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Study Guide Compiled by Michael J. Cummings.© 2010
Type of Work and Year of Publication
.......James Joyce's “Araby” is a short story centering on an Irish adolescent emerging from boyhood fantasies into the harsh realities of everyday life in his country. Joyce based this coming-of-age tale, which he wrote in 1905, on his own experiences while growing up in Dublin in the late nineteenth century. The London
firm of Grant Richards Ltd. published the story in 1914 in Dubliners, a collection of fifteen of Joyce's stories.
Background and Setting
.......James Joyce based "Araby" on his own experiences as an adolescent resident of Dublin in 1894, when Ireland was chafing under British rule. Like the fictional narrator of "Araby," Joyce lived on North Richmond Street (No. 17) in the central part of the city. And like the narrator, he was undergoing a period of
self-discovery. However, unlike the narrator of "Araby," Joyce was not an orphan.
.......In "Araby" and other stories in Dubliners, Joyce presents Dublin as a bleak city struggling against oppressive forces. Winter scenes of boys at play take place near the
dead end of North Richmond Street and in nearby lanes, as indicated in the first and third paragraphs. The climactic scene takes place in South Dublin, across the River Liffey from central Dublin, at a bazaar in a large building. Such a bazaar—billed as “Araby: a Grand Oriental Fête” (or as “A Grand Oriental Fête: Araby in Dublin”) was actually held in Dublin between May 14 and May 19, 1894, to
benefit a local hospital.
Point of View
.......An adolescent boy narrates the story in first-person point of view. He does not identify himself. But to readers familiar with the life and works of Joyce, it becomes clear that he represents the author. Joyce based characters, places, and events in the story on recollections from his boyhood, although he altered
reality from time to time. For example, Joyce was not an orphan, as is the narrator.
Narrator: Boy of about twelve who becomes infatuated with the sister of his friend, Mangan. Although she hardly notices him and converses with him only once, he fantasizes about her and tells her he will buy her a gift if he attends a bazaar called Araby. He seems to regard her as noble and pure of heart, like a maiden in a tale of chivalry.
His trip to the bazaar to find her the gift then becomes something of a knight's quest on behalf of his lady fair.
Mangan: Boy about the same age as the narrator. He is a companion and neighbor of the narrator.
Other Neighbor Boys: Companions of the narrator.
Mangan's Sister: Girl to whom the narrator is attracted.
Narrator's Uncle, 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.
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."
Schoolmaster: Narrator's teacher.
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
Two Englishmen: Young men with whom the stall attendant flirts.
Dubliners: Pedestrians, shop boys, laborers, drunks.
Porters at Train Station
Attendant at Bazaar Turnstile
By Michael J. Cummings...© 2010
.......The year is 1894. The place is North Richmond Street in Ireland's largest city, Dublin. The street dead-ends at an empty house of two stories, says the unidentified narrator, a boy of about twelve who lives on the
street with his uncle and aunt. A priest was once a tenant in the house they occupy. After he died, the narrator explored his quarters. He reports that
Air, musty from having been long enclosed, hung in all the rooms, and the waste room behind the kitchen was littered with old useless papers. Among these I found a few paper-covered books, the pages of which were curled and damp: The Abbot, by Walter Scott, The Devout Communicant, and
The Memoirs of Vidocq. I liked the last best because its leaves were yellow........The narrator says the priest was a good man, for he bequeathed his money to institutions and his furniture to his sister.
.......In winter, the narrator and his friends,
including a boy named Mangan, play in the street and in the muddy lanes along and behind the houses. If the narrator's uncle turns into the street, everyone hides until he enters his house. If Mangan's sister comes out and calls her brother to tea, everyone keeps in the shadows. If she stands there and waits, the boys reveal themselves and Mangan answers her call. The
narrator always observes her closely, for he is strongly attracted to her even though he hardly knows her.
.......On school mornings, he waits for her to come out, then grabs his school books and follows her until their paths diverge. She is constantly in his
thoughts even though they had never had a conversation. One rainy evening in the kitchen of the priest's empty quarters, he presses his hands together as if to pray and says, “O love! O love!”
.......Finally, a day comes when she speaks to him. She asks whether he
is going to the Araby bazaar Saturday evening, noting that she herself wants to go but cannot because she must attend a retreat scheduled at her convent. He tells her that if he goes to the bazaar, he will bring back something for her.
