Short Story #9: Araby by James Joyce

Title: Araby 

Author: James Joyce

Short Story #9 out of 365

Rating: 3 (out of 5 stars)

Date Read: 1/2/2014
SourceThe World's Greatest Short Stories, Dover Thrift Edition, edited by James Daley.  The story can also be found on this website.

Book cover: Worlds Greatest Short Stories - Dover Thrift Ed


The narrator, a young adult is tied up in nots of his friend's sister.  He's continually trying to catch glimpses of her and talk to her.  At one encounter, she asks him if he's going to Araby, an upcoming bizarre.  She cannot attend and he promises to bring her something from the bizarre.  He convinces his family to let him go but he must wait until his uncle is home.  Impatient, the young man laments about how long it takes for him to get to the bizarre.  Having finally arrived, he wanders a bit until he lingers at a stall but doesn't buy anything.  As the bizarre closes, he stares into darkness, angry and upset.


Joyce is one of those authors whose work you need to read several times and discuss to really flesh it out.  This is one of those short stories I may have read in at a previous time but remember nothing of it--which is to raise the question of if I have read it.  What I find striking about this story is the opening wherein Joyce makes the city come to life.  Consider this opening paragraph:

"North Richmond Street, being blind, was a quiet street except at the hour when the Christian Brothers' School set the boys free. An uninhabited house of two storeys stood at the blind end, detached from its neighbours in a square ground. The other houses of the street, conscious of decent lives within them, gazed at one another with brown imperturbable faces."

We have blind and quiet streets, schools that are prison guards to boys, a deatched house, and gazing houses.  Joyce speaks not just to lives but the lives created by spaces.  The richness and fondness of these spaces contrasts with his experience of the bizarre which isn't as luxuriously described or lively (despite it being a bizarre).  In fact, it's at the bizarre, we find the narrator at his worse when "Gazing up into the darkness I saw myself as a creature driven and derided by vanity; and my eyes burned with anguish and anger."  Of course, much of that anguish and anger is tied to some realizations he has about the nature of his quest, but I find the spatial contrast fascinating. 

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.

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