As a Modernist writer, James Joyce’s style is centered on realism. In tying to capture the bleak reality of the young narrator’s working-class life in Dublin, Joyce opts for telling the story in the first-person point of view, using evocative—and often depressing—imagery. The narrator describes houses as “somber,” lamps as “feeble,” the sounds of the Dublin streets as “shrill litanies.” All of these stylistic choices underline the narrator’s disillusionment with the world, a common characteristic of Modernist literature.
Modernism is also known for experimental storytelling. Rather than featuring romantic stories of empowered narrators facing conflict head-on and coming out victorious, Modernist writers often chose to tell fragmented, sometimes stream-of-consciousness tales of loss and defeat. This style is present in “Araby” as the narrator abruptly jumps between scenes, creating a sense of instability. For example, at one point in the story the narrator is in his own home thinking about his crush (Mangan’s sister), and then suddenly he is somewhere else and she is speaking to him:
One evening I went into the back drawing-room in which the priest had died. It was a dark rainy evening and there was no sound in the house. […] All my senses seemed to desire to veil themselves and, feeling that I was about to slip from them, I pressed the palms of my hands together until they trembled, murmuring: O love! O love! many times.
At last she spoke to me. When she addressed the first words to me I was so confused that I did not know what to answer.
With no exposition or obvious transition to a new time or place, the narrator moves from being alone in mournful longing for his crush to being present with her, listening to her speak to him. The ambiguity of this moment is intentional and highlights the fragmented nature of Joyce’s style, putting him firmly in the lineage of other Modernist writers.