.......During the next several days, having received permission from his aunt to attend the event, all he can think about is the bazaar and Mangan's sister. On Saturday morning, he reminds his uncle that he will be attending the bazaar that evening. The uncle, who is in the hallway looking for a hat brush, curtly replies, "Yes, boy, I know."
.......After the narrator returns from school, he sits downstairs staring at a clock, waiting for his uncle to come home and give him money for the bazaar. Irritated by the ticking of the clock, he goes to the highest part of the dwelling and looks out at the Mangan girl's
house while neighbor boys are playing in the street. For fully an hour, he stands there thinking of her, imagining he sees her in front of her house—her curved neck, her dress, her hand on the railing.
.......When he returns downstairs, his uncle has still not
returned home. But Mrs. Mercer is there sitting at the fire. She is a pawnbroker's widow who collects used stamps for a charitable cause. She is also waiting for the narrator's uncle, but the narrator does not say why. It may be that the uncle owes her money or has promised to give her stamps. While dinner awaits his return, Mrs. Mercer gossips with the narrator's aunt over tea. Just after eight
o'clock, Mrs. Mercer says she can wait no longer and leaves.
.......“I'm afraid you may put off your bazaar for this night of Our Lord,” the narrator's aunt says.
.......At nine, the narrator hears his uncle come through the door. He is talking to himself, which means he has been drinking. When the narrator asks him for money for the bazaar, the uncle says people are going to bed by this time. But the aunt presses him on behalf of the boy. The uncle then gives the boy a florin and asks him whether he has heard of "The Arab's Farewell to His Steed." In a hurry, the boy leaves while the uncle prepares to recite the first few lines of the poem to his wife.
.......The narrator takes an
empty third-class train across the river to the site of the bazaar. When he walks down the street to the bazaar building, it is nearing ten o'clock. He pays his way and walks through a turnstile only to discover that most of the stalls are already closed. In front of a curtain at one stall, Cafe Chantant, two men are counting money. When the narrator finds a stall that is
still open, he goes inside and looks over a display of tea sets and porcelain vases.
.......A young lady is talking with two gentlemen. All have English accents. She comes over and asks the narrator whether he wishes to make a purchase. Her tone is
perfunctory; she exhibits little enthusiasm. “No, thank you,” he says. He lingers a moment, then walks away. The lights of the gallery in the upper part of the building go out. Of this moment, the narrator tells the reader:
.......“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, Religion, and "Araby"
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.......James Joyce grew up a Catholic and attended Clongowes boarding school, operated by priests of the Society of Jesus, or Jesuits. But his father's heavy drinking and incompetence in home finances plunged the family into debt. Consequently, Joyce had to
withdraw from school and return home, where he kept up his studies with the help of his mother. Two years later, Jesuits at Belvedere school admitted Joyce free of charge. He flourished academically, rising to the top of his class.
.......At University College in Dublin, also run by the Jesuits, he received an excellent education in languages and participated in literary activities. By this time, however, Joyce had renounced Catholicism, mainly because of its unbending rules and strict enforcement of them.
In his stories, he repeatedly accuses the Catholic Church of oppressing and debilitating Ireland. He also frequently mocks the church, its clergy, and its rituals even though Jesuit priests generously provided him an education at a crucial time in his life.
.......In Araby, Joyce presents the church from two perspectives: that of the young narrator—who is a practicing Catholic, as Joyce was in his youth—and that of the irreligious adult author. The following sentences from the second paragraph exhibit this double perspective.
The former tenant of our house, a priest, had died in the back drawing-room. Air, musty from having been long enclosed, hung in all the rooms, and the waste room behind the kitchen was littered with old useless papers . . . He had been a very charitable priest; in his will he had left all his money to institutions and the furniture of his
house to his sister. Here, the boy attaches no special meaning to the condition of the room or the “useless papers.” Nor does he look down on the priest, for he notes that he had been a charitable man. However, it appears that the author himself—in looking back on his adolescence—intended the musty air and the useless papers to suggest that the church was an outdated
institution with effete rules and doctrines. Like the priest, it would die. As to the generosity of the priest, Joyce seems to be raising the question of why he had money and property in the first place.
