Araby

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Young female shopkeeper Character Analysis

A young woman who is flirting with two men as the narrator approaches her stall at the Araby bazaar. The narrator notices that she and the men she talks to all have English accents. The woman approaches the narrator to ask him if he is planning to buy anything, but he notes that she does not sound “encouraging” and seems to speak to him only because it is her job. She brings the narrator to the realization that he is not, in fact, going to buy anything. Further, her English accent seems to communicate to the narrator that the Araby market is not, as he had fantasized, some exotic escape from his drab life in Ireland at all. And her flirting with the Englishmen seems to make him see that the silliness and vanity of his own attempt to impress Mangan’s sister with a gift.

Young female shopkeeper Quotes in Araby

The Araby quotes below are all either spoken by Young female shopkeeper or refer to Young female shopkeeper. 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

Remembering with difficulty why I had come I went over to one of the stalls and examined porcelain vases and flowered tea sets. At the door of the stall a young lady was talking and laughing with two young gentlemen. I remarked their English accents and listened vaguely to their conversation.

Related Characters: The narrator (speaker), Young female shopkeeper
Page Number: 27
Explanation and Analysis:

The narrator has come to the Araby market to try to buy something for Mangan’s sister, but now faced with the market itself he loses his excitement. The market itself, which he had expected to bathe him in a kind of “Eastern enchantment,” to give him an escape from his everyday world, is in fact filled with everyday things like “porcelain cases and flowered tea sets.” That the people in the market don’t have exotic accents or backgrounds, but in fact are English reinforces the sense that the Araby market is just a sham meant to attract suckers just like the narrator who are looking for the exotic. Further, that the people in the market have English accents would be even more important during that period in Ireland, when England ruled Ireland. The Araby market, then, seems like a trick played on the Irish, and the narrator, by the English who rule them, and so his own gullibility would feel even worse.

In addition, the shopkeeper’s flirting with the two young gentlemen also pierces the narrator’s romantic illusions. He had imagined his romantic feelings for Mangan’s sister to be unique and special, but in these flirting young adults he sees that it is nothing special at all, it’s just typical attraction. Further, the way these people casually flirt implies not just that the narrator’s own feelings for Mangan’s sister are commonplace, but that his romantic conception of love is just as unrealistic as was his romantic vision of what the Araby market would be. The ideas that had made him feel both grown up and given him a sense of escape from his everyday world are revealed to him as empty.

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Observing me the young lady came over and asked me did I wish to buy anything. The tone of her voice was not encouraging; she seemed to have spoken to me out of a sense of duty. I looked humbly at the great jars that stood like eastern guards at either side of the dark entrance to the stall…

Related Characters: The narrator (speaker), Young female shopkeeper
Related Symbols: Light and Darkness
Page Number: 27
Explanation and Analysis:

This interaction with the shopkeeper fills the narrator with a sense of self-doubt, since he perceives that her attentiveness is only part of her job and she is doubtful that the narrator is actually going to make a purchase. His self-awareness and transition toward identifying as an adult is called into question by the shopkeeper, who clearly still sees him as a child wasting her time.

His comparison of the jars to “Eastern guards” shows how out of place and intimidated he feels at the bazaar, but it also serves again to highlight that the narrator is hoping to find an escape at the bazaar. However, once the shopkeeper crushes his confidence, he realizes that the market is not what he thought it was. Once again the symbol of darkness comes in, symbolizing the cultural ignorance that inspired the choice of the name “Araby” for a market that is filled with tea sets and English accents, masquerading as an Eastern bazaar.

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Young female shopkeeper Character Timeline in Araby

The timeline below shows where the character Young female shopkeeper appears in Araby. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Araby
Religion and Catholicism Theme Icon
Escapism and the Exotic Theme Icon
Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
...on to a stall that is selling porcelain vases and flowered tea sets. He observes the female shopkeeper of the stall flirting with two men, all of them speaking with English accents. (full context)
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Escapism and the Exotic Theme Icon
Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
The shopkeeper asks the narrator if he’s going to buy anything, but seems to only be asking... (full context)