Short Story Discussion: “Araby
Author Introduction: James Joyce
James Joyce was born into a
middle-class, Catholic family
in a suburb of Dublin, on
February 2, 1882.
Joyce's father, John Joyce even though
he was a good-natured man, was a
drinker who wasted the family's
resources. The family’s prosperity
dwindled, forcing them to move from
their comfortable home to the
unfashionable and impoverished area
of North Dublin.
Nonetheless, Joyce attended a
prestigious Jesuit school and went on
to study philosophy and languages at
University College, Dublin. He moved to
Paris after graduation in 1902 to
pursue medical school, but instead he
turned his attention to writing.
James Joyce Age 6
In 1903 he returned to
Dublin, where he met his
future wife, Nora
Barnacle, the following
From then on, Joyce made
his home in other
countries. From 1905 to
1915 he and Nora lived in
Rome and Trieste, Italy, and
from 1915 to 1919 they
lived in Zurich, Switzerland.
Between World War I and
World War II, they lived in
Paris. They returned to
Zurich in 1940, where Joyce
died in 1941
Joyce regarded himself as a genius and
refused to make any compromises in his
writing to achieve commercial success. His
difficult personality alienated many
people who came into contact with him,
but he enjoyed the devotion of Nora, his
brother Stanislaus, and a number of close
friends and patrons who recognized and
helped to nurture his exceptional talent.
Since his death in Zurich in 1941, readers,
critics, and scholars have continued to
study his works. He is regarded today as
one of the most important authors of the
twentieth century and as a giant of
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young
Exiles and Poetry 1918
Finnegan’s Wake 1938
Joyce talking with publishers
Sylvia Beach and Adrienne
Monnier at Shakespeare & Co.,
“Araby” is the third of the fifteen stories in Dubliners (1914). These stories
examine the hazards of the various stages in life, and “Araby” marks the end
of childhood and the beginning of adolescence.
James Joyce based “Araby” on his own experiences as an adolescent
resident of Dublin in 1894, when Ireland was chafing under British rule.
Like the fictional narrator of “Araby,” Joyce lived on North Richmond
Street (No. 17) in the central part of the city. He was also undergoing a
period of self-discovery.
The climactic scene takes place in South Dublin, across the River Liffey from
central Dublin, at a bazaar in a large building. Such a bazaar—billed as
Araby: a Grand Oriental Fête (or as “A Grand Oriental Fête: Araby in Dublin”)
was actually held in Dublin between May 14 and May 19, 1894, to
benefit a local hospital.
As he portrays it in his work, Joyce’s Dublin was composed
mostly of lower-to middle-class residents oppressed by
financial hardships, foreign political dominance, quarrelsome
rival Irish nationalist groups, and the overwhelming
influence of the Irish Catholic Church.
In the late 1800s, Ireland was still reeling from the
agricultural disasters of mid-century and the massive Irish
immigration (mainly to the United States) that followed.
Consistently throughout the stories, characters agonize over
a crown or even a shilling; this underscores the prevailing
financial difficulties among most citizens.
Ireland was ruled by the British monarchy,
which, of course, many of the Irish
resented. The British government had an
open hostility to both the Irish (for their
general lack of education and their
superstitious ways) and the Catholic
Church. That the British profited from its
presence in Ireland only served to further
inflame the Irish at the British presence.
Charles Stewart Parnell was a
political leader in the 1880s.
Because of his influence, political
savvy and staunch support of home
rule, the achievement of Ireland’s
independence seemed more likely
under Parnell’s leadership than ever
before. However, a romantic
scandal in 1889 damaged Parnell’s
reputation, allowing his opponents
and groups of zealous Catholics
(Parnell was Protestant), to
discredit him and undermine his
power base. This broke Parnell,
leading to his political defeat and—
ultimately—his death in 1891.
PARNELL (1846-1891). Irish
nationalist leader, on an American
advertising circular of the 1880s.