.......One may argue that Joyce felt
conscience-bound to criticize the Catholic Church in "Araby" and other short stories, as well as in novels such as Ulysses. But his unfair generalizations about the church and the mean spirit in which he delivers his criticism bring into question the reliability and objectivity of his criticism.
.......The narrator contends with environmental forces that inhibit and oppress him and other Dubliners. These forces include adverse economic, social, and cultural conditions arising from British dominance of Ireland. He also struggles against lustful feelings toward the Mangan girl, feelings that his religion tells him
he must control. These feelings are most obvious in the following sentence at the end of the sixth paragraph: "All my senses seemed to desire to veil themselves and, feeling that I was about to slip from them, I pressed the palms of my hands together until they trembled, murmuring: `O love! O love!' many times." Theme
Awakening to the Humdrum Life of Dublin
.......The working-class street on which the narrator resides is a dead end, suggesting that he and his friends are going nowhere. They will grow up to live in the same dreary Dublin, with its dreary weather, dreary people, and dreary houses. In the third paragraph, the narrator describes the depressing
.......When we met in the street the houses had grown sombre. The space of sky above us was the colour of ever-changing violet and towards it the lamps of the street lifted their feeble lanterns. The cold air stung us and we played till our bodies glowed. Our shouts echoed in the silent street. The career of our
play brought us through the dark muddy lanes behind the houses, where we ran the gantlet of the rough tribes from the cottages, to the back doors of the dark dripping gardens where odours arose from the ashpits, to the dark odorous stables . . . . .......Nevertheless, the narrator bears up. He has friends, keeps active, and nurtures a dream: to win the attentions of the Mangan girl. After she speaks to him one day about the Araby bazaar, his spirits soar; he can think of nothing but her and of the gift he will buy her at the bazaar. For him, she is an exotic, lovely
creature, foreign to Dublin. And the bazaar—Araby, as it is called—represents a distant, mystical land to which he will travel on behalf of his beloved to obtain for her a splendid keepsake. He is like a knight planning a quest.
.......But when he goes
to the bazaar late one Saturday evening, the third-class train he rides to the site of the bazaar, the nearly empty bazaar hall, the English accents of the saleswoman and her men friends all disillusion him. In this moment, he suddenly awakens to the bleakness of the humdrum life around him.
.......As a young adult Joyce turned hostile toward Roman Catholicism and its clergy, believing that they had been a negative influence on Ireland over the years. Consequently, he makes the priest (paragraph 2) part of the dreary, decaying Dublin environment.
.......One may interpret his depiction of the priest as a foreshadowing of what will happen to the youthful narrator. Consider, for example, that the priest in his youth was probably hopeful and optimistic, like the narrator. After he was ordained, he may have attempted to
maintain the ebullience of his youth and reaffirm the importance of religion by reading the books mentioned in the second paragraph of "Araby." However, he eventually awakened to the bleakness of life around him and to the barrenness of religion, as Joyce would have the reader believe. His backyard garden—a sort of Eden, complete with an apple tree—then began decomposing, reflecting the
destruction of the priest's idealism. There is a rusty bicycle pump in the garden, suggesting the deflation of his vicarious travels.
.......The priest's experience thus foreshadows the awakening of the narrator from his dreamy adolescent idealism to the harsh
reality of Dublin life.
Glossary of Allusions, Symbols, and Terms
The Abbot: Novel by Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832). Its central character is Roland Graeme, a young man reared by relatives (like the Araby narrator). Graeme becomes involved in romance and adventure, as the narrator of "Araby" dreams of doing after meeting Mangan's sister and then going on a
knightly "quest" to the bazaar.
"The Arab's Farewell to His Steed": Alternate title for "An Arab's Farewell to His Horse," a popular poem by the English writer and social reformer Caroline Norton (1808-1877), granddaughter
of the famed Irish-born British playwright Richard Brinsley Sheridan. "In Araby," the narrator's uncle is about to recite the opening lines of the poem when the boy leaves for the Araby bazaar. Here is the first stanza of the poem:
My beautiful! that standest meekly by, At the end of the poem, the former owner returns the money and reclaims the horse.
With thy proudly arch'd and glossy neck, and dark and fiery eye,
Fret not to roam the desert now, with all thy winged speed;
I may not mount on thee again,—thou'rt sold, my Arab steed!
