-- Title: Like "A & P," the title of
this story is a proper noun: it refers to a real festival which came
to Dublin in 1894, when Joyce was twelve years old.
-- Style: Unlike "A & P," "Araby"
has a long and descriptive introduction before this boy takes action.
Be patient in your reading; you are about to enter the emotional world
of a sensitive young boy.
After the 1st Reading: (Please remember the general questions
suggested for making your annotations.)
1. The setting
& the language
2. The characters
story reads slowly because
not much happens in the first six paragraphs(the first action being
Mangan's sister's talking to the boy: "At last she spoke to me"),
and the real action does not take place until paragraph : "I
held a florin tightly in my hand..."
2) the boy narrator feels a lot more than what he expresses outwards
in his speech to others or action.
Find some descriptive passages, try to find
out how images and the other figurative speech are used, and what
their connotations are. It would be the best if you can find the passages
by yourselves, if not, the following are some examples:
first two paragraphs carefully and see what kind of environment
the boy is in. (What can the following details mean? The
house which is"blind," or in a dead end of the street, the other houses
"with brown imperturbable faces";
the musty room, the dead priest with his three books; the rusty bicycle
pump; the apple tree and the garbage odors. These images seem
to be unrelated to the plot, but they define the boy's environment
as well as the story's atmosphere.)
3. The plot
& external elements
- children vs. authorities:
-- In the third paragraph, the boy
describes the wild games they play after school and out on the street.
Do you have any similar experience of playing in a group of kids,
maybe with some "rough tribes" as your "enemies"?
(A city child nowadays does not have the freedom to run around after
school freely and beyond bounds, because it is considered unsafe
(or unworthwhile) to do so. How about your childhood?)
-- Who are the authority figures in the story? The dead priest?
The uncle and aunt? Or Mangan's sister? Do they serve any roles
in offering guidance to the boy?
- the boy's infatuation with Mangan's sister:
-- In paragraphs
3-6, we get to see that the boy
secretly loves an older girl who is Mangan's sister. How does
he describe his feelings for her? How is the attention he pays to
the girl different from that of Sammy in "A & P"?
-- Why does the image
and name of Mangan's sister appear in the boy's mind and his fervent
prayer in the noisiest moments? Why does the boy feel as if he went
on a crusade (quest) for the girl? Have you ever had such a passionate
sentiment for any event or person?
noises converged in a single sensation of life for me: I
imagined that I bore my chalice safely through a throng of
foes. Her name sprang to my lips at moments in strange prayers and
praises which I myself did not understand. My
eyes were often full of tears (I could not tell why) and at times
a flood from my heart seemed to pour itself out into my bosom. I
thought little of the future. I did not know whether I would ever
speak to her or not or, if I spoke to her, how I could tell her
of my confused adoration. But my body was like a harp and her words
and gestures were like fingers running upon the wires." (par
[In the priest's room]"I was thankful that I could see so
little. All my senses seemed to desire to
veil themselves and, feeling that I was about to slip from them,
I pressed the palms of my hands together until they trembled, murmuring:
"O love! O love!" many times." (par 7)
-- Most of Mangan's sister's words are presented
in the boy's narration (but not in direct quotations).
How much do we really know about her? What kind of "character" do
you think Mangan's sister is? A round character? A flat character?
A substitute for something else? A character serving as a symbol?
Pay close attention to how Mangan's sister is presented in the 3d
and the 10th
paragraphs. What major color and images are associated
with her? Which parts of her body are described?
do you think she suggests that the boy go to Araby? Does she really
care if he makes it
or not? h
it or not?
- The boy's changes: As explained above, Mangan's sister initate
the boy's desire for action (going to Araby) in paragraph 7, but the
action itself takes place only in paragraph 25. In between, the boy
is emotionally concentrated on the quest while he finds daily routine
to be "child's play," and his childhood companions distant
third paragraph, we see the narrator, a child, plays with his
friends, but this is the last time he talks about this group of kids
as "we." How would you characterize his subsequent changes?
Does he grow older and wiser?
b. -- What stops him from going till very late on Saturday evening?
kind of conflict/contrast does the boy experience in the story between
himself and his environment, or between him and the adults (aunt,
c. -- When he finally
get to Araby, why does the boy remember "with
he goes there? Why does he not buy anything at the fair?
d. -- What does the ending mean?
"Gazing up into the
darkness I saw myself as a creature driven and
derided by vanity; and my eyes burned with anguish
Further Questions or After the 2nd Reading:
Language: Religious images vs. images of money
4. The trip to Araby
- What kind of sentiment
does the boy have in his love for the girl? Look at paragraphs
(e.g. the similes/metaphors used: "I bore my chalice"; "my
body was like a harp" and his fervent prayer) and paragraph 13.
- How is the bazaar presented
at the end of the story (e.g.
the dialogue between the woman and men, the image of darkness)?
What does this description, again, tell us about the boy's world?
- Examine the role money
plays in the trip to the bazaar (paragraph 25
6. Point of View
- Why do you think the
boy loves the girl so much, or, to put it in another way, in such
a devout way?
- What do you make of
the ending? How do you explain the word "vanity"? Does the boy
know where his vanity come from?
- The story is an initiation
story, meaning that the boy experienced growth, or a rite of passage,
from one stage of his life (e.g. childhood) to another (young adulthood).
What do you think the boy has learned? How is his growth similar
to, or different from, that of Sammy's?
- To be more specific,
is the ending of this story similar to that of "A & P"?
(When Sammy looks at Lengel, "His face was dark gray and his
back stiff, as if he'd just had an injection of iron, and my stomach
kind of fell as I felt how hard the world was going to be to me hereafter."
- Describe the narrator
or point of view in this story. Is this narrator, like Sammy
in "A & P," a young teenage boy or is he an older man remembering
an important incident when he was younger?
do you think about the boy's love for Mangan's sister? Have you experienced
puppy love or momentary infatuation before? How is your experience
different from or similar to the boy's?
- How would the story be
told differently if the narrative perspective were that of Mangan's
- Joyce mentioned in several
letters that he chose Dublin as the setting for Dubliners because
for him the city seemed to be the center of paralysis. Without getting
into the historical background of Dublin in and around World War I,
we can discuss the where the sense of paralysis comes from in the
story, and also how/why we feel it or not feel it in our hometown.
If we do, with what sensory image and/or events do we concretize it?
For Further Studies