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Character Analysis in Araby

There are few characters in “Araby”, and those who are mentioned in the story aren’t described at length. The story itself is narrated by a young boy, determined to earn the attention of his crush, but by the end of the story he becomes disillusioned by his own hopes. Mangan is a neighborhood boy and his sister, who remains unnamed, is the object of the narrator’s crush. Her disappointment about missing the bazaar is what catalyzes the narrator’s brief journey. The narrator lives with his aunt and uncle; his aunt is a benevolent figure, who sympathizes with the boy, while the uncle is unreliable and self-centered, and nearly causes the boy to miss the bazaar altogether. Only a few characters in the story have specific names, and this decision demonstrates that the primary conflict of the story is not about others, but rather about the narrator’s own transformation.

Character Analysis Examples in Araby:


🔒 12

"Gazing up into the darkness I saw myself as a creature driven and derided by vanity; and my eyes burned with anguish and anger...."   (Araby)

Disillusioned by what he sees at the bazaar, the boy finally sees himself as readers have seen him for much of the story. He realizes his own vanity and foolishness, his unprofitable use of time, the futility of life in Dublin, that Mangan's sister likely has no interest in him, and that there is no magical "Araby" in Ireland.

"though I knew my stay was useless..."   (Araby)

Joyce termed this type of final scene as an epiphany in that it provides a moment of sudden revelation or insight even in an apparently ordinary situation or conversation. Joyce's epiphany shows how the boy acquires an intuitive grasp of reality: he is defeated; he failed his quest to buy a gift, but most of all, his self-deception and ego defeated him by making him believe that his quest was sacred. This epiphany represents the boy's fall from innocence and his change into an adolescent dealing with the harsh realities of life.

"I could interpret these signs..."   (Araby)

Instead of saying that the uncle is drunk, Joyce lets the reader figure this out along with the boy. This technique also serves another purpose: it shows how the boy has started to correctly interpret signs, demonstrating some growth on his part. This development foreshadows his final interpretation of his trip to Araby.

"What innumerable follies laid waste my waking and sleeping thoughts after that evening..."   (Araby)

The word choice here emphasizes the boy's romantic fascination with Araby (and the enchanting idea of the Middle East). His romantic quest has consumed his reality and hindered his ability to operate on a day-to-day basis. However, there is also a hint of a new understanding on the boy's part; he appears critical of his own past, as demonstrated by his recognition of his "innumerable follies."

"It's well for you..."   (Araby)

Since the girl has just explained why she cannot go, this expression appears to carry overtones of envy and potentially bitterness. However, the boy appears to not notice this because of how deluded he is in his own fantasy.

"All my senses seemed to desire..."   (Araby)

Notice how the boy personifies his senses by saying that they are the ones who have the desire instead of him. This strategy gives readers the impression that the boy is trying to separate his mind from his body in order to understand his confusion.

"I pressed the palms of my hands together until they trembled..."   (Araby)

Alone in the house (a classic masturbatory situation), the boy nearly engages in sexual activity. Instead, he presses his hands together and murmurs like he's in church. The culmination of his activity shows how the boy's religious upbringing has so suppressed his sexual feelings, with the religious completely obscuring the sexual in his mind and body.

"like fingers running upon the wires..."   (Araby)

Joyce's choice of words in this sentence masterfully conveys the boy's confusion about love and sexuality. The language the boy uses here is overly sentimental and even a little ridiculous, and he even ruins the mood of the simile by incorrectly calling the harp strings "wires."

"which I myself did not understand..."   (Araby)

Note the religious terms the boy uses when thinking about Mangan's sister: "litanies," "chalice," "adoration," etc. While the narrator professes to not understand certain things, readers have a deeper understanding of the significance of these religious undertones and the situation in which the boy finds himself: he is struggling with his conceptions of romantic and religious love.

"I kept her brown figure always in my eye..."   (Araby)

The color brown returns to describe the figure of Mangan's sister. This association informs us that she's older than the boys, and consequently the drab lifelessness of Dublin has already started to affect her.

"I liked the last best because its leaves were yellow..."   (Araby)

Joyce gives readers a first look at the boy's romantic and naive view of life in this line. Readers can understand the the allegorical and symbolic meanings of the texts, and this line quickly reveals the identity of the narrator: He is a young boy who lacks an understanding of such figurative language and doesn't use it self-consciously.

"The Devout Communnicant..."   (Araby)

The Devout Communicant could refer to one of three texts with the same name. However, the more likely text is the popular Catholic work written by Pacificus Baker, a Franciscan Friar, published in 1761 and noted for its pious language that perhaps influences how the boy talks about Mangan's sister. The important take-away from this book's inclusion in this list of three is that it influences boy's language and perspective on life.

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