Fret not with that impatient hoof,—snuff not the breezy wind,—
The farther that thou fliest now, so far am I
The stranger hath thy bridle-rein,—thy master hath his gold,—
Fleet-limb'd and beautiful,
farewell; thou'rt sold, my steed, thou'rt sold.
Araby: Name of a bazaar (“Araby: a Grand Oriental Fête”) held in Dublin May
14-19, 1894, to benefit a local hospital. In Joyce's short story, the young narrator views Araby as a symbol of the mystique and allure of the Middle East. When he crosses the river to attend the bazaar and purchase a gift for the Mangan girl, it is as if he is crossing into a foreign land, like a knight-errant, on a mission on behalf of his lady fair. But his trip to the bazaar disappoints and
disillusions him, awakening him to the harsh reality of life around him.
Ashpits: Perhaps symbols of the hellish life of many Dubliners.
Street that dead-ends. In the story and in real life, Dublin's North Richmond Street is a dead end, as Joyce points out in the first four words of "Araby"—perhaps to suggest that the boys playing on it are going nowhere. They will grow up to live in the same dreary Dublin, with its dreary weather, dreary people, and dreary houses. In the third paragraph, the narrator describes the depressing
When we met in the street the houses had grown sombre. The space of sky above us was the colour of ever-changing violet and towards it the lamps of the street lifted their feeble lanterns. The cold air stung us and we played till our bodies glowed. Our shouts echoed in the silent street. The career of our play brought us through the dark
muddy lanes behind the houses, where we ran the gantlet of the rough tribes from the cottages, to the back doors of the dark dripping gardens where odours arose from the ashpits, to the dark odorous stables . . . . Brown: Color that Joyce uses in "Araby" to draw attention to the plainness and dreariness of Dublin. (See the first paragraph.) He also uses it to describe the figure of the Mangan girl, for she conjured up for him images of the Middle East, in particular the people of Arabia. But after he attends the bazaar, he no doubt begins to associate the
brownness of her figure with the dreary brownness of Dublin.
Café Chantant: In Europe, a café in which singers, dancers, and other entertainers performed for patrons. Sometimes bawdy performances were featured. In "Araby," the presence of a café chantant at
the Grand Oriental Fête suggests that the bazaar is actually less than grand.
Devout Communicant: Abbreviation of a book title. The full title is The Devout Communicant, or Pious Meditations and Aspirations for the Three Days Before and Three Days After
Receiving the Holy Eucharist. The author was Pacificus Baker (1695-1774), an English Franciscan priest. Joyce mentions the book in "Araby" perhaps as a hint that the narrator equates his attraction to the Mangan girl to a religious experience. Mention of the book also obliquely foreshadows the narrator's trip to the bazaar to obtain a gift for the girl—a trip that to him is a like a quest for
the Holy Grail.
Empty House: Two-story dwelling at the end of North Richmond Street. Joyce mentions it perhaps to suggest an empty future awaiting the boys playing on the street.
Gantlet: Military punishment in which an offender was forced to run between two lines of men who beat him with clubs when he passed.
Garden of the Priest: Garden of Eden, from which the priest and his religion emerged to labor in a
Mangan: James Mangan (1803-1849), whom Joyce read and wrote about. Mangan adopted a middle name, Clarence, when he was a teenager. Mangan wrote poetry on romantic and patriotic themes, notably poems supporting Irish nationalism. He also
translated poetry from German and other languages, including Ireland's Celtic language (sometimes referred to as Irish Gaelic). Some of his translations include his own original writing, and some of his original poems are presented as translations from Oriental languages. By giving the name Mangan to the girl with whom the young "Araby" narrator is infatuated, Joyce links her with an author who
sometimes wrote about exotic eastern locales—in other words Araby.
O'Donovan Rossa: Jeremiah O'Donovan Rossa (1831-1915), a revolutionary who worked to overthrow British rule in Ireland.
Florin: British coin worth two shillings. Circulation of it began in 1849 and continued until 1971. In the late nineteenth century, the coin bore the image of Queen Victoria on one side. The florin was a bitter reminder to the Irish that they were under British rule.
Retreat: In Roman Catholicism, a period of seclusion for praying, meditating, receiving advice, and discovering ways to improve one's moral life.
