Even before its London publication in 1914, James Joyce's Dubliners caused considerable controversy due to the material in the stories that was obvious and accessible, available to even the most casual readers and reviewers. The collection all but overflows with unattractive human behavior: simony, truancy, pederasty, drunkenness (all of them in the first three stories alone!), child and spousal abuse, gambling, prostitution, petty thievery, blackmail, and suicide. The use throughout of the names of Dublin streets and parks — and especially shops, pubs, and railway companies — was seen as scandalous, too. (In the past, fiction writers had almost invariably changed the names of their short-story and novel settings, or discretely left them out altogether.) In fact, including these details delayed publication of the book by years, as potential publishers and printers feared lawsuits by those businesses mentioned by name. Disrespectful dialogue about the king of England, and even the use of the mild British oath "bloody," were thought by many to go beyond the bounds of good taste — and they did. In contrast to his status-conscious character Gabriel Conroy, James Joyce rejected good taste — one of the characteristics that mark his art as Modern.
"Araby"'s key theme is frustration, as the boy deals with the limits imposed on him by his situation. The protagonist has a series of romantic ideas, about the girl and the wondrous event that he will attend on her behalf. But on the night when he awaits his uncle's return so that he can go to the bazaar, we feel the boy's frustration mounting. For a time, the boy fears he may not be able to go at all. When he finally does arrive, the bazaar is more or less over. His fantasies about the bazaar and buying a great gift for the girl are revealed as ridiculous. For one thing, the bazaar is a rather tawdry shadow of the boy's dreams. He overhears the conversation of some of the vendors, who are ordinary English women, and the mundane nature of the talk drives home that there is no escape: bazaar or not, the boy is still in Dublin, and the accents of the vendors remind the reader that Dublin is a colonized city.