Araby by James Joyce | Summary, Movie, Book PDF

Araby by James Joyace | Summary, Movie, Book PDF

Araby Summary

The Blind Street

North Richmond Street was a quite street except at the hour when the Christian Brothers’ School set the boys free. One end of it was permanently blocked. On this end could be found a detached uninhabited two-storied house placed in a square ground. All other houses were brown and calm, and decent people lived in them.

The Priest

The former tenant of the house in which the boy, the central character of the present story, lived was a priest. After his death a damp stale air hung in the long enclosed rooms. In the spare room behind the kitchen the boy discovered among discarded papers a few books on historical romance and adventure which were the hot favourites of the priest. There lay an unkempt (-untidy) garden behind the house. In his will the priest donated all his money to charitable institutions and his furniture to his sister.

The Boy’s Play

During the short days of winter dusk (-twilight) fell before the boys had finished their evening real. After it when they met in the street the houses looked gloomy (=dark) and the street lamps shone feebly. The cold air was painful for the boys and they played till their bodies wormed up. The course of their play brought them through dark muddy lanes (where they were roughly treated by the cottagers) to the back doors of dark dripping gardens where ashpits gave out a foul smell, to the dark stinky stables where a coachman smoothed and combed the horse or shook music from its attached harness.

The Boys’ Return to the Street

When the boys returned to the street some areas of it were already filled with the light that came out of the kitchen windows. When the boy’s uncle was seen moving round the corner they remained hidden in the shadow until he entered into the house to their great relief.

Mangan’s Sister

When Mangan’s sister came out on the doorstep to call her brother in to his tea, the boys remaining hidden in the shadow watched her looking closely up and down the street. They waited to see whether she would remain or go in. If she remained, they left their shadow and went up to Mangan’s steps submissively. As her brother obeyed after some struggle, the boy stood by the railings looking at her. He was filled with intense delight when her dress jerked along with the movement of her body and the soft rope of her hair swayed from side to side.

The Boy’s Morning Practice

Every morning the boy lay on the floor in the front parlour to watch her door through a small chink of the window keeping himself invisible. When she came out on the door-step his heart leapt up in joy. He ran to the hall, took hold of his books, and followed her. Her brown figure always remained in fort of his eyes. When they came near the point where their ways parted, he quickened his pace (speed of walking) and passed her. This happened morning after morning. Though he had not spoken to her, her name was an undeniable call to all his foolish blood.

Dull Atmosphere

The boy bore her image to places which were most hostile (=inimical) to romance. On Saturday evenings his aunt went to buy goods from the market and the boy followed her to carry some of the parcels (=wrapped and tied packets). They went through harshly lit streets, pushed by drunken men and bargaining (seeking to lower prices through argument) women, amid the curses of labourers, the shrill cries of shop-boys guarding over barrels of pigs’ cheeks, the nasal singing of street-singers who sang a patriotic song come-all-you about the Irish nationalist O’Donovan Rossa, or a ballad expressive of the troubles of Ireland under the British rule.


These noises met together to produce a single unpleasant sensation of life. It seemed to him that they were like enemies impinging (encroaching) upon his sensitive nature. He imagined that he bore his chalice (i.e. the cup used by Jesus Christ at the Last Supper which was later used to hold his drops of blood, a symbol of perfect bliss with which the boy’s pure love is likened here) safely through a group of enemies.

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Strange Sensations

At the time of prayers and praises to God the boy strangely uttered her name but why he did not understand. His eyes were often full of tears he could not tell why. Occasionally, however, a flood of tears seemed to come out of his heart and drench his bosom. He thought little of the future. He did not know whether he would ever speak to her. He was also not sure, in the event of his speaking to her, whether he would be able to tell her of his adoration (worship: intense love) in his confused state. Despite this hesitation he was convinced that his body was like a harp and her words and gestures raised sweet melodious sensations in it.

An Evening Experience

One rainy evening the boy went into the back drawing-room. The room was dark and there was no sound in the house. He heard the sound of rain falling on earth and saw the play of raindrops in the wet flowerbeds. He was glad that he could see so little in the dark that helped him in his concentration. All his senses (i.e. sight, hearing, smell, touch and taste) seemed to veil themselves and it appeared that he was getting detached from them. There arose such uncontrollable feelings in his heart that to quiten himself he pressed the palms of his hands together until they trembled. Then he began to repeat softly: ‘O my love! O my beloved!’

She Spoke to the Boy

At last she spoke to the boy. In his confusion he did not know what to answer. She asked whether he was going to Araby and added that there would be a splendid bazaar (sale of goods for charity with provision for amusement) there. Though she loved, she said further, to go to Araby. she could not go as a retreat (withdrawal from worldly pleasures) would be observed that week in her convent school. While she spoke she turned her silver bracelet round and round her wrist.

Her Physical Charms

While Mangan and two other boys were fighting for their caps the boy got a chance of coming near her alone. She held the spikes and stood bowing her head towards him. The light coming from the opposite side cought the white curve of her neck, lit up her hair that fell on it, and shone her hand while it rested on the railing. The light also fell over one side of her dress and caught the white border of a petticoat ( underskirt) just visible below her dress. She said that his going to Araby would be good for him. To this he answered that if he went there, he would bring her something

His Follies

From the evening when she first mentioned to him about Araby to the night when he was actually present there a lot of his waking and sleeping thoughts were spent uselessly on account of numberless follies in which he indulged. He wished to annihilate (destroy utterly) the tedious days that still must pass. He felt irritated against his school work. At night in his bedroom and by day in the classroom the image of the girl stood between him and the page as he strove to read. He could answer few questions in the class. This made his master suspect that he was possibly idling his time away, and as a result his face instead of looking amiable (= friendly; kind) became stern. Nor could he bring his wandering thoughts together. He had hardly any patience with the serious work of life which on account of its standing between him and his desire (i.e. that of going to Araby) seemed to him ugly dull child’s play.