Spike: Perhaps a phallic symbol. Joyce uses the word in the ninth paragraph. Here is the paragraph:
.......While she spoke she turned a silver bracelet round and round her wrist. She could not go, she said, because there would be a retreat that week in her convent. Her brother and two other boys were fighting for their caps, and I was alone at the railings. She held one of the spikes, bowing her head towards
me. The light from the lamp opposite our door caught the white curve of her neck, lit up her hair that rested there and, falling, lit up the hand upon the railing. At fell over one side of her dress and caught the white border of a petticoat, just visible as she stood at ease.Westland Row Station: Train station in South Dublin. Today it is known as Pearse Station.
Vidocq, Eugène François: Celebrated French adventurer. Between his
adolescence and age twenty, he was a thief, traveling entertainer, duelist, prison inmate, prison escapee, soldier, and forger. After later being imprisoned again, he spied on inmates for the police. When he was thirty-six, he founded a police unit in Paris that later became the national security police, or Sûreté Nationale. He left police work in 1827 to operate a paper mill, but the business
failed. He went back to work for the police as a detective but in 1832 was accused of theft and fired. He then founded a detective agency. He was an acquaintance of great writers, including Balzac and Victor Hugo, and served as a model for many fictional characters. He wrote his memoirs with the assistance of other writers. Entitled Mémoires de Vidocq, chef de la police de Sûreté, jusqu'en
1827, it became a best seller. The reference to Vidocq in "Araby" appears to suggest that the dead priest had escaped from the austerity of his clerical life and the drabness of Dublin by reading about the adventuresome Vidocq. The reference also foreshadows the young narrator's "escape" across the river to the Araby bazaar.
.......The climax occurs when the narrator, disillusioned by what he finds at the bazaar, realizes that life in Dublin is humdrum and that the Mangan girl probably has no romantic interest in him. Belief that she was attracted to him was a result of his vanity, he believes.
Figures of Speech
.......Following are examples of figures of speech in "Araby."
Paragraph 3: the back doors of the dark dripping gardens Irony
5: Her name sprang to my lips at moments in strange prayers and praises which I myself did not understand.
Paragraph 25: girded at half its height by a gallery.
When the Araby bazaar darkens, the narrator "sees the light," realizing that his perception of reality has been distorted.Metaphor
Paragraph 3: shook music from the buckled harness (comparison of music to an object that can be shaken from something) Personification
Paragraph 5: the shrill litanies of shop-boys (comparison of the cries of the shop boys to a
Paragraph 1: The other houses of the street, conscious of decent lives within them, gazed at one another with brown imperturbable faces (comparison of houses to persons) Simile
Paragraph 6: All my senses seemed to desire to veil
themselves (comparison of senses to persons)
Paragraph 5: But my body was like a harp and her words and gestures were like fingers running upon the wires. (Comparison of body to a harp and of words and gestures to fingers)Study Questions and Essay Topics
1...Write an essay that speculates on what the narrator's life will be like when he is in his early thirties.
2...Write a short psychological profile of the narrator. Support
your views with passages from the story and quotations from scholarly works that analyze the story..
3...In what ways did British rule of Ireland affect the everyday life of the Irish people?
4...Are the coachman and horse (paragraph 3) symbols of Britain and Ireland, respectively?
5...What are "the troubles in our native land"?
By James Joyce
.......North Richmond Street, being blind, was a quiet street except at the hour when the Christian Brothers' School set the boys free. An uninhabited house of two storeys stood at the blind end, detached from its neighbours in a square ground. The other houses of the street, conscious of decent lives within them, gazed
at one another with brown imperturbable faces.
.......The former tenant of our house, a priest, had died in the back drawing-room. Air, musty from having been long enclosed, hung in all the rooms, and the waste room behind the kitchen was littered with old useless
papers. Among these I found a few paper-covered books, the pages of which were curled and damp: The Abbot, by Walter Scott, The Devout Communicant, and The Memoirs of Vidocq. I liked the last best because its leaves were yellow. The wild garden behind the house contained a central apple-tree and a few straggling bushes, under one of which I found the late tenant's rusty
bicycle-pump. He had been a very charitable priest; in his will he had left all his money to institutions and the furniture of his house to his sister.
