Araby Questions and Answers
1. What description has Joyce left about North Richmond Street?
Ans. North Richmond Street, situated in Dublin, was one whose one end only remained opened, the other being blocked by houses. It was a quiet street except at the hour when the school-boys came to play on it. It had brown, calm houses on its either side that looked on at one another.
- What was the name of the school in which the boy hero was educated?
Ans. The name of the school in which the boy hero was educated was Christian Brothers’ School, one that was run by the Catholics.
- Who was the former tenant of the house in which the boy lived? What do you know of him?
Ans. The former tenant of the house in which the boy lived was a priest who was no more.
His reading of The Abbot and The Memoirs of Vidocq indicates that he was fond of historical romances and stories of adventure which hardly agreed with his religious duties. In his will he left all his money to institutions and the furniture of his house to his sister. This shows that he was more interested in his name after his death than in really helping his own relations.
- Araby as a Short Story
- Araby by James Joyce Analysis
- Symbolism in Araby
- Significance of the Title Araby by James Joyce
- What did the boys do during the short days of winter?
Ans. During the short days of winter dusk fell even before the boys had finished their tiffins. There was, however, light in the sky which made the street lamps shine feebly. Despite the cold air the boys played till their bodies glowed. The silent street was resounded with their shouts. The course of their play brought them through dark muddy lanes behind the house, where the cottagers treated roughly with them, to the back doors of the dark wet gardens where ashpits spread out a foul smell, and to the dark stinky stables where a coachman smoothed and combed the horse or shook music from the attached harness. When they returned to the street, it was already filled with light that came out of the kitchen windows.
- Who was Mangan? Why did his sister come out in the evening? What did the boy do at that time?
Ans. Mangan was one of the playmates of the boy.
In the evening Mangan’s sister used to come out on the door-step of their house to call her brother in to his tea.
The boy went along with Mangan upto their house. He waited near the railing for the return of his friend. Meanwhile he looked at her. The movement of her dress and the tossing of her hair from side to side caught his attention and filled him with delight.
- How did the author trace out the arousal of love in the boy’s heart?
Ans. The author showed uncommon skill in tracing out love in the boy’s heart. First, the boy went along with Mangan upto their house and stood by the railings looking at his sister. The swing of her dress and the tossing of the soft rope of her hair’ from side to side filled him with much delight. Secondly, he tried to look at her from a distance. Every morning he lay on the floor of the front parlour watching at her through the narrow opening of the window keeping himself completely hidden. When she came out on the door-step his heart leapt up in joy. On way to school he followed her keeping her brown figure always before his eyes. When the point where their ways parted came he quickened his pace and passed her by. Thirdly, he felt his heart to be full of uncontrollable feelings one rainy evening and pronounced her name repeatedly as if out of intense joy. Finally, when she spoke to him and urged him to visit Araby, he felt the syllables of Araby pouring honey on his mouth and sensed that his bringing a gift for her would be the fulfilment of his quest for the ideal, of his search for the unfading beauty. He carried his love like a chalice in his heart from which we may conclude that the boy’s love was of the purest kind.
- ‘Yet her name was like a summons to all my foolish blood.’ Who is the speaker? What does this extract suggest?
Ans. The speaker here is the boy hero of James Joyce’s short story ‘Araby’.
The extract suggests the depth of the boy’s love for his beloved, Mangan’s sister. Even though they had seen each other many a time no word had passed between them. The boy did not know whether he would ever speak to her. Nor was he certain about her feelings towards him. What he was fully confident was that his own heart was full to the brim with love for her. Such being the case whenever he heard her name uttered immediately he felt a tremendous sensation in his blood. He did not know why this occurred nor was he able to resist it. Hence he described his blood as the foolish one. Again, just as a receiver of summons from the court cannot but appear before the magistrate, he, too, could not but respond whenever her name was uttered.
- How has Joyce described the market scene of Dublin on Saturday nights?
Ans. In his short story ‘Araby’ James Joyce has described a contemporary market scene of Dublin in a fine and faithful manner. On Saturday nights the streets were covered with harsh glaring light. When one walked through a street near a market there was every possibility of one being pushed by drunken men or bargaining women. One could also hear, the Curses of labourers, the shrill cries of shopboys eager to sell pigs’ cheeks kept in barrels and the nasal singing of a patriotic song come-all you about O’Donovan Rossa or of a ballad depicting the hardship of Ireland under the British rule.
- ‘Her image accompanied me even in places the most hostile to romance’.-Who is the speaker ? Whose image is referred to here ? Which places were most hostile to romance ?
