In 'Araby', the narrator is a young boy whose life up to this point has been simple and happy. The monotony of his life nurtures his childhood happiness and innocence, and from this state the boy is introduced to Joyce's version of reality that has been lurking before his eyes his entire life. Through hours spent at play on North Richmond Street outside his house our narrator is conditioned into a blissful state, and a hidden crush on his friend's sister extends this bliss into ecstasy. Our narrator begins by describing the setting in which he lives. In order to correlate the setting and Joyce's subtextual meaning, it will be described later in the essay. .
Being a modernist writer, Joyce writes with a pessimistic undertone that modernists see as the inevitable end for everyone. In 'Araby', he uses a young child still caught in the state of childhood innocence to show a modernist's version of the "coming of age." This "coming of age" is the point in everyone's life, child or adult, when we realize that we face substantial pain and emptiness ahead. .
The narrator begins the story by describing the times after supper when he and his friends would play on the streets. These nights were very gratifying for the whole group, and when the narrator's uncle used to drive up the street, they would all hide until he was safely housed. Or at times, Mangan's sister would come out to call him in for tea, and they would all hide until she either went in or until Mangan gave in and went inside. It was with Mangan's sister whom the narrator finds himself in love.
He never had any real words with her, but everyday he would watch until she came out her front door across the street. The young boy would then hurry out the door after her and remain behind until they arrived at the point where they diverged, where the boy would hurry past but say nothing. This went on for months until one night while outside Mangan's front stoop she came out and asked if he was going to Araby, a traveling bazaar that was supposed to be extraordinary.