For my next essay, I am being asked to discuss an early twentieth-century city with regard to the "promise of anonymity" and the "excitement and possibilities of social encounter." How could I find examples of these ideas in Dubliners?

The stories in Dubliners are set in Dublin in the early twentieth century. The "promise of anonymity" means that one can move around the city unnoticed or unknown, which enhances one’s sense of freedom. The "excitement and possibilities of social encounter" means that one may be enthusiastic about the chance of getting together with friends or meeting new people. "After the Race" and "Two Gallants" would be especially suitable to analyze for an essay on this topic.

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The city of Dublin, Ireland in the early twentieth century is the setting of all the stories in James Joyce’s Dubliners. Some of the stories are better suited than others to the related topics of anonymous social encounters. The “promise of anonymity” suggests a positive approach to the notion that in a big city, a person can feel anonymous. Such anonymity could make a person lonely or depressed if it bothered them that no one recognized or knew them. However, the use of “promise” sounds as if the speaker likes the idea of going about unnoticed, as that status could increase one’s freedom.

The “excitement and possibilities of social encounter” can be related to anonymity but is not necessarily connected. A social encounter could be a meeting between strangers or people who already know each other. Here again, the phrase “excitement and possibilities” also suggests a positive approach to the chance that a meeting could lead to something good.

While many of the stories in the collection focus on intimate interpersonal relations, the stories “After the Race” and “Two Gallants” seem well suited for analysis in an essay about the above topics. “After the Race” concerns the exciting interactions among several young men. Jimmy Doyle finds it thrilling to race around the city in his friend Segouin’s sports car and to spend time with his Continental friends. Later, he experiences a letdown. “Two Gallants” features two young Irishmen who seem dedicated to spending their time meeting new people—specifically, women. The possibilities that they—especially Corley—pursue and find exciting are getting these women to part with their money.

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