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Araby. James Joyce. Dubliners. Dubliners is a collection of 15 short stories by James Joyce , first published in 1914. They form a naturalistic depiction of Irish middle class life in and around Dublin in the early years of the 20th century.

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James Joyce

  • Dubliners is a collection of 15 short stories by James Joyce, first published in 1914. They form a naturalistic depiction of Irish middle class life in and around Dublin in the early years of the 20th century.

The stories were written when Irish nationalism was at its peak, and a search for a national identity and purpose was raging; at a crossroads of history and culture, Ireland was jolted by various converging ideas and influences. They centre on Joyce\'s idea of an epiphany: a moment where a character experiences self-understanding or illumination. Many of the characters in Dubliners later appear in minor roles in Joyce\'s novel Ulysses.[1] The initial stories in the collection are narrated by child protagonists, and as the stories continue, they deal with the lives and concerns of progressively older people. This is in line with Joyce\'s tripartite division of the collection into childhood, adolescence and maturity.


In Dubliners Joyce rarely uses hyperbole, relying on simplicity and close detail to create a realistic setting. This ties the reader\'s understanding of people to their environments. He does not tell readers what to think, rather they are left to come to their own conclusions. This is even more evident when contrasted with the moral judgements displayed by earlier writers such as Charles Dickens. This frequently leads to a lack of traditional dramatic resolution within the stories.

  • It has been argued[3] that Joyce often allows his narrative voice to gravitate towards the voice of a textual character. For example, the opening line of \'The Dead\' reads "Lily, the caretaker\'s daughter, was literally run off her feet." She is not, in this instance, "literally" run off her feet, and neither would Joyce have thought so; rather, the narrative lends itself to a use of language typical of the character being described.
  • The story opens with the narrator\'s description of his home and neighborhood (a description where we first see Joyce\'s use of the close first-person narrator to convey the full sensory range of sensory detail - sights, smells, colors, textures - that comprise the setting), but the action doesn\'t begin in earnest until Mangan\'s sister appears on the doorstep of her house, and the narrator begins to describe his obsession with her. It is a vivid, powerful obsession, befitting a boy on the verge of puberty, and the narrator describes how the girl\'s \'name was like a summons to all [his] foolish blood,\' and how his \'body was like a harp and her words and gestures…like fingers running upon the wires.

Ugh first-person narration, the reader is immersed at the start of the story in the drab life that people live on North Richmond Street, which seems to be illuminated only by the verve and imagination of the children who, despite the growing darkness that comes during the winter months, insist on playing "until [their] bodies glowed." Even though the conditions of this neighbourhood leave much to be desired, the children’s play is infused with their almost magical way of perceiving the world, which the narrator dutifully conveys to the reader.


With the obsession established, the story then moves to how the narrator might act on that obsession, how he might obtain this young girl. One night, he meets her on the doorstep of her home. She asks whether he\'s attending the following Saturday\'s bazaar (the name of the bazaar is \'Araby\'), and expresses her own wish to go, but says, regretfully, she must attend an event for her convent. There is no indication that the narrator, before this moment, intended to go to the bazaar, or was even aware of it, but at that moment he decides he will go, and tells Mangan\'s sister that he will bring her back a gift from it.


The rest of the story, then, is the narrator\'s attempt to obtain that gift for Mangan\'s sister. In fact, his obsession with the girl herself transfers to an obsession with the gift, and with the bazaar where he\'ll find the gift, so that for the days leading up the bazaar he can think of nothing but getting there. He begins to ignore his schoolwork, is unable to sit still.


Unfortunately, when the day of the bazaar arrives, the narrator\'s uncle (who was supposed to give him money for the gift), forgets his obligation and arrives home late from work. As a result, the narrator sets out too late. By the time he arrives at the bazaar, \'nearly all the stalls [are] closed and the greater part of the hall [is] in darkness.\' He describes the empty place as having \'a silence like that which pervades a church after a service.