.......When the short days of winter came, dusk fell before we had well eaten our dinners. When we met
in the street the houses had grown sombre. The space of sky above us was the colour of ever-changing violet and towards it the lamps of the street lifted their feeble lanterns. The cold air stung us and we played till our bodies glowed. Our shouts echoed in the silent street. The career of our play brought us through the dark muddy lanes behind the houses, where we ran the gantlet of the rough
tribes from the cottages, to the back doors of the dark dripping gardens where odours arose from the ashpits, to the dark odorous stables where a coachman smoothed and combed the horse or shook music from the buckled harness. When we returned to the street, light from the kitchen windows had filled the areas. If my uncle was seen turning the corner, we hid in the shadow until we had seen him
safely housed. Or if Mangan's sister came out on the doorstep to call her brother in to his tea, we watched her from our shadow peer up and down the street. We waited to see whether she would remain or go in and, if she remained, we left our shadow and walked up to Mangan's steps resignedly. She was waiting for us, her figure defined by the light from the half-opened door. Her brother always
teased her before he obeyed, and I stood by the railings looking at her. Her dress swung as she moved her body, and the soft rope of her hair tossed from side to side.
.......Every morning I lay on the floor in the front parlour watching her door. The blind was
pulled down to within an inch of the sash so that I could not be seen. When she came out on the doorstep my heart leaped. I ran to the hall, seized my books and followed her. I kept her brown figure always in my eye and, when we came near the point at which our ways diverged, I quickened my pace and passed her. This happened morning after morning. I had never spoken to her, except for a few
casual words, and yet her name was like a summons to all my foolish blood.
.......Her image accompanied me even in places the most hostile to romance. On Saturday evenings when my aunt went marketing I had to go to carry some of the parcels. We walked
through the flaring streets, jostled by drunken men and bargaining women, amid the curses of labourers, the shrill litanies of shop-boys who stood on guard by the barrels of pigs' cheeks, the nasal chanting of street-singers, who sang a come-all-you about O'Donovan Rossa, or a ballad about the troubles in our native land. These noises converged in a single sensation of life for me: 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. I thought little of the future. I did not know whether I would ever speak to her or not or, if I spoke to
her, how I could tell her of my confused adoration. But my body was like a harp and her words and gestures were like fingers running upon the wires.
.......One evening I went into the back drawing-room in which the priest had died. It was a dark rainy evening and there was no sound in the house. Through one of the broken panes I heard the rain impinge upon the earth, the fine
incessant needles of water playing in the sodden beds. Some distant lamp or lighted window gleamed below me. I was thankful that I could see so little. All my senses seemed to desire to veil themselves and, feeling that I was about to slip from them, I pressed the palms of my hands together until they trembled, murmuring: `O love! O love!' many times.
.......At last she spoke to me. When she addressed the first words to me I was so confused that I did not know what to answer. She asked me was I going to Araby. I forgot whether I answered yes or no. It would be a splendid bazaar; she said she would love to
......."And why can't you?" I asked.
.......While she spoke she turned a silver bracelet round and round her wrist.
She could not go, she said, because there would be a retreat that week in her convent. Her brother and two other boys were fighting for their caps, and I was alone at the railings. She held one of the spikes, bowing her head towards me. The light from the lamp opposite our door caught the white curve of her neck, lit up her hair that rested there and, falling, lit up the hand upon the railing. At
fell over one side of her dress and caught the white border of a petticoat, just visible as she stood at ease.
......."It's well for you," she said.
......."If I go," I said, "I will bring you something."
.......What innumerable follies laid waste my waking and sleeping thoughts after that evening! I wished to annihilate the tedious intervening days. I chafed against the work
of school. At night in my bedroom and by day in the classroom her image came between me and the page I strove to read. The syllables of the word Araby were called to me through the silence in which my soul luxuriated and cast an Eastern enchantment over me. I asked for leave to go to the bazaar on Saturday night. My aunt was surprised, and hoped it was not some Freemason affair. I answered few
questions in class. I watched my master's face pass from amiability to sternness; he hoped I was not beginning to idle. I could not call my wandering thoughts together. I had hardly any patience with the serious work of life which, now that it stood between me and my desire, seemed to me child's play, ugly monotonous child's play.
.......On Saturday morning I reminded my uncle that I wished to go to the bazaar in the evening. He was fussing at the hallstand, looking for the hat-brush, and answered me curtly:
......."Yes, boy, I know."
.......As he was in the hall I could not go into the front parlour and lie at the window. I left the house in bad humour and walked slowly towards the school. The air was
pitilessly raw and already my heart misgave me.
