Every year on June 16 Bloomsday is observed all around the world in any place where the legacy of James Joyce is held in high esteem. June 16 1904 is the day on which Ulysses takes place. Starting in 2010 I have observed Bloomsday by posting on one of the short stories in Dubliners. The more I read in Irish literature, the bigger the shadow of Joyce's stories I see. The pervasive melancholy and sense of the confining quality of life brought on by history permeates Irish writers whether or not they have read Joyce or not. In doing Q and A sessions with 80 Irish writers very few mentioned Joyce as an influence. I think this is really a testament to his overwhelming power. Fish do not see the water in their world. Recently I had the very meaningful to me experience of seeing where "The Dead" was set and walked the streets of Dublin.
"Araby" centers on a young boy, maybe thirteen or so who lives with his aunt and uncle, his parents being dead.. (I see this as another small manifestation of the theme of the missing father, which some see as a very important theme in Irish literature.). It is a kind if coming of age story. The boy has his first infatuation with a neighbor girl.
The story is told in the first person, the neighborhood is bleak and adults struggle to grind out a living. The boy convinces himself he is in love with a friend's sister. He creates adolescent fantasies about courtly romance with her. When he at last tremblingly speaks with her, she tells him she is sad because she cannot go to the annual Araby fair. He promises to go and buy her a present. Because of his uncle coming home late from work when he gets to the festival it is almost closed. Compared to his mental image, it is a shabby event. Sadness as he sees the folly in his fantasy brings him to a realization of the limits of life and a vision of his own future.
I wish everyone a happy Bloomsday! Next year will be the the centenary of the publication of The Dubliners and I look forward to immense activity on Bloomsday next year.