While he does find an open stall, any wares that he would buy seem uninviting, or else intimidating (all we know is that he chooses not to buy them). The story ends with the lights in the hall turning off, and with the narrator \'gazing up into the darkness and [seeing himself] as a creature driven and derided by vanity…[his] eyes [burning] with anguish and anger.\'

  • The first part of the story takes place in and around the narrator\'s home in a neighborhood in Dublin, Ireland. At the end of the story, the action moves to a bazaar (a kind of traveling market) across town.
principle characters
Principle Characters
  • Narrator: The narrator of the story is a young boy of unspecified age, although young enough to attend the neighborhood school.
  • Mangan\'s sister: Living across the street from the narrator is \'Mangan\'s sister\' (we\'re not given her actual name), the sibling of the narrator\'s friend. She also is a child, although it\'s suggested she\'s older than the narrator (she\'s old enough to attend a convent). The narrator falls in love with Mangan\'s sister, a love that drives the plot of the story.
  • Narrator\'s uncle: While the narrator doesn\'t elaborate on his home life, we know that he lives with his uncle and aunt. We see both the uncle and aunt in the story (as well as a few other adults), but the uncle factors most significantly into the plot, by keeping the narrator from attending the bazaar on time.
  • "Araby" touches on a great number of themes:
  • coming of age
  • the loss of innocence
  • the life of the mind versus poverty (both physical and intellectual)
  • the consequences of idealization
  • the Catholic Church\'s influence to make Dublin a place of asceticism where desire and sensuality are seen as immoral[2]
  • the pain that often comes when one encounters love in reality instead of its elevated form
  • paralysis
  • These themes build on one another entirely through the thoughts of the young boy, who is portrayed by the first-person narrator, who writes from memory.
  • While any Joyce story offers more than can be condensed in a few paragraphs, there are several key themes to notice about \'Araby\':
the narrator s inwardness or secrecy
The narrator\'s inwardness, or secrecy:
  • While nearly the full story is about the narrator\'s burning obsession with Mangan\'s sister, and then with the gift he will buy her, there is not one point in the story at which the narrator shares his feelings with another person - not with his friends, not with his family, and certainly not with Mangan\'s sister. While this of course could mean many things, we can say at the very least that the story shows us a character who is very lonely, and who by definition is repressed. Nowhere in his environment does he find an outlet for his feelings.
the narrator s helplessness
The narrator\'s helplessness:
  • Despite the intensity of the narrator\'s desire, he has no way to take firm initiative and act on it. In the first stages of his obsession with Mangan\'s sister, he can do nothing but spy on her from his window, stalk the house rubbing his hands together in angst, and walk along behind her on the way to school. When she mentions the bazaar, he does briefly have an opportunity to act on his feelings, but that is soon stifled by his careless uncle, and by the business hours of the bazaar. In other words, he is at the whim of outside forces, which leaves him frustrated and helpless.
  • Despite the frustrations of his secrecy and helpless, the narrator does finally make it to the bazaar in time to buy Mangan\'s sister a gift, but what he finds when he sees the gifts and can touch them is that they don\'t appeal to him. They don\'t excite him. While we\'re not told exactly why he\'s not excited, we do know that he isn\'t, that he\'s let down. What we see here is a theme common in stories about coming-of-age. The narrator has built in his mind this idealized object, the obtainment of which will make everything right, but when he has it within his grasp it is just an object, and it lets him down.
romantic elements
Romantic elements
  • "Araby" contains many themes and traits common to Joyce in general and Dubliners in particular. As with many of the stories in the collection, "Araby" involves a character going on a journey, the end result of which is fruitless, and ends with the character going back to where he came from. Eveline is just one other story in Dubliners to feature a circular journey in this manner. Also, the narrator lives with his aunt and uncle, although his uncle appears to be a portrait of Joyce\'s father, and may be seen as a prototype for Simon Dedalus of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Ulysses. The scorn the narrator has for his uncle is certainly consistent with the scorn Joyce showed for his father, and the lack of "good" parents is pertinent