Proposal to go to Araby

His soul indulged in the luxurious fancy that the syllables of the word Araby were called by the girl to him through the silence of the night and he felt them casting an Eastern enchantment over him. So when he asked for permission to go to the bazaar on Saturday night his aunt was surprised since the boy disliked the crowd, and suspected whether he had been involved into some Freemason (i.e. a world-wide secret society having anti-Catholic leanings) affiar. On Saturday morning when he reminded his uncle about the bazaar the answered curtly (impolitely) that he knew of it. As he was in the hall the boy could not go into the front parlour and lie on the floor. So he came out of the house in a bad state of mind and walked slowly towards the school. The air was mercilessly cold and he felt doubtful about his going to Araby.

The Uncle’s Delay

When he returned from school and finished his evening meal his uncle had not yet been home. Still it was early evening. He sat starting at the clock for some time, and when its ticking sound began to irritate him he left the room and reached the upper part of the house by following the staircase. The high, cold, empty, gloomy rooms freed him from oppression and he began to sing from room to room. From the front window he could see his companions playing below. Their cries reached him quite feebly. Though he leaned his forehead against the cool glass of the window and waited there for long he could see nothing but her brown beautiful figure as moulded by his imagination.

Mrs Mercer

When he came downstairs again he found Mrs. Mercer sitting by the fireside. He was an old, talkative woman, a pawnbroker’s widow, who collected used stamps for some pious purpose. The boy had to endure the gossip and the meal which was prolonged beyond an hour. Still his uncle did not come home. After eight o’clock Mrs. Mercer stood up to go; she was sorry, she could wait no longer for the cold night air was bad for her health.

The Return of the Uncle

It was in sheer vexation that the boy began to walk up and down the room, clenching his fists. The aunt said possibly he would have to postpone his going to the bazaar for that night. At nine p.m. he heard the sound of his uncle’s latchkey in the hall door. He was talking to himself and when he threw his heavy overcoat on the hall-stand it began to rock for some time. From these signs he understood that his uncle had returned home in a drunken state. When he finished half his meal the boy asked him to give him the money to go to the bazaar. But he tried to discourage him saying that the people were already in bed and after their first sleep then. The boy was terribly upset. But his aunt pleaded vigorously on his behalf and asked him to give him the money. At this he said he was very sorry he had forgotten. Then he reminded them of his belief in the old proverb : “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”. He asked again where the boy intended to go and he answered a second time. Then the uncle asked whether he knew the poem The Arabs Farewell to his Steed When he left the kitchen he was about to recite the opening lines of the poem to his aunt.

The Boy’s Journey to Araby

Holding firmly the florin (two shillings) he had got from his uncle the boy came down to Buckingham Street and hurriedly walked towards the station. He took his seat in a third class carriage of a deserted train. After an intolerable delay the train began to move. It went on among ruinious houses and crossed the twinkling rive. At Westland Row Station a group of people wanted to get into the carriages but the porters held them back saying that it was a special train for the bazaar. The boy found himself alone in the bare carriage. After a few minutes the train stopped beside a temporarily-made wooden platform. The boy got down, passed a road, and saw by the lighted dial of a clock that it was ten minutes to ten. He also found in front of him a large building which displayed the magical name of Araby.

Inside Araby

Falling to find the six penny entrance and fearing that the bazaar would be closed the boy gave a shilling to a weary-looking man and entered into the fairground passing through a turnstile (=a revolving gate that admits or lets out one person at a time). He soon found himself in a big hall fitted with a gallery at half its height. Almost all the stalls were closed and a large part of the hall was in darkness. He recognized in it a silence which pervades a church after a service. He walked into the centre of the bazaar timidly. A few people stood round the stalls which were still open. In a stall hung a curtain with the words Cafe Chantant (i.e. singing cafe) written in coloured lamps. Before it two men were counting money on a tray. He listened to the fall of the coins.

Examination of Articles

The boy went over to one of the stalls and began to examine porcelain vases and flowered sea-sets. At the door of the stall a young lady was talking and laughing with two young gentlemen. From their accents he understood them to be English. Noticing him the young lady came over to him and asked if he wished to buy anything. The tone of her voice was not encouraging: she seemed to have spoken to him out of a sense of duty. He looked at the great jars that stood like eastern guards at either side of the dark entrance to the hall. Though he considered them to be quite suitable as a gift to his beloved he felt humbled when he thought of the meagre money he had with him. He replied in the negative to the young lady’s question. Changing the position of the vases she went back to the two young gentlemen.

The Boy’s Self-realization or Epiphany

The boy felt insulted hearing her discouraging tone. Possibly she had found out that he was not in a position to buy her beautiful jars. To lead her astray and to make her have a favourable impression about him he lingered before her stall so that she might think his interest in her wares to be the more real. Then he turned away slowly and walked down the middle of the bazaar. In despair for his failure to buy anything for her he allowed the two pennies to fall against the six penny in his pocket. A voice announced that it was time for the light to be out. Immediately the upper part of the hall was plunged in total darkness. Looking up at he had the realization that it was his vanity that made him come here and that the same turned him into a laughing stock. This realization also caused his eyes to burn with great pain (for his frustration and humbling) and anger (at his helplessness and dependence on others).

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