Ans. The boy hero is the speaker of the above extract. The image referred to above is that of the sister of Mangan, one of the friends of the boy. The image is the impression that she let on his heart.
The boy has mentioned certain places which were helpful neither for the blooming nor for the development of love which was like a romance to him. Among such places mention may be made of the flaring streets near the market where one was likely to be jostled (=pushed) by drunken men and bargaining women, amid the curses of labourers, the shrill cries of shop-boys sitting by the barrels of pigs cheeks, and nasal singing of street-singers who sang patriotic songs about O’Donovan Rossa or ballads about the woes of Ireland under the British rule. These places were so dull, disturbing or noisy ones that far from developing romance they were sure to destroy it by all means.
- Who is O’Donovan Rossa? In which song is he referred to? What does the song signify?
Ans. O’Donovan Rossa is the popular name of the nineteenth century Irish nationalist leader Jeremiah Donovan.
O’Donovan Rossa is referred to a street-ballad come-all-you, so called because these were its opening words.
The song is a stirring call by the nationalist leader O’Donovan Rossa to all the people of Ireland to be united in their struggle for freedom against the British rule.
- ‘These noises converged in a single sensation of life for me- Who is the speaker? What were the noises referred to above? How did they converge in a single sensation of life? What does the single sensation of life meant?
Ans. The speaker of the above extract is the boy, the central character of James Joyce’s famous short story ‘Araby’.
The noises referred to were those heard on Saturday nights near a market place in contemporary Dublin. They were the harsh and unpleasant sounds made by drunken men and bargaining women. In addition there were the curses of labourers, the shrill cries of shop-boys guarding over barrels of pigs cheeks, and the nasalized voice of street-singers singing either a patriotic song about ODonovan Rossa, a nationalist leader, or a ballad depicting the woes of Ireland under the British rule.
These dull and prosaic noises came from all sides. They were different in nature and the sources of their origin were also different. Yet they were united for a single purpose. Here their meeting together for a single interest has been described as a kind of convergence.
The single sensation of life means that despite their different nature and different sources of origin the noises produced but a single strong feeling in the boy’s mind. It was that they were all enemies and that they were united for the single purpose of destroying his tenderly love for the girl.
- ‘I imagined that I bore my chalice safely through a throng of foes.’-Who is the speaker? What does the word ‘chalice’ allude to and which does it imply? What does the extract suggest?
Ans. The boy hero in James Joyce’s short story ‘Araby’ is the speaker of the above extract.
The word ‘chalice’ which means a wine-cup is associated with the legend of the Holy Grail. Chalice is the wine-cup which was used by Jesus for his Last drink. After his crucifixion Josek, of Arimathea contained some drops of Jesus’s blood into the cup which was later brought to England. Because no guardian was worthy of it, it disappeared. Though many were in quest of it, only a few noble and pure knights like Galahad and Perceval were able to see the cup, the symbol of supreme bliss. The word ‘chalice’ here implies the holy and untainted love of the boy for the girl
The above extract suggests the utmost care that the boy took in respect of his love. Though love sprouted in his heart it was the most delicate and tender object that he could conceive of. At the same time it was as precious and as pure as chalice which the enemies could stain or destroy the moment they would come to know of its existence. To the boy the overall drab and commercial atmosphere of Dublin together with its Jostling drunken and bargaining scenes near the market and a host of dull and prosaic cries and noises was most hostile to the development and survival of his delicate love. It was like a host of enemies determined to destroy the chalice he was carrying. Hence he had to guard his love most carefully from the polluting touches of such inimical atmosphere and noises.
- When did the girl’s name spring to the boy’s lip ? What other emotional experience did he undergo ?
Ans. Occasionally the girl’s name sprang to the boy’s lip at the time of his strange prayers to and praises of God. Because of his immature age and lack of experience he did not understand why such a thing occurred. Actually of course he was deifying his beloved quite unconsciously.
Among other emotional experience which the boy had one was that his eyes were often full of tears and the other was that at times a flood (of emotion) from his heart seemed to pour itself out into his bosom. In these cases, too, he did not understand why they occurred.
- I thought little of the future. Who is the speaker ? What kinds of future activity could be contemplate ? Why did he think little of the future?
Ans. The speaker is the boy hero of James Joyce’s short story ‘Araby’.
The kinds of future activity that the boy could contemplate are the possibility, or otherwise of his speaking to his beloved at any time and the feasibility or otherwise of conveying his adoration to her in his state of confusion.
The boy did not trouble himself by thinking about the future because he was contented with his present state of looking at his beloved from a distance or having a pleasant sensation in his blood occasioned by any reference to her name.
15. ‘But my body was like a harp.’ – Who is the speaker ? What is a harp ? Why did the speaker compare his body to a harp?
