.......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.
.......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 bazaarbilled 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.
.......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 bazaar.
Two Englishmen: Young men with whom the stall attendant flirts.
Dubliners: Pedestrians, shop boys, laborers, drunks.
Porters at Train Station
Attendant at Bazaar Turnstile
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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 narratorwho is a practicing Catholic, as Joyce was in his youthand that of the irreligious adult author. The following sentences from the second paragraph exhibit this double perspective.
.......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."
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 atmosphere:.......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 bazaarAraby, as it is calledrepresents 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.
.......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 gardena sort of Eden, complete with an apple treethen 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.
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:
.......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.
.......Following are examples of figures of speech in "Araby."
AlliterationParagraph 3: the back doors of the dark dripping gardens
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"? (Paragraph 5).
.......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 go.
......."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 energetically:
......."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 thing!"
......."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 dark.
.......Gazing up into the darkness I saw myself as a creature driven and derided by vanity; and my eyes burned with anguish and anger.