In the text both Mangan’s sister and the Araby market offer an escape from the ordinary, from the dull, brown picture of Dublin that the narrator otherwise describes as the world he lives in. The narrator makes his boredom with everyday life very clear when he refers to his former boyhood antics as the “career of our play,” making even play seem like a kind of work. Similarly, his descriptions of school paint a picture of busywork, with a “master” most concerned about whether his pupils might be “beginning to idle.”
Mangan’s sister offers a mental escape from this world. He thinks of her “even in places most hostile to romance,” and daydreams about her rather than doing his work in school. The Araby market seems to offer the narrator a similar kind of escape—yet the market offers an escape he not only can daydream about, but one he can actually go to. In the narrator’s sheltered world, the word “Araby” alone indicates something foreign to him, as it refers to an Eastern “Arabian” world that is so distant from the narrow, cloistered world of Ireland that he is used to (the story is set well before globalization would have made the rest of the world seem accessible to people living in Ireland; rather the narrator’s world is one in which people who live in Ireland are unlikely to travel very far away from their home, much less ever leave the country). The narrator constantly refers to Araby as “eastern” and clearly relishes in the exotic connotation of the “magical name.”
However, when the narrator actually reaches the market, he is disappointed by the reality of what he finds: “porcelain vases and flowered tea-sets” and people talking in English accents. He realizes that the Araby market is not truly exotic, not truly an escape, but rather little more than a thin veneer of exoticism lamely pasted over his own regular world. And in this realization about the Araby market, he also seems to see that his own sense of his “exotic” love for Mangan’s sister was similarly just a mask, a fake “escape” rather than a real journey to a new and distant place. He also realizes that his sense that he could truly escape to these “exotic” places – both the market and love of Mangan’s sister – was vanity, a mistaken belief in his own specialness, his own uniqueness. And, further, the fact that the Araby market exists at all, and that young men and women flirt within it to pass the time, suggests that even his desire for an escape from the everyday is itself common and everyday.
Escapism and the Exotic ThemeTracker
Escapism and the Exotic Quotes in Araby
North Richmond Street, being blind, was a quiet street except at the hour when the Christian Brothers’ School set the boys free. An uninhabited house of two storeys stood at the blind end, detached from its neighbors in a square ground.
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.
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.
The syllables of the word Araby were called to me through the silence in which my soul luxuriated and cast an Eastern enchantment over me.
I watched my master’s face pass from amiability to sternness; he hoped I was not beginning to idle. … I had hardly any patience with the serious work of life which, now that it stood between me and my desire, seemed to me child’s play, ugly monotonous child’s play.
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.
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…
Gazing up into the darkness I saw myself as a creature driven and derided by vanity; and my eyes burned with anguish and anger.