Ans. The boy hero of James Joyce’s short story ‘Araby’ is the speaker.
A harp is a self-standing musical instrument with vertical strings played with the fingers.
A musician plays with his fingers on the strings of a harp to music. In the same way the girl’s sweet words and her gestures (like the swing of her body or the tossing of her hair from side to side) were like fingers that ran on his sensitive body and produced in it a series of pleasant sensations.
- What experience did the boy have one dark rainy evening in the empty back drawing-room ?
Ans. One evening the boy went into the empty back drawing-room when the house was without any sound. It was a dark rainy evening when he heard the rain striking the earth and saw numerous fine needles of water playing in the sodden (-soaked) flower-beds. In the dark he could see little but it helped in bringing about his concentration. Suddenly it seemed to him that all his senses (i.e. sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch) were eager to veil themselves and that he was about to slip from them. There also arose in his heart such uncontrollable feelings of love that he strove to balance himself by pressing the palms of his hand together until they trembled. At the same time he went on, as if hysterically, murmuring many times the words: ‘O my beloved ! O my sweetheart !
- “At last she spoke to me.’-Who is the speaker? Who is “she’? What did she speak? What was the speaker’s reply?
Ans. The speaker is the boy hero of James Joyce’s short story ‘Araby’. She is the sister of the boy’s friend Mangan with whom he fell in love.
She asked the boy whether he was going to Araby. She said that it would be a splendid bazaar. She added that she could not go as there would be a retreat that week in her convent school. Her final recommendation was that it would be well for him.
The boy replied that if he went there, he would bring some gift for her.
- ‘She could not go, she said.’–Who is “she’? To whom did she say the above words ? How did she appear to the addressee? Where couldn’t she go and why?
Ans. She is Mangan’s sister with whom the boy hero of Araby’ fell in love.
She said the above words to her young lover, the boy hero of ‘Araby’.
To her young lover she appeared to be extremely beautiful. While she spoke the words she turned a silver bracelet round and round her wrist.
She held one of the spikes of the railings bowing her had to her lover who was standing below. The light that came from outside fell on the white curve of her neck, lit up her hair that rested there, and caused her hand that lay upon the railings to look bright. It also fell over one side of her dress and made just visible, as she stood at ease, the white border of a petticoat she was wearing below her dress.
She could not go to Araby, the Grand Oriental Fete, that was being held that time in Dublin.
She could not go there on account of a retreat to be held that week in her convent school. The retreat is a Roman Catholic religious observance which is marked by withdrawal from all worldly festivities. It was for this that she could not go to Araby.
- What is a retreat ? What effect did it have upon Mangan’s sister ?
Ans. A retreat is a religious occasion observed by the Roman Catholics. It is generally held for a week or for the last three days before Easter. It is marked by holy thinking, abstention from alcoholic drinks and sexual enjoyments and withdrawal from merriment and wordly festivities.
Since the retreat was being observed that week and since she read in a Roman Catholic institution. Mangan’s sister could not go to Araby, a bazaar providing amusement and rejoicing.
- “What innumerable follies laid waste my waking and sleeping thoughts after that evening! Who is the speaker ? What was the evening referred to above ? Mention some of the follies as committed by the speaker.
Ans. The speaker is the boy hero of the story “Araby’.
The evening as referred to above was the one in which Mangan’s sister, his beloved, spoke to the boy for the first time. She asked him whether he would go to Araby where a splendid bazaar would be held. She regretted she could not go there on account of a retreat which would be observed that week in her convent school. She remarked that it would be well for him to go Araby.
Since the evening the girl spoke to him first the boy suffered from a restlessness both in his waking and sleeping hours. At the same time he committed innumerable follies. He wished, for example, the day for his going to ‘Araby’ to come at once and wanted the tedious intervening days to be destroyed completely. He felt vexed at his school work. Her image flashed upon his mind at night in his bedroom and by day in his class-room. The syllables of the word ‘Araby’ seemed to call him through the silence of the night (a fancy in which his soul loved to luxuriate) and cast an eastern enchantment over him. He answered few questions in class for which his master became angry with him. He was unable to bring back his wandering thoughts at one place. He had no patience with any serious work of life (e.g. study, church-going, carrying parcels etc.) which seemed to him ugly monotonous child’s play. These follies laid waste a lot of his waking and sleeping hours.
- Who was Mrs. Mercer? What was her hobby? Why couldn’t she wait longer?
Ans. Mrs Mercer was obviously a friend or neighbour of the boy’s aunt. A pawnbroker’s widow, she was an old and garrulous (=talkative) woman.
