The main themes of the short story “Araby” by James Joyce are the pains of young love, failure and defeat, and frustration. These themes are enhanced by motifs such as the Catholic Church’s influence on the lives of Dubliners.

The pains of young love

The main character in “Araby” is a young boy, coming of age, who falls in love with one of his friends’ sister. Since his passion is something new for him, the character experiences a lot of inner torments which comes with the shivers of first loves. He constantly thinks about the girl he desires and cannot focus on his school activities or even enjoy time with his friends playing:


Failure and Defeat

The short story explores the concept of the hero’s journey, of a symbolic initiation, represented by the challenge of reaching the Arby Bazaar and buying the girl the narrator loves a gift. However, the story involves a twist, because, after all his struggles, the boy fails in the end, half-way through his challenge and accepts defeat.



Frustration is the dominant feeling the boy experiences throughout the short story even if the causes vary. At first, the boy is frustrated because he cannot share his love with Mangan’s sister as he does not have the courage of expressing his feelings and talking to her: “I did not know whether I would ever speak to her or not or, if I spoke to her, how I could tell her of my confused adoration.”


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