Diving into the Depths of Vanity in James Joyce's 'Araby'

Categories: AngerArabyExperience


James Joyce's short story, "Araby," captivates readers with its nuanced exploration of human emotions and the impact of external circumstances on an individual's psyche. In this comprehensive review, we delve into the surprising and puzzling statements within the narrative, placing a particular emphasis on the narrator's revelatory statement that unfolds at the story's conclusion.

Narrator's Reflection on Bazaar Experience

The climactic moment of the narrative unfolds as the narrator reflects on his emotional tumult during and after the trip to the bazaar.

The journey, filled with obstacles, proves largely unfruitful—marked by the inability to find a suitable gift, a sense of scorn from indifferent merchants, and a disorienting encounter in a dark, unfamiliar room. The culmination of these experiences leaves the narrator feeling not only derided but also suggests a profound sense of emptiness, hinting that the eagerly anticipated trip had been in vain.

As the protagonist navigates the crowded bazaar, the external chaos mirrors the internal turmoil he experiences.

Get quality help now
checked Verified writer

Proficient in: Anger

star star star star 4.9 (247)

“ Rhizman is absolutely amazing at what he does . I highly recommend him if you need an assignment done ”

avatar avatar avatar
+84 relevant experts are online
Hire writer

The frantic quest for a gift for Mangan's sister becomes a metaphor for the broader human pursuit of fulfillment and meaning. The disappointment and darkness that shroud the bazaar symbolize the harsh realities that often accompany youthful idealism.

Vanity and Its Impact on the Narrator

The theme of vanity emerges as a central element, profoundly influencing the narrator's thoughts and actions throughout the story. A reflection on the priest's life, who previously occupied the narrator's house, raises questions about a life possibly lived in vain. The narrator's early infatuation with Mangan's sister, once a source of innocent admiration, now appears tinged with futility as he acknowledges, "I had never spoken to her .

Get to Know The Price Estimate For Your Paper
Number of pages
Email Invalid email

By clicking “Check Writers’ Offers”, you agree to our terms of service and privacy policy. We’ll occasionally send you promo and account related email

"You must agree to out terms of services and privacy policy"
Write my paper

You won’t be charged yet!

.. and yet her name was like a summons to my foolish blood."

Moreover, the narrator's impatience with the serious work of life and the obsessive focus on the bazaar as the pinnacle of his desires exemplify the driving force of vanity. The bazaar, initially perceived as a realm of wonder and enchantment, ultimately reveals itself as a mere extension of the external world, governed by the same vanity that permeates the narrator's own aspirations.

Wasted Time and Distraction

The narrator grapples with a profound sense of embarrassment over wasted time and easily succumbing to distractions. His shame surfaces as he reflects on his inability to communicate with Mangan's sister, recognizing the frivolity of his earlier infatuation. The worthlessness of the bazaar at the time of the narrator's arrival serves as an extreme manifestation of vanity, exposing the irony in the narrator's intense focus on an event that proves to be both foolish and ridiculous.

The story invites readers to contemplate the universal theme of time wasted and the often-futile pursuits driven by external expectations and societal pressures. The narrator's realization becomes a poignant moment of self-awareness, highlighting the fleeting nature of time and the folly of misguided priorities.

Themes of Sight and Darkness

The recurring themes of sight and darkness contribute significantly to the narrative's depth and complexity. The story opens and closes with darkness, symbolizing both the beginning and the end of the narrator's journey. The narrator's preoccupation with observing Mangan's sister, often in the cover of darkness, serves as a symbolic exploration of hidden desires and unspoken emotions.

Additionally, the symbolic use of darkness as a thematic element becomes a metaphor for the narrator's internal struggles and isolation. Ironically, it is in the darkness that the narrator comes to a clearer understanding of his true feelings, leading to a tumultuous mix of anguish and anger.

Feelings of Anguish and Anger

Various circumstances intensify the narrator's feelings of anguish and anger. The gossip at the tea-table becomes a catalyst for internal turmoil, causing the narrator to clench his fists and harbor bitter sentiments. The uncle's late arrival home adds to the narrator's sense of suffering, further contributing to the narrative's exploration of the human experience.

The profound realization that vanity both drives and derides the narrator becomes a turning point, leading to overwhelming feelings of anguish and anger. The story masterfully portrays the complexity of human emotions and the internal conflicts that arise when one confronts the harsh realities of life.


As this comprehensive analysis concludes, the narrator's experiences over the weeks preceding the bazaar, coupled with the challenging surroundings, leave him with a profound, painful emptiness—a sentiment that resonates with the existential struggles many adults encounter in life.

This in-depth exploration peels back the layers of James Joyce's "Araby," unveiling the complexities of the narrator's emotional journey and the overarching theme of vanity that shapes and, ultimately, derides his aspirations. Joyce's masterful storytelling invites readers to reflect on the human condition, prompting contemplation of the universal themes that transcend time and cultural boundaries.

Updated: Jan 02, 2024
Cite this page

Diving into the Depths of Vanity in James Joyce's 'Araby'. (2020, Jun 01). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/experience-of-arabys-main-character-essay

Diving into the Depths of Vanity in James Joyce's 'Araby' essay
Live chat  with support 24/7

👋 Hi! I’m your smart assistant Amy!

Don’t know where to start? Type your requirements and I’ll connect you to an academic expert within 3 minutes.

get help with your assignment