In “Araby,” another of the short stories of Dubliners, the narrator
is again a young boy who lives with his aunt and uncle. The boy has
become attracted to a neighborhood girl, the “big sister” of one of
All of the families in the stories in Dubliners have several brothers
and sisters. Joyce himself grew up with three brothers and six sisters.
Often a “big” sister took over the duties of minding the younger ones.
She might be the one to write an excuse for school, or call the children
in from play for supper or bedtime.
I remember the term “big sister” from my own childhood. I had a
big sister. Today the term used would more likely be an “older sister.”
The boy in the story watches secretly from a closed blind at the
window and when the girl leaves to walk to school, he makes a
point of following, and then passing her—but never speaking
One day, though, she speaks to him and asks him if he is going
to the fair at Araby. She is unable to go. He can hardly believe
that she is speaking to him, and he blurts out that if he goes, he
will bring something back for her.
Of course he has no money, but he reminds his uncle on Saturday
morning that he wants to go to the bazaar that evening.
“Yes, boy, I know.”
By dinnertime the uncle is not home.
“At nine o’clock I heard my uncle’s latchkey in the halldoor. I
heard him talking to himself and heard the hallstand rocking
when it received the weight of his overcoat. I could interpret
these signs. When he was midway through his dinner I asked
him to give me the money to go to the bazaar. He had forgotten.”
Finally he leaves the house, late, and heads for the fair, to Araby.
When he gets there, they are beginning to turn out the lights . . .