The Catholic Church
An overwhelming force in the Ireland of Joyce’s period
was that of the Irish Catholic Church, since a vast
majority of the Irish were Catholics. According to his
biographer, Richard Ellmann, Joyce believed that the
“real sovereign of Ireland [was] the Pope” (Ellmann,
James Joyce, 256). Although Joyce left the Church,
Ellmann adds, he “continued to denounce all his life the
deviousness of Papal policy,” finding the Church and the
papacy “deaf” to Irish cries for help (Ellmann, James
The first-person point of view in "Araby"
means that readers see the story through
the eyes of the narrator and know what
he feels and thinks. When the narrator is
confused or conflicted about his feelings,
then readers must figure out how the
narrator really feels and why he feels that
way. For example, when the narrator first
describes Mangan's sister, he says that
"her figure [is] defined by the light from
the half-opened door.'' In other words,
she is lit from behind, giving her an
unearthly "glow," like an angel or
supernatural being such as the Virgin
Mary. Readers are left to interpret the
meaning behind the narrator's words,
because the boy is not sophisticated
enough to understand his own desires.
Joyce is famous for using a stream-of-consciousness technique for storytelling.
Although stream of consciousness does not figure prominently in "Araby,'' a reader
can see the beginnings of Joyce's use of this technique, which he used extensively
in his subsequent novels, Ulysses and Finnegans Wake. A major feature of stream-
of-consciousness storytelling is that the narration takes place inside the mind of
main characters and follows their thoughts as they occur to them, whether those
thoughts are complete sentences or not. Although this story uses complete
sentences for its storytelling, the narration takes place inside the boy's mind.
Another feature of stream-of-consciousness narration is that the narrator's
thoughts are not explained for the reader. This is true of "Araby" as well,
especially during and after the boy's epiphany.
Choose NEW TEAMS
1. The teams will change on
or near essay due dates.
2. You must change at least
50% of your team after
each project is
3. You may never be on a
team with the same
person more than twice.
4. You may never have a
new team composed of
more than 50% of any
Questions for Thought
1. Identify and discuss one or more of the
numerous religious symbols in the story.
2. The narrator of "Araby" moves from
innocence to experience through his epiphany.
What has he learned by the end of the story?
3. Write a short psychological profile of the
narrator based on a passage from the story.
Identify and discuss one or more of the
numerous religious symbols in the story.
“The wild garden behind the house contained a
central apple-tree and a few straggling bushes,
under one of which I found the late tenant's rusty
bicycle-pump. He had been a very charitable priest;
in his will he had left all his money to institutions
and the furniture of his house to his sister.”
Write a short psychological profile of the
narrator based on a passage from the story.
“One evening I went into the back drawing-room in which the
priest had died. It was a dark rainy evening and there was no
sound in the house. Through one of the broken panes I heard
the rain impinge upon the earth, the fine incessant needles of
water playing in the sodden beds. Some distant lamp or lighted
window gleamed below me. 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.”
Psychological profile continued
At nine o'clock I heard my uncle's latchkey in the hall door. I heard him
talking to himself and heard the hallstand rocking when it had received
the weight of his overcoat. I could interpret these signs. When he was
midway through his dinner I asked him to give me the money to go to the
bazaar. He had forgotten.
--The people are in bed and after their first sleep now, he said.
I did not smile. My aunt said to him energetically:
--Can't you give him the money and let him go? You've kept him late
enough as it is.
My uncle said he was very sorry he had forgotten. He said he believed in
the old saying: All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. He asked me
where I was going and, when I told him a second time, he asked me did I
know The Arab's Farewell to his Steed. When I left the kitchen he was about
to recite the opening lines of the piece to my aunt.
The narrator of "Araby" moves from innocence to
experience through his epiphany. What has he
learned by the end of the story?
“I lingered before her stall, though I knew my stay was useless, to
make my interest in her wares seem the more real. Then I turned
away slowly and walked down the middle of the bazaar. I allowed
the two pennies to fall against the sixpence in my pocket. I heard a
voice call from one end of the gallery that the light was out. The
upper part of the hall was now completely dark.
Gazing up into the darkness I saw myself as a creature driven and
derided by vanity; and my eyes burned with anguish and anger. “
Read “The Story of an Hour”
Post #15: Choose one
Discuss Mrs. Mallard as a sympathetic
character or as a cruel and selfish
character. How might your own gender,
age, class or ethnicity influence your
Do you think Chopin's critique of the
institution of marriage, as expressed by
Louise, is applicable today?
Profile a character
Discuss the story through one critical lens