Mrs. Mercer’s hobby was to collect used stamps and to use them for some pious purpose.
Mrs. Mercer could not wait longer than eight o’clock as the night air was bad for her health.
- ‘I’m afraid you may put off your bazaar for this night of Our Lord.’- Who is the speaker and to whom were the words used? What is the meaning of the word “bazaar’? Why should it be put off? What is the meaning of the expression ‘this night of Our Lord’?
Ans. The speaker is the boy’s aunt. She used these words to her nephew.
The word ‘bazaar’ menas a place where goods are sold for the purposes of charity and where some arrangement is made for providing amusement to the public.
The anut was afraid her nephew might have to postpone his going to Araby on account of the excessive delay in his uncle’s returning home.
This night of Our Lord’ means this night as counted from the birthday of Jesus Christ. The night was most probably the Easter Eve (which in India is known as Easter Saturday).
- ‘I could interpret these signs.’-Who is the speaker? What were the signs? What could the speaker interpret from these signs?
Ans. The speaker is the boy hero of James Joyce’s short story ‘Araby’.
When his uncle returned home at night he made certain signs. First, he turned the latchkey in the hall door. Secondly, he talked to himself. Finally, he threw his heavy overcoat on the hall-stand that made it rocking
From these signs the boy interpreted unerringly that his uncle had returned home in a tipsy or drunken state.
- What is come-all-you? What is the Freemason affair? What is The Arab’s Farewell to his Steed?
Ans. Come-all-you is the name of a street-ballad in which these words are used as its opening words. Through this patriotic song O’Donovan Rossa, a nineteenth-century Irish nationalist gave a stirring call to his countrymen to join Ireland’s struggle for freedom against the British rule.
The Freemason affair is one of the Freemasons, an old-established secret society having lodges (i.e. branches) all the world over. The Freemasons are known for their anti-Catholic attitude. As the boy avoided crowded places his wish to visit Araby led the aunt to suspect that her nephew had probably joined the secret society of the Freemasons, a staunch Protestant organization reputed for its anti-Catholic stand.
The Arabs Farewell to his Steed is the name of a sentimental poem written by the nineteenth-century minor poetess, Caroline Norton, who was also the granddaughter of the famous dramatist, R.B. Sheridan. In the present short story the boy’s uncle mentioned this poem when the former’s wish to go to Araby made him discover some similarity between Arabia and Arab in the poem he knew. Excepting this similarity in names there is no likeness between the bazaar and the poem. Obviously the uncle attempted to recite the poem to show his learned nature, and thereby the author subtly draws our attention to the dull nature of the boy’s uncle.
- Describe the boy’s journey to Araby.
Ans. When the boy came out to go to Araby he had to cross streets crowded with buyers and glaring with gaslight. Then he reached a station and took his seat in a third-class carriage of a deserted train. After an intolerable delay the train started passing ruinous houses and a twinkling river. At Westland Row Station a crowd wanted to get into the carriages but the porters moved them back saying that it was a special train. The boy remained alone in the carriage. At last when the train stopped beside a temporarily constructed wooden platform, he got down at 2-50 p.m. and reached his destination
- ‘In front of me was a large building which displayed the magical name.’- Who is the speaker? What was the large building meant for? What is the magical name and why is it magical?
Ans. The speaker is the boy hero of James Joyce’s short story “Araby’. The large building was meant for the accommodation of the bazaar.
The magical name displayed on the building is ‘Araby’. The name is magical because it was the boy’s beloved who first uttered its syllables. In addition the name had an eastern enchantment cast over it.
- What kind of silence did the boy perceive in Araby? What is a Cafe’ Chantant? What is Araby?
Ans. It was ten minutes to ten when the boy reached Araby. Already most of the stalls were closed and a large part of the building in which the bazaar was being held was in darkness. The spectators and buyers had mostly left the place. Only a few sellers stood round the stalls that were still open. The boy perceived in the place a deep silence which prevails in the church when the service is done.
Cafe’ Chantant (literally ‘singing cafe’) is a kind of coffee house or restaurant where light refreshments were provided to customers for whom there was also arrangement for music and entertainments. Through such restaurants have fallen into disuse at present they were quite popular in the first decade (ten years) of the twentieth century. The boy of the present story saw the words Cafe’ Chantant written in coloured lamps over the curtain of an open stall.
Araby is the name given to a ‘Grand Oriental Fete’ held in Dublin from 14th May to 19th May, 1894. The boy went there to take part in its bazaar, a special event at which goods were sold for the benefit of charities and sideshows were provided for amusement
- ‘The tone of her voice was not encouraging.’-Who is the speaker? Whose voice is referred to here? Why was the tone of the voice not encouraging ?
