In “Araby,” James Joyce suggests that everyone experiences a desire for love and change, but these desires are frustrating and limited. The glamor of new love intertwines with the drudgery and monotony of everyday life. Joyce represents this through the narrator’s boyhood crush. Mangan’s sister, the person of his affection, fills the narrator with joy and feelings of young love. Lets be honest, he is borderline stalker. “Every morning I lay on the floor in the front parlour watching her door. The bind was pulled down to within an inch of the sash so that I could not be seen. When she came out on the doorstep my heart leapt. I ran to the hall, seized my books and followed her.” (2632). The poor guy is madly in lust for her. The narrator can’t go a moment without thinking of her, yet these thoughts must compete with the dullness of his life. What he wants most from this one-sided relationship is a change to his everyday life. He is bored and irritated with his daily schedule. This is clear through the language the narrator uses, such as his description of “tedious intervening days”. Mangan’s sister is his opportunity for change.
Then the big day finally comes. It is the day the narrator finally gets the opportunity to woo Mangan’s sister with a beautiful gift from the bazaar. Yet things are not going well for him. The day starts with the narrator’s uncle blocking the boy’s view of Mangan’s sister. He begins to have a gut feeling that something is wrong: “and already my heart misgave me” (2634). Unfortunately for the narrator, he is delayed in leaving for the bazaar by his Uncle’s drunkenness and forgetfulness. These delays indicate that love is unattainable for people, especially for the narrator. He has big dreams for love, but these dreams are shattered. After finally getting on train and arriving at the bazaar, the narrator is thwarted by empty stalls, ugly vases, and flowered teacups. These were not the exotic novelties the narrator was expecting to help him woo his love.
It is at this moment that the narrator realizes his expectations for love are misguided and meaningless. The narrator, in a fit of depression and realization, states, “Gazing up into darkness I saw myself as a creature driven and derided by vanity; and my eyes burned with anguish and anger” (2635). The boy’s epiphany helps him conclude that he was so largely driven by a longing for change and love that he released his self worth. The narrator is so angry with himself that he cannot yet contemplate his actions. We have all been in this situation before: you make a stupid decision in regard to love (possibly making a fool of yourself in the process), and all you can do is cry because you are so angry. This is exactly how the narrator is feeling. We see that Joyce is making this story plausible for all readers. He uses a first-person narrative, never giving a name to the narrator, so readers can incorporate themselves as the narrator. Mangan’s sister also remains nameless, as though she is any girl. Likewise, she is never given a full description. This allows readers to fill in their own desired picture of the sister (possibly of the reader’s own love interest). This makes the story universal to all readers, suggesting that everyone experiences frustrations in regard to change and love.
In a way, Mangan’s sister seems diabolical and heartless for denying the narrator’s request for going to the bazaar but still silently asking for a gift. Considering she is nameless and faceless, I wonder if Joyce is suggesting that women are in charge of mens’ suffering in regard to love and change. (Hmmm, doesn’t that sound familiar?)