James Joyce was an Irish novelist, short story writer, poet, teacher, and literary critic. He contributed to the modernist avant-garde movement and is regarded as one of the most influential and important writers of the 20th century.
In today’s story, “Araby,” the first-person narrator, a young boy, lives with his aunt and uncle. The neighbor’s sister asks him if he plans on attending a bazaar called Araby, and he promises to get her something from the fair as a gift. In “Araby,” the allure of new love and distant places mingles with the familiarity of everyday drudgery, with frustrating consequences. Though he promises Mangan’s sister that he will go to Araby and purchase a gift for her, the mundane realities of his life undermine his plans and ultimately thwart his desires.
The narrator arrives at the bazaar only to encounter flowered teacups and English accents, not the freedom of the enchanting East. As the bazaar closes down, he realizes that Mangan’s sister will fail his expectations as well, and that his desire for her is actually only a vain wish for change. The story presents this frustration as universal: the narrator is nameless, the girl is always “Mangan’s sister” as though she is any girl next door, and the story closes with the narrator imagining himself as a creature.
In “Araby,” Joyce suggests that all people experience frustrated desire for love and new experiences. Not the happiest of stories, “Araby” is nonetheless one of the most widely anthologized short stories, first appearing in 1914 in a collection of short stories entitled Dubliners and a favorite of textbook publishers worldwide.
And now, “Araby,” by James Joyce…we begin….