In “Araby,” the allure of new love and distant places mingles with the familiarity of everyday drudgery, with frustrating consequences. Mangan’s sister embodies this mingling, since she is part of the familiar surroundings of the narrator’s street as well as the exotic promise of the bazaar. She is a “brown figure” who both reflects the brown façades of the buildings that line the street and evokes the skin color of romanticized images of Arabia that flood the narrator’s head. Like the bazaar that offers experiences that differ from everyday Dublin, Mangan’s sister intoxicates the narrator with new feelings of joy and elation. His love for her, however, must compete with the dullness of schoolwork, his uncle’s lateness, and the Dublin trains. Though he promises Mangan’s sister that he will go to Araby and purchase a gift for her, these mundane realities undermine his plans and ultimately thwart his desires. The narrator arrives at the bazaar only to encounter flowered teacups and English accents, not the freedom of the enchanting East. As the bazaar closes down, he realizes that Mangan’s sister will fail his expectations as well, and that his desire for her is actually only a vain wish for change. The narrator’s change of heart concludes the story on a moment of epiphany, but not a positive one. Instead of reaffirming his love or realizing that he does not need gifts to express his feelings for Mangan’s sister, the narrator simply gives up. He seems to interpret his arrival at the bazaar as it fades into darkness as a sign that his relationship with Mangan’s sister will also remain just a wishful idea and that his infatuation was as misguided as his fantasies about the bazaar. What might have been a story of happy, youthful love becomes a tragic story of defeat. Much like the disturbing, unfulfilling adventure in “An Encounter,” the narrator’s failure at the bazaar suggests that fulfillment and contentedness remain foreign to Dubliners, even in the...
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