An Encounter: Questions and Answers
1. Why is it surprising that Joe Dillon chooses the priesthood for a vocation?
2. What is the overall significance of the statement: “Real adventures, I reflected, do not happen to people who remain at home: they must be sought abroad”?
3. Explain how Leo Dillon represents the narrator’s conscience.
4. What is the symbolism of the color green in the story?
5. Why does Mahoney brag about having “totties”?
6. Why is Mahoney unconcerned about the bizarre qualities of the man, while the narrator notices them?
7. Why does the old man “seem to plead” with the boy “that [he] should understand him”?
8. What is the significance of Mahoney chasing the cat with a slingshot, and his focus on this?
9. Why does the narrator believe that the older man is repeating his statements about girls as if “he had learned them by heart”?
10. Why does the narrator listen to the older man’s warped dialog for so long before leaving?
1. Because he “played too fiercely” for the other children and is the most violent of the narrator’s acquaintances.
2. This concept permeates the lives of many of the Dubliners in this collection: Eveline, Little Chandler, Jimmy Doyle.
3. His “confused puffy face” awakens the narrator’s conscience at school; also, Leo chooses not to skip school because he’s afraid of the consequences.
4. The boy looks for a green-eyed sailor because green eyes traditionally indicated gullibility. The old gentleman has green eyes but, ironically, it’s the boy who seems gullible.
5. He wants to appear grown up. Also, Mahoney is considerably coarser than the narrator, and this off-hand remark indicates this.
6. The narrator is much more observant and deeper than Mahoney.
7. The older man realizes that he’s perverted and is hoping for the boy to somehow forgive him in a quasi-religious sense.
8. Mahoney, also, is sadistic, in that he wants to torture/punish a (harmless) cat.
9. The older man seems much more interested in boys than in girls, but it’s socially more acceptable for a man to praise the softness of girls’ hands, etc. Therefore, he’s repeating what’s generally accepted.
10. He waits, partly, because he’s afraid. Also, he’s playing the role of the masochist to the man’s sadistic stance, much like the boy and the priest in the previous story.