Ans. The speaker of the above extract is the boy hero of James Joyce’s short story ‘Araby’.
The voice referred to above is that of a young lady serving as a sales woman in one of the open stalls.
The tone of the young lady’s voice was not encouraging because as an experienced sales girl she found in the boy something which convinced her that he would not be able to buy anything from her stall. So when she asked him if he wished to buy anything she asked merely out of a sense of duty, not out of a feeling that he would buy anything. Such being the case, the tone of her voice did not appear encouraging to him.
- ‘I looked humbly at the great jars. Who is the speaker ? Where did he find the jars? How did he describe the jars ? Why did he look humbly at them?
Ans. The speaker is the boy hero of James Joyce’s short story ‘Araby
The boy found the jars in one of the open stalls of Araby where a young lady was keeping guard over them.
The boy was extremely delighted to see the jars. He called them great because they moved him with surprise. The bazaar had an oriental name and the jars were in keeping with that tradition. It seemed to him that they were like a pair of eastern guards placed at either side of the dark entrance to the stall. The expression ‘eastern guards’ conveys an erotic and enchanting air and suggests about their large size, handsome appearance and colourful form. The boy thought the jars to be a magnificent gift that be presented to his beloved
The boy looked humbly at the fine jars because he realized that however lovely or interesting they might appear to him he could not afford to buy them with the meager money his uncle had given him.
- ‘I lingered before her stall, though I knew my stay was useless.’- Who is the speaker? Why did he linger before her stall? Why was his stay felt to be useless?
Ans. The speaker is the boy hero of James Joyce’s short story ‘Araby’.
To the young lady’s question whether he wished to buy any wares – things) from her stall the boy had already replied in the negative. After that it was useless to wait any longer in her stall. But the tone of her voice was discouraging. From it he guessed that the young lady had possibly taken her to be one unable to buy anything. He, however, did not like her to have such an unfavourable impression about him. Hence he lingered before her stall to make his interest in her wares seem the more real. Therefore, the motive behind his lingering was to efface the wrong idea she had about him.
He felt his stay to be useless as he knew that he had no sufficient money with him with which he could buy anything from her stall.
31. I allowed the two pennies to fall against the six pence in my pocket. Who is the speaker? Why did he allow the two pennies to fall? Does the fall signify anything?
Ans. The speaker is the young lover in James Joyce’s short story Araby.
The boy got a florin (=two shillings) from his uncle at the time of his going to Araby. Out of it he spent one shilling for admission into the bazaar and four pennies for his railway journey. He was left with eight pennies of which six lay in his pocket and two in his hand. When he realized that this small amount was not at all sufficient to buy anything from the stall he could not but allow the two pennies to fall against the six pence in his pocket.
The fall signifies the drooping of his spirit, the failure of his head to keep itself high, the defeat of dream and idealism before the rude touches of reality and commercialism, and the frustration of the quest for beauty in a depressing atmosphere of dullness and dryness.
32. “Gazing up into the darkness I was myself as a creature driven and derided by vanity; and my eyes burned with anguish and anger.”- Who is the speaker? What assessment did he make about himself? Why did his eyes burn with anguish and anger?
Ans. The speaker is the young lover in James Joyce’s short story “Araby
The extract helps us to recognize the boy’s assessment about himself. It was at his beloved’s request that he decided to visit Araby. She lured him by saying that there would be a splendid bazaar there. The syllables of the word Araby cast an eastern enchantment over him. They began to call him through the silence of the night. It became difficult for him to pass time without feeling restless. He thought his arrival at Araby would be the end of his quest for the ideal, his quest for beauty. In keeping with his romantic nature he further said that he would bring a gift for his beloved. By so doing, he felt, his carrying of the pure and priceless chalice through a throng of foes would be over and it would finally reach its cherished goal. But all this high talk about himself and his mission came to nothingness when he reached Araby and found it to be almost deserted and plunged in darkness with a few sellers counting cash. Thus his romantic vision about Araby was broken to pieces. He realized that it was his vanity that brought him there. As regards giving a gift to his beloved (and he found a pair of great jars quite suitable for this purpose) he realized that the paltry sum he had with him was not sufficient to buy anything, not to speak of the jars that caught his fancy. Thus his vanity of letting her have a look at the chalice by way of offering her a gift was likewise blasted, and he found himself standing there as an object of general shame and ridicule.
The boy’s eyes burned with anguish (extreme pain) when he noticed that his dream and quest for the ideal as well as for beauty had been spoilt and utterly lost, and they blazed with anger at his own helpless and dependent state.