Araby

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Mangan’s Sister Character Analysis

The older sister of the narrator’s friend, Mangan. The narrator has a powerful crush on her. She routinely interrupts the boys playing in the street when she comes outside to call her brother in for tea. She belongs to a convent and takes interest in the Araby bazaar, which is what sparks the narrator’s interest in it. There is no indication that she is aware of the narrator’s infatuation with her.

Mangan’s Sister Quotes in Araby

The Araby quotes below are all either spoken by Mangan’s Sister or refer to Mangan’s Sister. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Coming of Age Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin Classics edition of Araby published in 1993.
Araby Quotes

Her image accompanied me even in places the most hostile to romance. … We walked through the flaring streets, jostled by drunken men and bargaining women, amid the curses of labourers, the shrill litanies of shop-boys who stood on guard by the barrels of pigs’ cheeks, the nasal chanting of street-singers, who sang a come-all-you about O’Donovan Rossa, or a ballad about the troubles in our native land.

Related Characters: The narrator (speaker), Mangan’s Sister
Page Number: 22-23
Explanation and Analysis:

The narrator’s description here captures how Mangan’s sister offers him a mental escape from the gritty reality of Dublin. Here he daydreams about her as he accompanies his aunt on errands through the noisy, dirty Dublin market. Her image acts for him as a kind of shield, giving him access to “romance” even in places full of the unromantic, both the everyday hustle and bustle of life and the political tensions in Ireland implied by the references to O’Donovan Rossa and the “troubles.” The narrator thinks himself in love with Mangan’s sister, but it seems rather that he delights in the escape his infatuation with her offers to him.

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These noises converged in a single sensation of life for me: I imagined that I bore my chalice safely through a throng of foes. Her name sprang to my lips at moments in strange prayers and praises which I myself did not understand.

Related Characters: The narrator (speaker), Mangan’s Sister
Page Number: 23
Explanation and Analysis:

Here, for the first time, the narrator first describes Mangan’s sister in religious terms. He describes her as a “chalice,” which is the cup used in the Catholic ritual of the Eucharist and a symbolic reference to the Holy Grail. He goes on to compare the act of saying her name with praying, as though he is worshipping her like a divine idol.

On the one hand, the narrator’s use of Catholic imagery suggests that his Catholic upbringing has provided much of the basis for how he sees the world and describes strong emotional feelings. Since this is the first time the narrator is experiencing any kind of romantic love, he is equating it with divine love because this is the only other kind of love he is familiar with, aside from familial love. On the other hand, his treatment of Mangan’s sister as a kind of idol would be seen by other Catholics as a kind of heresy, as the worship of any idol other than God is strictly forbidden. The story then captures the way that the narrator’s religious upbringing creates a kind of muddle for him by defining the terms in which he thinks about the world, but in then informing his interactions with that world causing him to act irreligiously. The narrator’s Catholicism functions as a kind of trap for him, even if he isn’t entirely aware of it.

The image of the chalice also serves to illustrate how Mangan’s sister operates as an escape for the narrator from the everyday life he despises. His use of the word “foes” to describe the people around him in the market implies that he resents everyday Dublin and its people, while at the same time showing how his ideas about Mangan’s sister allows him to transform his routine and monotonous everyday experience into a kind of epic romance with him as the hero.

The light from the lamp opposite our door caught the white curve of her neck, lit up her hair that rested there and, falling, lit up the hand upon the railing. It fell over one side of her dress and caught the white border of a petticoat, just visible as she stood at ease.

Related Characters: The narrator (speaker), Mangan’s Sister
Related Symbols: Light and Darkness
Page Number: 24
Explanation and Analysis:

The light leads the reader through the narrator’s line of sight as he notices details of Mangan’s sister’s appearance, highlighting her physical characteristics one by one. The light finally rests on the hem of her petticoat, which seems to be peeking out unintentionally, but is highly suggestive. Unlike the end of the story where the narrator’s new knowledge is accompanied by darkness, here light actually does symbolize the narrator’s knowledge as it guides his gaze. His sudden notice of all of these intricate details–her hair, her neck and her petticoat–shows that he is becoming aware of his sexual attraction, and sexuality in general, so he has gained knowledge about himself as well as about the world.

However, these observations also highlight the superficial nature of his attraction to Mangan’s sister. The narrator is reveling in these physical details rather than attempting to get to know Mangan’s sister outside of her appearance. This parallels his later realization that his powerful feelings for Mangan’s sister are actually just common feelings of attraction, not love.

From the front window I saw my companions playing below in the street. Their cries reached me weakened and indistinct and, leaning my forehead against the cool glass, I looked over at the dark house where she lived.

Related Characters: The narrator (speaker), Mangan’s Sister
Related Symbols: Light and Darkness
Page Number: 25
Explanation and Analysis:

The windowpane acts as a literal and metaphorical barrier between the narrator and his friends, signifying that he has become alienated from them. He is completely disinterested in playing with them, and after he notices their presence without much remark, he immediately turns his gaze to Mangan’s sister’s house. The words “weakened” and “indistinct” further highlight this disconnect between him and his friends since they no longer understand each other on a personal level, just as he realizes he cannot really hear or understand their cries from the street.

The symbol of darkness appears as he looks at Mangan’s sister’s “dark house.” Here, darkness most likely symbolizes ignorance, foreshadowing his bleak realization that the feelings he has for her are, in fact, common, not part of the great sophisticated romance he imagined.

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Mangan’s Sister Character Timeline in Araby

The timeline below shows where the character Mangan’s Sister appears in Araby. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Araby
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
Every night Mangan’s sister comes outside to call him inside for tea. Mangan, one of the narrator’s friends, usually... (full context)
Religion and Catholicism Theme Icon
Escapism and the Exotic Theme Icon
Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
The narrator begins to fantasize about Mangan’s sister constantly—even as he walks through the noisy, dirty Dublin market with his aunt, passing street-singers... (full context)
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Escapism and the Exotic Theme Icon
Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
When Mangan’s sister finally speaks to the narrator, it is to ask if he is planning to go... (full context)
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Escapism and the Exotic Theme Icon
The narrator now begins to fantasize not only about Mangan’s sister , but about the Araby bazaar as well. He is fascinated with the exotic Eastern... (full context)
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Escapism and the Exotic Theme Icon
Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
...upstairs window he sees his friends playing in the street and then looks over at Mangan’s sister ’s house, seeing her “brown-clad figure” in his mind. (full context)