The most important characters in the short story “Araby” by James Joyce are the boy narrator, Mangan’s sister, and the boy’s uncle. Mangan, the aunt, and Mrs Mercer, the shop vendor, are only episodic characters which only provide the setting and frame for the plot or play a symbolic role.
The boy narrator
The narrator of the short story is a young boy. All we know about his outer characterisation is that he goes to school and still plays with his friends on the streets, which implies he is probably a young teenager, coming of age.
Being the narrator of the short story, most of his inner characterisation is done indirectly, through the way he narrates the story and presents his perspective on the events.
The first traits of the boy which surface through the story are that he is still innocent as he enjoys playing outside, and that he has a crush on his friend’s Mangan’s sister.
Unlike the boy narrator, who is mostly depicted in terms of inner characterisation, Mangan’s sister is mostly presented in terms of outer characterisation.
The girl is mostly depicted through the narrator’s eyes, who focuses on her physical appearance and idealises her.
The girl has long hair and is very beautiful, according to the narrator who seems incapable of erasing her image from his mind.
The boy’s uncle plays a secondary part in the short story, yet his character is very symbolic, illustrating an Irish typology and the idea of broken authority.
In terms of outer characterisation, the narrator does not say anything about him, as his personality is more important.
His inner characterisation suggests that he is a man with broken authority. When he comes home, the narrator and the other boys playing outside hide to avoid his authority: “If my uncle was seen turning the corner, we hid in the shadow until we had seen him safely housed.”