Araby by James Joyce Summary Important Questions & Analysis

Araby by James Joyce

Araby by James Joyce

About the author | James Joyce

James Joyce (1882-1941) is an Irish novelist who is one of the most significant and well-reputed writers of the 20th century. Joyce had utilized the English language in the most innovative and technical manner. 


His novels A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916), Ulysses (1922) and Finnegans Wake (1939) which are considered to be the masterpieces of modern literature in which Joyce has employed some of the most inventive literary forms and techniques. 


Most of his novels and short stories are the best-sellers in Irish Literature. He is the most accomplished artist after William Butler Yeats (The National Poet of Ireland). Joyce has made use of technical innovations in the craftsmanship of his novels and short stories. 


Araby has been taken from his collection of short stories, The Dubliners. He had also artistically and extensively infused the technique of interior monologue (Stream of Consciousness). 


He has also symbolically applied various parallels which can be traced back from Greek Mythology, history and literature and all this has produced a unique linguistic pattern with fine touches of allusions (historical references) and puns (double meaning).


Summary of Araby

James Joyce is a famous Irish novelist. He is rightly considered one of the originators of the modern novel. Araby shows a conflict between the outer world and the inner feelings of the young hero. The hero of the story was a young school student of 14 years. 


He was an orphan child. He had been deprived of parental affection. He lived in a dark street with his uncle and aunt. He played with a friend, named Mangan. He was attracted towards Mangan’s sister. He was very shy and bashful. He could not express his frankly.

The boy was always lost in his beloved’s sweet thoughts. He watched her figure’

dress and hair most dearly and desired to talk to her. Every morning he laid on the floor in the front parlor for watching her. When she came out on the doorstep, the boy’s heart leaped.


He kept her brown figure always in his eyes. Her name was like an indication to all his foolish blood. The boy was overpowered by the passion of love, which was yet undefined in his simple heart. He even wept for her and called her by saying O love, O love. 


The boy was like a harp and her words and gestures were like figures running upon the wires. At night in his bedroom and at daytime in the classroom, her image came between him and the page whenever he tried to read. 


Such was the intensity of his love for her. He was quite ignorant about the realities of life. He lived in the world of his own creation. One day, the girl spoke to him. She asked him, if he had ever visited the Araby bazaar. 


The boy became so happy. He promised her that he would visit the Araby bazaar and bring something for her as a gift. He was to visit the Araby bazaar on

Saturday. He waited for the arrival of Saturday. 


Unfortunately, his uncle remained out for a long time and it was late at night when he returned home. The boy started off to Araby bazaar and reached there when most of the shops had already been closed. Most of the part of the bazaar was dark. 


Only a few shops were open. The boy went over to one of the stalls and porcelain pots and flowered tea sets. At the door of the stall, a young lady was talking and laughing with two young gentlemen. She came to him and asked indifferently if he wanted to buy anything. 


The boy replied negatively and felt greatly humiliated. He had two pennies in his pocket and let them slip back. He felt very sad as he had not enough money to purchase a gift for his beloved. He heard someone said from the gallery

that the light was out. 


The boy found himself in the darkness with no friend and no helper. He summed up his bitter experience in these words: gazing up into the darkness I saw myself as a creature driven and derided by vanity, and my eyes burned with anguish and anger. This was the anguish and anger of the disillusionment.


Critical Aspects of The Story


Significance of the title


The title means the splendid bazaar where the writer went to purchase a gift for his beloved. But he could not buy it because he had a small amount of money. Araby was merely a name of the bazaar where only rich people could buy things.


The Theme


The theme of the story is instinctive sexual feelings in every person. It was because of instinctive sexual attraction that the girl and the boy were mutually

attracted. The author has emphasized the fact that sexual attraction between the opposite sexes is natural and there is no question of age.


The extent and form of liking are expressed according to age and maturity. Male and female will have always an attraction for each other whatever their age may be. The boy is very young but his liking for the girl is very intense. 


It shows that feelings of sexual emotions are Stronger and dominant in men. Such feelings may remain undefined but are so overwhelming that all other thoughts are annihilated.


Deprivation of love


The attitude of the hero towards the girl was unusual. He was attracted towards the girl out of proportion because he felt a thirst for love. The element of love was lacking in his domestic atmosphere. He had no brother and sister at home to share his feelings. 


He was deprived of parental love. He lived with his uncle. He was in fact thirsting for real love. He was socially dissatisfied It was his such deprivation of

love and that made him look outside his home for emotional satisfaction.


Hopes are rarely realized


The story tells that there is a wide gulf between our dreams and reality. The hopes are seldom translated into reality. The young boy was very hopeful and ambitious about his love. Without giving serious thought to his resources he promised to

bring a gift for her love lady. 


He imagined Araby bazaar crowded with customers and purchasing a gift for her but the reality was very callous he had to wait the whole day and a good portion of the night merely to get a meager amount of money from his uncle. The market was also found deserted against his hopes.


Criticism on modern civilization


The author has made a psychological study of human beings. The story is a comment on modern civilization. The writer points out those modern men who are suffering from doubts, conflicts, and hopelessness. 


It is an age of rapid change. Even children at the small age of ten begin to feel the sexual urge. The story represents a tussle between the world of dreams and the world of reality. We desire much but come to nothing. 


The story describes a conflict between the objective world and the feelings of a child. It combines in itself a world of reality and unreality. So the underlying idea of the story is that modern civilization is shattering all the ethical values of life.


Symbolism in the story


In the story situations and characters were given symbolic aspects. Firstly Mangan’s sister was a symbol of the boy’s desire to have a beloved. She also symbolized female emotional joy. Secondly, the boy symbolized adolescent sexual passion. 


