The boy in James Joyce’s “Araby” longs to be free from the self-imposed religious pressures of Irish society. Through the girl, who is his friend Magnan’s sister, the boy initially sees his potential to break free from these bonds. It is important to note the boy’s relatively few influences in the development of his desire to break free through the girl. His play partners taught him to listen to her authority, for the boy never listened to his own uncle’s calling but always followed when “Magnan’s sister came out onto the doorstep” and remained outside, waiting for the boys (Joyce 21). Joyce never speaks of the boy’s parents, and the house in which the boy lives with his aunt and uncle takes on the piety and reverence towards the Church drawn from its former tenant, a priest.
The girl’s mention of the Araby bazaar further draws his unwavering curiosity and desire. The international bazaar becomes to him “splendid” as well as the sole focus of his instances because what he consciously realizes as an outright passion towards the girl becomes his subconscious desire to break free from the Irish Catholic rigidity (22). Soon this desire is brought to the forefront of his consciousness, as his uncle “coincidentally” returns late from work the night of the bazaar and his aunt statement in that he “may put off the bazaar for this night of Our Lord” (24). Here the boy needs the girl to bring about his desire to attend the bazaar. However, the girl does not come to his aid because of the Catholic Church, specifically a retreat she must attend for her convent. Through the boy’s late arrival, he realizes what marked his escape from religious rigidity: “vanity” (26).