What Does the Bazaar in the Short Story “Araby” Symbolize?

The bazaar in the short story “Araby” symbolizes the disillusionment that accompanies the journey from childhood to adolescence. A 2012 article in the book club section of The Guardian and an analysis from “The Literature, Arts, & Medical Database” of New York University both emphasize how the bazaar elicits an enduring theme of adolescent disappointment when reality confronts childhood dreams.

The short story “Araby” was written by the Irish writer James Joyce in 1905 and published in 1914 as part of Joyce’s collection of short stories, “Dubliners.” Joyce arranged his collection of stories according to a sequence from childhood through adolescence and maturity, culminating in stories about participation in Ireland’s public and social life. Joyce’s stories depict Ireland in the early years of the 20th century, but his haunting prose captures many universal themes. The theme of dreams dashed by the hard realities of life reverberates through many a time period and consumer-oriented economy. This theme pervades the manufactured exoticism of the bazaar in “Araby,” which Joyce’s young protagonist discovers to be a disappointing and shabby performance geared toward separating vain customers from their money. Themes of innocence and disillusionment are characteristic of many of Joyce’s works, as he exposes stultifying conditions he perceives as baked into the cake of Irish culture.