.......When I came home to dinner my uncle had not yet been home. Still it was early. I sat staring at the clock for some time and, when its ticking began to irritate me, I left the room. I mounted the staircase and
gained the upper part of the house. The high, cold, empty, gloomy rooms liberated me and I went from room to room singing. From the front window I saw my companions playing below in the street. Their cries reached me weakened and indistinct and, leaning my forehead against the cool glass, I looked over at the dark house where she lived. I may have stood there for an hour, seeing nothing but the
brown-clad figure cast by my imagination, touched discreetly by the lamplight at the curved neck, at the hand upon the railings and at the border below the dress.
.......When I came downstairs again I found Mrs Mercer sitting at the fire. She was an old, garrulous
woman, a pawnbroker's widow, who collected used stamps for some pious purpose. I had to endure the gossip of the tea-table. The meal was prolonged beyond an hour and still my uncle did not come. Mrs Mercer stood up to go: she was sorry she couldn't wait any longer, but it was after eight o'clock and she did not like to be out late, as the night air was bad for her. When she had gone I began to
walk up and down the room, clenching my fists. My aunt said:
......."I'm afraid you may put off your bazaar for this night of Our Lord."
.......At nine o'clock I heard my uncle's latchkey in the hall door. I heard him talking to himself and heard the hallstand rocking when it had received the weight of his overcoat. I could interpret these signs. When he was midway through his dinner I asked him to give me the money to go to the bazaar. He had forgotten.
......."The people are in bed and after their first sleep now," he said.
.......I did not smile. My aunt said to him
......."Can't you give him the money and let him go? You've kept him late enough as it is."
.......My uncle said
he was very sorry he had forgotten. He said he believed in the old saying: All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. He asked me where I was going and, when I told him a second time, he asked me did I know "The Arab's Farewell to his Steed." When I left the kitchen he was about to recite the opening lines of the piece to my aunt.
.......I held a florin tightly in my hand as I strode down Buckingham Street towards the station. The sight of the streets thronged with buyers and glaring with gas recalled to me the purpose of my journey. I took my seat in a third-class carriage of a deserted train. After an
intolerable delay the train moved out of the station slowly. It crept onward among ruinous houses and over the twinkling river. At Westland Row Station a crowd of people pressed to the carriage doors; but the porters moved them back, saying that it was a special train for the bazaar. I remained alone in the bare carriage. In a few minutes the train drew up beside an improvised wooden platform. I
passed out on to the road and saw by the lighted dial of a clock that it was ten minutes to ten. In front of me was a large building which displayed the magical name.
.......I could not find any sixpenny entrance and, fearing that the bazaar would be closed, I
passed in quickly through a turnstile, handing a shilling to a weary-looking man. I found myself in a big hall girded at half its height by a gallery. Nearly all the stalls were closed and the greater part of the hall was in darkness. I recognized a silence like that which pervades a church after a service. I walked into the centre of the bazaar timidly. A few people were gathered about the
stalls which were still open. Before a curtain, over which the words Café Chantant were written in coloured lamps, two men were counting money on a salver. I listened to the fall of the coins.
.......Remembering with difficulty why I had come, I went over to one
of the stalls and examined porcelain vases and flowered tea-sets. At the door of the stall a young lady was talking and laughing with two young gentlemen. I remarked their English accents and listened vaguely to their conversation.
......."O, I never said such a
......."O, but you did!"
......."O, but I didn't!"
......."Didn't she say that?"
......."Yes. I heard her."
......."O, there's a... fib!"
.......Observing me, the young lady came over and asked me did I wish to buy anything. The tone of her voice was not encouraging; she seemed to have spoken to me out of a
sense of duty. I looked humbly at the great jars that stood like eastern guards at either side of the dark entrance to the stall and murmured:
......."No, thank you."
.......The young lady changed the position of one of the vases and went back to the two young men. They began to talk of the same subject. Once or twice the young lady glanced at me over her shoulder.
.......I lingered before her stall, though I knew my stay was useless, to make my interest in her wares seem the more real. Then I turned away slowly and walked down the middle of the bazaar. I allowed the two pennies to fall against the sixpence in my pocket. I heard a voice call from one end of the gallery that the light was out. The upper part of the hall was now completely
.......Gazing up into the darkness I saw myself as a creature driven and derided by vanity; and my eyes burned with anguish and anger.