“Araby” is one of fifteen short stories that together make up James Joyce’s collection, Dubliners. Although Joyce wrotethe stories between 1904 and 1906, they were not published until 1914. Dubliners paints a portrait of life in Dublin, Ireland, at the turn of the twentieth century. Its stories are arranged in an order reflecting the development of a child into agrown man. The first three stories are told from the point of view of a young boy, the next three from the point of view of anadolescent, and so on. “Araby” is the last story of the first set, and is told from the perspective of a boy just on the verge of adolescence. The story takes its title from a real festival which came to Dublin in 1894 when Joyce was twelve years old. Joyce is one of the most famous writers of the Modernist period of literature, which runs roughly from 1900 to the end of World War II. Modernist works often include characters who are spiritually lost and themes that reflect a cynicismtoward institutions the writer had been taught to respect, such as government and religion. Much of the literature of this period is experimental; Joyce’s writing reflects this in the use of dashes instead of quotation marks to indicate that acharacter is speaking. Joyce had a very difficult time getting Dubliners published. It took him over ten years to find a publisher who waswilling to risk publishing the stories because of their unconventional style and themes. Once he found a publisher, he fought very hard with the editors to keep the stories the way he had written them. Years later, these stories are heralded not only for their portrayal of life in Dublin at the turn of the century, but also as the beginning of the career of one of the most brilliant English-language writers of the twentieth century.
James Joyce was born on February 2, 1882, the oldest often children born to John and Mary Joyce. Joyce’s father, eventhough he was a good-natured man, was a drinker who wasted the family’s resources. The Joyce family moved constantly,and Joyce became familiar with the sight of a pawnbroker’s redemption slips and eviction notices. In spite of his family’s lack of money, Joyce was sent to Clongowes Wood College — a Jesuit Catholic boarding schoolwhen he was six years old. Upon arrival, Joyce was asked his age, to which he replied, “Half-past six,” which became hisnickname for the rest of that year. Later, he went to another Jesuit school, Belvedere College, where he began to show hisbrilliance as a writer, winning several national competitions. Joyce spent the money he received from these competitionsvery quickly, celebrating with his large family at dinners in restaurants and redeeming some of his mother’s possessions from the pawnbroker. Joyce was always painfully aware that he, being the oldest son, was given a good education and other privileges that his younger brothers and sisters could not receive.When Joyce went to University College in Dublin, he began to rebel against his Catholic upbringing. Althoughsuccessful in academic life, he found the unsophisticated narrowness of Irish politics and the arts stifling. After graduation,he met Nora Barnacle from Galway, Ireland, who would become his lifelong companion. Joyce was opposed to theinstitution of marriage, and he knew that he and Nora could not live together in Dublin without being married. So, after hismother’s death in 1904, Joyce and Nora left Ireland to live the rest of their lives in continental Europe: first in Pola, in the former Yugoslavia; then Trieste, Italy, where their children Giorgio and Lucia were born; then Zurich, Switzerland, duringthe First World War; and finally, Paris. It was only after he left Ireland that Joyce was able to begin writing about hisnative country, and the stories in Dubliners, including “Araby,” were written in his first years away, although they werenot published until 1914. During these years on the continent, Joyce supported