Joyce, James

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack
  • Date of entry: Apr-08-2002


A young boy dreams of "Mangan’s sister," who lives nearby: "Her dress swung as she moved her body and the soft rope of her hair tossed from side to side." Her image pursues him, even at night when he is trying to say his prayers. One day, he actually encounters Mangan’s sister, and she asks whether he plans to go to the bazaar (Araby) on Saturday night. She herself "would love to go," but cannot, because she must attend a retreat at the convent. This is the boy’s big chance! He promises to bring her a gift from the bazaar. On Saturday evening he waits for his uncle to come home and give him some money, but the uncle doesn’t arrive until nine o’clock.

The boy rushes onto a deserted train, trying desperately to reach Araby before it closes, but when he arrives "the greater part of the hall was in darkness." A few stalls are still open. A few people are still hanging around. The boy looks at some porcelain figurines, but suddenly realizes that his quest is doomed to failure: "Gazing up into the darkness I saw myself as a creature driven and derided by vanity, and my eyes burned with anguish and anger."


In some ways "Araby" has nothing to say to us. Ours is not a culture of convent schools and sexual repression, and we no longer rely upon the occasional Saturday night bazaar for titillating entertainment. But in other ways, nothing much has changed. This story has universal appeal because it speaks to the intense passion and awesome insecurity of adolescence. The boy pursues his illusion (what does he expect will happen?) in the face of great odds, but when he is successful and finally reaches Araby, the achievement slips through his grasp. He realizes for the first time the unbridgeable chasm between desire and reality.


Dubliners was first published as a collection in 1914. "Araby" was written in 1905.

Primary Source



Barnes & Noble

Place Published

New York



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