age story that presents the disillusionment of a young boy as he grows up. It also depicts the frustration faced by the people of Dublin, primarily due to the limitations imposed on them by the religion (Wheatley). Loss of innocence and the frustration associated with it are the central themes in the story. This paper seeks to explore these themes in greater detail.

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Narrated in first-person, Araby is the memory of an incident that happened when the narrator was young. The unnamed boy recalls the North Dublin street on which he lived, thinks of the priest who died in their house before they moved in, the games he played with his friends on the street, among other things (Joyce 1). He is also secretly obsessed with Mangan's sister (Gerber 190). Though they seldom talk, she is always in his thoughts.

The Unnamed Narrator: Observing Loss of Innocence and First Love

Moreover, though the narrator is intensely infatuated with her, he is afraid that he will never gather the courage to express his feelings. A co-incidental conversation with her one morning regarding Araby, a Dublin bazaar, raises his hopes. Unfortunately, Mangan's sister cannot attend the bazaar since she had other engagements after school (Joyce 2). The narrator promises to bring the girl something from the bazaar, but a multitude of challenges stand between him and the fulfillment of his promise, which could probably have provided an opportunity for him to open up to the girl. His uncle returns home late, the train is slow, and hence he arrives at Araby as the bazaar starts closing down. Finding nothing to buy for Mangan's sister, the story ends with the angry narrator standing in the deserted bazaar.

The narrator is the main character in the story. His name is not given. He lives at his uncle's place on North Richmond Street, Dublin. Playing with his friends and attending school makes up his days. This changes when he notices Mangan's sister. He idealizes and romanticizes the girl. He sees things about her that he had not noticed in women before. He observes, "Her dress swung as she moved her body, and the soft rope of her hair tossed from side to side" (Joyce 1). This is his first sexual attraction, and he believes that he is in love. Other than losing his innocence, his obsession with the girl becomes a source of his frustration as discussed below.

Loss of Innocence and Frustration

The story captures the process of growing up together with the loss of innocence and imaginations associated with it. The narrator, who is about to enter adulthood, looks at his childhood and formative stage with surprise. His idealization of Manga's sister shows his increasing interest in the adult world as well as the loss of his childhood innocence. It alienates him from his friends and makes him neglect his studies. It is also through the situation that the narrator experiences love for the first time and is introduced into the real adult life and the frustrations associated with it. Through his ideas and aspirations, the innocence of childhood is seen. Children take life as something to be explored and observed. The narrator is in this innocent and optimistic phase of his life.

The Desolate Bazaar: A Representation of Unachieved Childhood Dreams

However, his innocence and optimism do not last long. This is an accurate depiction of real life. When young, one believes in limitless possibilities and is exceedingly optimistic. However, as one grows older and experiences life and its challenges, they become more realistic, and the levels of optimism go down. The narrator is highly optimistic of his chances of winning the girl. He believes that getting her a gift is the surest way to achieve this. However, like all optimistic children, he does not consider things that could go wrong, and just like in real life, several things go wrong. The slow train symbolizes the difficult transition into adulthood. It is in this transition that the thought of not making it to the bazaar on time haunts him (Fleury). It also prompts him to make more mature moves as seen when the narrator says "I could not find any six-penny entrance, and fearing that the bazaar would be closed, I passed in quickly through a turnstile, handing a shilling to a weary looking man" (Joyce 4).

Araby is taken to mean escape. The Islamic regions of North Africa were taken by the 19th-century European scholars to symbolize escapism, exotic delights, and luxurious sensuality. The title, therefore, points to the escape that the narrator is making from childhood into adulthood and the loss of innocence associated with it. Moreover, though the Islamic lands look attractive and glamorous, they do not hold anything on the inside. Similarly, the young boy comes to realize that his ideas and aspirations are just but a mirage (Wheatley).

His situation imposes certain limits on him. The failure to overcome the limits leaves him greatly frustrated. Though he has many romantic ideas about the girl, he cannot bring himself to speak about it with her. The idea of the bazaar and the promise of a gift looks like the perfect way to get out of his situation, but fate ruins everything. On the night he is supposed to go to the bazaar, his uncle who was to give him train fare, is late, a factor that frustrates the young boy. To add to his frustration, the train is slow, and he arrives at the bazaar as it closes down. Resultantly, he does not find a gift for the girl. He also finds the bazaar dark and hence does not experience the glamor and grandeur he had envisioned.

The deserted bazaar and his unsuccessful quest serve as a representation of the unachieved childhood dreams. As he stands in the dark bazaar, his dreams die in front of his eyes, and there is nothing he can do about it. However, despite the loss of innocence and frustration, the young boy draws an essential lesson from the experience. "Gazing up into the darkness, I saw myself as a creature driven and derided by vanity, and my eyes burned with anguish and anger" (Joyce 5). This marks his transition from his innocence into insight (Rokeya and Zunayet 142).


James Joyce takes the reader through the typical coming of age experience. The narrator is seen transitioning from childhood into adulthood and from innocence into insight. The transition is not smooth, and the young boy ends up frustrated and angry in a dark place. Through his experience, the themes of loss of innocence and frustration are well explored. As childhood optimism is dealt a blow, the narrator becomes more realistic and insightful, traits that are important in adulthood. James Joyce brilliantly creates the real world in this story complete with its displeasure, frustration, and reality. Though created several decades back, the applicability of the story in real life has made it relevant over the years.

Works Cited

Fleury, Jacques. "Discovering Fiction: The Lost of Innocence in James Joyce's "Araby" and Ernest Hemingway's "Indian Camp"." 10 April 2012. SCN. 5 August 2019. <>.

Gerber, Richard J. "Joyce's "Araby" and the Mystery of Mangan's Sister." Joyce Studies Annual (2015): 186-194. <>.

Gunes, Ali. "Interview on James Joyce." Journal of History Culture and Art Research 5.3 (2016): 195-202. <>.

Joyce, James. Araby. n.d. <>.

Rokeya, Ms and Ahammed Zunayet. "A Shattering Epiphany in James Joyce's "Araby"." Advances in Language and Literary Studies 8.5 (2017): 140-144. <>.

Wheatley, Alyssa M. The Desire to Escape and the Inability to Follow Through in James Joyce's Dubliners. 2018. <>.

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