Dubliners Summary

Dubliners is a collection of connected short stories by James Joyce that explores the lives of various residents of Dublin, Ireland.

  • The first three stories in the collection all concern one boy. In "Araby," the young man plans to attend a bazaar called Araby, where he intends to buy a gift for a girl he likes.

  • In "The Dead," a bookish young man named Gabriel attends a dinner party and is ridiculed by servants and guests alike.

  • The collection comes together to suggest that Ireland needs a spiritual cleansing and re-awakening. 

Summary

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Last Updated September 6, 2023.

Dubliners is a 1914 collection of fifteen short stories written by James Joyce. Set in early 20th-century Dublin, the stories offer glimpses into life, culture, people, and society.

The collection begins with "The Sisters," a story about a young boy's relationship with an old Catholic priest who has recently died. Mr. Cotter implies that Father Flynn may have been a groomer.

"An Encounter" is a story about two boys who skip school and encounter a strange old man. The man talks about his youth and insists that boys who are "rough and unruly" ought to be "whipped" as punishment. The entire conversation becomes increasingly uncomfortable for the narrator and his companion, Mahony, prompting them to leave.

In "Araby," a boy becomes infatuated with his friend's sister and promises to bring her a gift from the bazaar. Unfortunately, his plans are thwarted by his uncle, who is supposed to give him money but inadvertently forgets the boy's arrangement. Consequently, the boy arrives at the bazaar later than intended and angrily leaves without making any purchases.

In "Eveline," Eveline Hill confronts a critical choice: to accompany her lover, Frank, to Buenos Aires or remain in Dublin with her family. While she initially displays a resolute desire to depart, recalling her mother's "pitiful" life, she ultimately finds herself immobilized, unable to take action.

"After the Race" is about a group of wealthy young men participating in a car race. After dinner, their friend, Farley, invites them to his yacht, where they sing, dance, and play cards. As the games unfold, Routh emerges as the winner, while Jimmy loses a lot of money. He knows he will regret it in the morning but accepts defeat, claiming that he's "glad of the dark stupor that would cover up his folly."

"Two Gallants" follows two lowly men, Lenehan and Corley, who attempt to persuade a "slavey" to steal from her employers. Corley reconnects with a former lover who now works as a prostitute and a maid, while Lenehan ponders a more stable life. Eventually, the maid successfully carries out the plan, and Corley flaunts a gold coin to Lenehan.

In "The Boarding House," Mrs. Mooney's daughter, Polly, and Mr. Doran, a frequent visitor to the boarding house, start an affair. Meanwhile, Mrs. Mooney awaits the opportunity to address Mr. Doran and compel him to marry Polly due to social expectations. Initially hesitant, Mr. Doran reconsiders after observing Polly's response and recalling her beauty and "thoughtfulness."

In "A Little Cloud," the 'timid' Little Chandler contrasts his mundane existence with that of his friend Gallaher, a successful journalist leading a busy and exciting bachelor's life. Reading lines from a Byron poem, Little Chandler is prompted to reconsider his aspiration to become a writer. However, his moment of introspection is cut short as his son begins to cry in his arms, and his wife takes over. Overwhelmed with feelings of "shame" and "remorse," Little Chandler reflects on his choices.

In "Counterparts," trouble arises when the chief clerk, Mr. Alleyne, admonishes the protagonist, Farrington, for his subpar performance, prompting Farrington to insult him. Enraged, Mr. Alleyne demands an apology, and Farrington heads to the pub, seeking solace with his friends. His unsuccessful attempts at flirting and arm-wrestling further fuel his frustration. Returning home, he finds his wife at the chapel, leading to a delayed dinner. This results in Farrington's frustration escalating to the point where he beats his son.

In "Clay ," Maria,...

(This entire section contains 992 words.)

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a maid at Dublin's Lamplight Protestant charity, spends Halloween with friends. After discussing Joe's strained relationship with his brother, they play Halloween games. Blindfolded, Maria selects a saucer with wet clay, a bad omen. After an uncomfortable silence, she's told to try again, and this time she touches a prayer book, indicating she'll "enter a convent." While singing an old song, she accidentally repeats a stanza, yet no one corrects her, and her singing brings Joe to tears.

"A Painful Case" focuses on a reclusive man, James Duffy, and his complicated relationship with a married woman, Emily Sinico. Misinterpreting Mr. Duffy's intentions, Mrs. Sinico assumes romantic interest, leading to his decision to end the relationship. Four years later, her untimely death is reported in the news, triggering profound sadness and remorse within Mr. Duffy. He laments allowing someone he genuinely connected with to slip away and harbors a sense of responsibility for her loneliness.

In "Ivy Day in the Committee Room," political discussions unfold as a group of men gather to support a candidate, Mr. Richard J. Tierney, on Ivy Day, commemorating Charles Stewart Parnell's death.

"A Mother" follows Mrs. Kearney and her talented pianist daughter as they tackle challenging concerts organized by the "Ireland to Victory" Society. Mrs. Kearney insists Kathleen perform only with an upfront payment; Mr. Fitzpatrick, the secretary, agrees to pay half upfront and half later. Mr. O'Madden Burke's critique of Kathleen's "scandalous" performance prompts Mr. Fitzpatrick to propose full payment if she plays the concert's second part. Mrs. Kearney asserts mistreatment and departs angrily with Kathleen.

In "Grace," Tom Kernan collapses in a pub and is aided by his friend, Jack Power. It's revealed that Mr. Kernan is a successful businessman who has neglected his family due to work difficulties. Mr. Power and a group of friends organize a religious retreat, hoping Mr. Kernan's Catholic faith will help him. However, Mr. Kernan converted to Protestantism for his wife. He reluctantly agrees to join if he isn't asked to hold candles and partake in the "magic lantern business." During the retreat, he's taught that "God's grace" can help him "set his accounts right."

The final story, "The Dead," portrays a married couple at a Christmas celebration. While carving the goose, Gabriel Conroy delivers a speech praising his aunts' "courteous Irish hospitality," urging the attendees not to "linger on the past" and prioritize the present. Upon discovering that his wife's former lover had passed away while waiting for her, Gabriel contemplates his identity and the reality of mortality.

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