The schoolboy narrator in Joyce’s short story Araby has internalized the moral standards of his community. Because of this he suffers anxiety, repression and despair over his failure to act upon his intentions to buy the desire of his heart, Mangan’s daughter, something at the bazaar. The community in which the boy lives has a code of its own, and the town is presented as personified by Joyce in order to demonstrate the impact of community morals on individuals. In the opening description of the town, we see that the houses are “conscious of decent lives within them” and “gaze at one another with brown imperturbable faces” (Joyce 39). The streetlamps are also personified as they “lifted their feeble lanterns” (Joyce 39). The moral standards of these decent lives turn the innocent and beautiful desire the boy feels for Mangan’s daughter into something indecent, something to be repressed and hidden.
The boy has trepidation and fear over the thought of speaking to his beloved. He also must steal secretive glances at her from drawn blinds in order to be able to enjoy the sight of her. One evening, while visiting the room of a deceased priest, the boy admits “I was thankful I could see so little. All my senses seemed to desire to veil themselves and, feeling that I was about to slip from them, I pressed the palms of my hands together until they trembled, murmuring: O love! O love! many times” (Joyce 41).
Mangan’s daughter takes the initiative and speaks to the narrator. He is overwhelmed and confused during the exchange but delighted beyond expression. After their exchange during which he promises to bring her something from the bazaar, the boy cannot tolerate the routine nature of his daily activities and has no time for the social values or norms of the community. In school he has difficulty focusing and all thoughts but those of his beloved seem ugly and monotonous “I had ha