Notes on Araby

Notes on “Araby”

Just some notes from the links on the main page about things to notice about Joyce’s writing, characteristics of Modernism, and important parts of the story.

Christian Brothers’ School- a school that Joyce himself attended briefly; the house described later also matches the description of his childhood home (Reidhead). This is also the first of many references to a religious theme throughout Dubliners; Joyce partially blamed the Church for the poor state of Ireland at the time (Gray).

blind end, detached– As is characteristic of Modernist authors, the theme of alienation is present. It begins in the first few lines, as the narrator describes the dead-end, lifeless street that he lived on.

The Abbot . . . Memoirs of Vidocq– Joyce does not randomly choose these books, they each have an element that is symbolic of some aspect of the story.

  • The Abbot presents Mary, Queen of Scots, in a romantic/spiritual light rather than the usual promiscuous picture of her, which reflects the narrator’s confusion and self-delusions about romantic, spiritual, and materialistic love.
  • The Devout Communicant could have referred to any of several works, but all of them reflect the impact of religion and pious language on the narrator’s view of life and love.
  • The engl_206_book.jpgMemoirs of Vidocq is about a policeman who uses his profession to hide his crimes. This reflects the theme of deception throughout “Araby;” the narrator is in a constant state of self-deception. (Gray)

gantlet – a variation on the word “gauntlet;” meaning an onslaught or attack from all sides

aunt– Joyce has the young narrator living with his aunt and uncle, rather than with biological parents; this is consistent with the Modernist characteristic of separation and Joyce’s own tendency throughout Dubliners to have children living with someone other than parents as a symbol of the child’s isolation (Reidhead)

never spoken to her– Joyce makes it apparent early that the narrator’s longing is a dream only, and a far-fetched one at that.

drunken men – Joyce decribes the everyday life of the people of Dublin, including their typical images of drunken men and bargaining women.

foolish– the narrator, because he is telling the story from a point in the future, is able to see his dream now for what it really was

And why can’t you? I asked – Joyce has the very distinct style of dialogue between his characters by not using the usual quotation marks. Some of his works don’t even include new lines but rather the dialogue is all one paragraph with very little distinction between each character speaking.

Araby – the name of a particular bazaar, or a fair where things are sold, that took place in Dublin.

Convent– Girls’ Catholic school. She is going on a trip that is devoted to religious exercises.

Eastern enchantment – Joyce uses very few words to create his images. In this case, he creates a sense of magic and foreignness with the words “Eastern enchantment,” since the East was generally seen as mysterious and magical.

if i spoke to her– the narrator’s lack of communication, and then doubt in his ability to effectively talk to Mangan’s sister, shows a common characteristic of Modernist works- an emphasis on communication, particularly looking at breakdowns/flaws in it

Freemason affair– the narrator’s aunt, as well as the Catholic church, dislike the Freemasons, which is a secret society reputedly anti-Catholic. The dislike was common throughout Ireland considering that the country was primarily Catholic.

pious – religous. In this case, Mrs. Mercer is most likely using her stamps for some purpose such as selling to a charity or for some other religous reason.

The Arab’s Farewell to his Steed – a well known poem of the time by Caroline Norton. The narrator’s uncle will proceed to recite the poem by heart to his wife.

florin – a coin worth two shillings

creature– An interesting choice of wording; humans often perceive themselves as above the rest of the natural world, but Joyce’s wording equalizes humans and other animals, emphasizing the narrator’s miniscule place in the world and the futility of his dreams. This pushes the reader toward the epiphany that Joyce has been working up to throughout the story.

vanity– In the final lines of the story the narrator realizes his dream was futile, and the epiphany characteristic of Joyce’s story occurs to the reader- many dreams, even life as a whole, may be futile as well.

return to Araby text


Gray, Wallace. 1997. “Wallace Gray’s Notes for James Joyce’s ‘Araby'”