Thirdly, the boy’s uncle and aunt symbolized unawareness about the need Of their

nephew. Fourthly, the railway train symbolized the hero’s mobility and vitality of the body. Money symbolized the main means to buy the present. Lastly, the present that the boy could not bring for the girl symbolized the economic basis of love.


Questions and Their Answers

Question 1

Who did the young lover express his love with Manage’s sister?

What causes the defeat of the central character in the story Araby?

Why was the narrator losing interest in his studies? Explain briefly.




Araby shows a conflict between the outer world and the inner feelings of the young hero. It brings out the hard facts of life. There is a difference between the world of reality and dreams. The hero of the story was a young school student of 14 years old. He was an orphan child. 


He lived with his uncle and aunt. He liked Mangan’s sister who lived in his street. He was always lost in her sweet thoughts. He watched her figure, dress, and hair. He was and bashful. He could not express his sentiments.


One day, the girl spoke to him. She asked him if he had ever visited the Araby

bazaar. The boy became so happy. He promised her that he would visit the Araby bazaar and bring something for her as a gift. He was to visit the Araby bazaar on



He waited anxiously for the arrival of Saturday. Unfortunately, on Saturday his uncle remained out for a long time and it was late at night that he returned home. The boy started off to Araby bazaar and reached there when most of the shops had already closed. 


He went to a half-open shop and asked the price of one gift, but the price

was very high and he could not buy it. So he returned home empty-handed with feelings of disillusionment. The boy found himself in the darkness with no friend and no helper.


He summed up his extremely bitter experience in these words Gazing up into the darkness I saw myself as a creature driven and derided by vanity, and my eyes burned with anguish and anger. He had come to know the bitter realities of life but after great


Question 2

Araby is a psychological explanation of boy’s emotional and mental

condition. Discuss.

How has the writer criticized the dark aspects of modern civilization?




Modern civilization and technology have made human beings lustful. Boys and girls have always an attraction for each other whatever their age may be. In the story, the narrator was the representative of modern civilized society.


He was very timid and shy He did not have the courage to express his love to the girl. He used other ways to express his love. He wanted to impress his girlfriend

by giving her a gift from Araby but had no money and courage. 


He wept over his failure and to meet her beloved. In short, it was the impact of modern civilization that the boy always remained in the world of imagination and could not understand the real world. 


The writer has revealed to us that modern technology and civilization have made the young ones aware of the attraction by the opposite sex at an early age. Modern civilization also has demoralized the ethical values of life. In the end, the boy learns that life is not fun, joy and light. It is also dark, dull, and inhospitable.


Question 3

Write a note on the boy’s visit to Araby, the splendid bazaar of the city.

What is the significance of Araby in the story?

What is the symbolic meaning of the story Araby?




Araby was a splendid bazaar. Rich people went there for shopping. It had

been named after a church Araby that was situated near the bazaar. The boy in the story intended to go to the bazaar as his beloved had desired to do so. 


The boy had no purchasing power, but he connected romantic associations with it.

Araby bazaar symbolized the boy’s ignorance. He promised his beloved that he

would bring something for her from Araby. He did not know that he couldn’t buy a gift for the girl with little money. 


So the darkness of the bazaar showed his ignorance. The darkness of the bazaar also symbolized the bitter realities of life. It was a reality that he was immature and inexperienced and did not know anything about the power of money. 


So, by looking into the darkness, he realized his foolishness. This darkness also symbolizes that we the readers cannot fulfill all the wishes. There are certain things that are out of our reach and we cannot get them.


Question 4


Describe the romantic feeling of a passionate boy in the story Araby.

What is the theme of the story Araby?



The theme of the story is based on loveable feelings in every person. It was

because of the feelings of love that the girl and the boy were mutually attracted. The girl waited for the boy’s reaction with the half-opened door. 


The author has emphasized the fact that sexual attraction between the opposite sex is natural and there is no question of age The extent of liking is expressed according to age and maturity.


Males and females have always an attraction to one another whatever their ages may be. The boy was very young but his feelings for the girl were very intense. It shows that feelings of sexual were stronger and dominant in men. 


Such feelings may remain undefined but are so overwhelming that all other thoughts are annihilated. In the story, we note how the mind of the boy remained always occupied with the thoughts of his beloved. 


Whether he accompanied his aunt to the bazaar, or went to school, In the classroom, and in bed at night the thought of Araby over his mind. Araby was not much important as a bazaar.  It became unusually important for the boy as it was associated with his beloved because she had expressed a desire to visit that splendid bazaar. 


He wanted to purchase something from there for his beloved. The author wants to stress the fact that sex even in its crude and incomplete

the form is the strongest emotion in man. Any other emotion cannot stand in its way.


Question 5


The role of the main character in “Araby” is to run after the shadows.


Write a note on the main character of the story.



The story Araby was narrated in the first person. The narrator himself had

expressed his own experiences. He was about fourteen years old. He was an orphan child. He lived with his uncle and aunt.

The boy was very and bashful. He could not with his beloved. He expressed his love for the girl in different ways. He called her name in loneliness and in prayers. He looked keenly upon her when she came to call her brother. 


One day the girl herself spoke and asked him if he would go to Araby. He promised her to visit Araby and he would bring a gift for herThe boy was obedient and coward. He could not go anywhere without the permission of his uncle. 


He got permission from his uncle and went to the Araby bazaar. When he reached Araby, all the stalls were closed as it was evening then. He returned home empty-handed with feelings of disillusionment. He was the representative of a modern civilized man who was very timid and could not express his love bravely. 


Modern technology and civilization have made the boy aware of the attraction of the opposite sex at an early age. In short, the boy was the central character and the true representative of modern civilization.

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