The Sisters: Questions and Answers
1. Interpret the significance of the first sentence.
2. When the boy dreams of Fr. Flynn, why does he “try to think of Christmas”?
3. The boy, considering the intricacies of Church doctrine, thinks: “I wondered how anybody had ever found the courage to undertake [learning] them.” Explain the irony in this.
4. When viewing the body, the boy says that the candles looked like “pale thin flames.” What is the symbolism of this?
5. When Flynn was paralyzed, he dropped his breviary to the floor. Can you interpret this?
6. When Eliza reminisces about her brother, she says that when he was ill, “You wouldn’t hear him in the house any more than now.” Why is this ironic?
7. Eliza blames the Flynn’s dropping of the chalice on the [altar] boy. How does this relate to the narrator?
8. According to his sister, Flynn had dreamed of renting “one of them new-fangled carriages” and riding around for the day, but never did. Is there significance in this?
9. What is the significance of the “idle chalice” on the priest’s chest?
10. After viewing the body, the boy doesn’t take any refreshment, nor does he talk about the priest. What does this signify?
1. “No hope” is the theme of the Dubliners’ lives. The “third” stroke indicates both the holy trinity and the three times...
(The entire section is 430 words.)
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.
Araby: Questions and Answers
1. Knowing how important religious symbols are in “Araby,” what do you make of the “wild garden” in the boy’s backyard, with its “central apple-tree”?
2. The first sentence of “Araby” describes the Christian Brothers’ School “set[ting] the boys free” at the day’s end. How is this wording significant?
3. Although the narrator is madly in love with Mangan’s sister, he reveals this to no one. What does this imply?
4. The narrator says that her name “sprang to his lips […] in strange prayers and praises which I myself did not understand.” Why isn’t he able to understand or interpret them?
5. What is the significance of the fact that Mangan’s sister cannot attend Araby because of a retreat?
6. After making his promise, the boy loses all interest in learning, stating that he began to “chafe against the work of school.” Why does he have this reaction?
7. When the uncle returns home late and is talking to himself, the boy states: “I could interpret these signs.” Can you?
8. Although the boy rides in a “special train for the bazaar,” its atmosphere doesn’t seem very special at all. What is the significance of this?
9. How does the salesgirl treat the narrator?
10. Why doesn’t the boy buy anything at the bazaar?
1. The “wild garden” reminds us of Adam...
(The entire section is 472 words.)
Eveline: Questions and Answers
1. What is the overwhelming characteristic of Eveline’s youthful memories?
2. Explain the significance of the nameless priest whose photo hangs on the wall.
3. Frank’s background is given, but he’s not physically described. Why not?
4. How can we tell that Eveline is not in love?
5. What is the significance of all the “dust” in the house?
6. Why is Eveline’s job at the Stores mentioned?
7. Why does Eveline find her life not “undesirable” at the moment she’s about to leave it?
8. Explain the significance of the Italian organ player’s music when Eveline is getting ready to leave.
9. Eveline is afraid both to go with Frank and to turn him away, especially “after all he had done for her.” What does this imply?
10. At the end of the story, Eveline clings to the gate and won’t follow Frank. Interpret this.
1. Everyone Eveline truly cared about is dead.
2. The father cares so little about his religion that he doesn’t even bother to remember the priest’s name. It is an empty symbol to him.
3. Eveline is so numb to the concept of love that Frank is hardly a reality to her. He’s a means of escape, but not one of which she avails herself.
4. Eveline believes “she had begun to like” Frank, but this is the only emotion mentioned regarding him. She also doesn’t think of him in physical terms.
5. According to the Bible, we are made from dust and to dust we return. The dust in the home represents death.
6. In her position at the Stores, she’s treated like a servant, just as she is at home. There is no outlet for her, and no place where she feels her own significance.
7. She so fears change that her subconsciousness is attempting to convince her that her life isn’t that bad. In reality, of course, it’s unbearable.
8. The foreign music indicates a foreign influence and Eveline’s potential escape from her life and Dublin with Frank.
9. Eveline bases her responses on obligations to other people: her father, her (dead) mother, her (dead) brother, etc. Frank has come to symbolize just another obligation, but not romantic love.
10. She is literally and figuratively paralyzed; fear of change has frozen her in her current life.
After the Race: Questions and Answers
1. Interpret the significance of Jimmy’s inconsistent education.
2. Why is it meaningful that Jimmy’s father becomes wealthy only after he abandons his patriotic beliefs?
3. Jimmy’s investment in Segouin’s racecar is ambiguously described. Why has the author failed to provide further details?
4. Interpret the sentence: “Rapid motion through space elates one; so does notoriety; so does the possession of money.”
5. What’s ironic about Seguouin’s toast to “Humanity”?
6. The story describes the circuitous route taken by the “friends” as they wander around after the race. What is the symbolism implied in their wandering?
7. While they celebrate, the author writes that Dublin harbor “lay like a darkened mirror at their feet.” Is there significance in this?
8. Why does Jimmy’s father, a shrewd businessman, not question Jimmy’s investment more carefully?
9. Why is Jimmy unconcerned about his heavy losses at cards?
10. Why is it Villona who shouts, “Daybreak, gentlemen!”
1. The inconsistency signifies that Jimmy lacks focus; the overwhelmingly British influence of his education shows us that Jimmy’s family doesn’t value Irish culture.
2. This symbolizes the impoverished Irish nationalist movement.
3. The investment is obviously risky; it’s likely that its details are also ambiguous to Jimmy himself.
4. With his “rapid motion,” Jimmy is staving off paralysis; his fame and wealth also help him escape the fate of the other Dubliners in this book.
5. He interrupts with the toast so that Routh and Jimmy will not argue about Irish independence.
6. The group—like Jimmy himself—lacks direction.
7. One cannot see anything in a “darkened mirror.” Jimmy can’t discern the true nature of these “friends,” who are about to swindle him in cards.
8. He’s so eager for his son to be a social success that he’s willing to risk a poor investment.
9. Like his father, Jimmy is so eager to enter into a cosmopolitan European world that he’s willing to let himself be exploited.
10. Villona, who has no money, doesn’t gamble. He’s the only one to see the light of day, but now it’s time for Jimmy to recognize the reality of things as well.
Two Gallants: Questions and Answers
1. What is the symbolism of the “veiled moon” in this story?
2. Is there religious significance in Lenehan’s repeated statement that Corley’s exploits “take the biscuit”?
3. What effect can we draw from Corley’s always walking “as if he were on parade”?
4. Corley used to date a higher class of girls before he started dating a “slavey.” Why has he “traded down”?
5. The slavey is wearing blue and white for their date, the traditional colors of the Virgin Mary. What is the meaning of this?
6. After Corley leaves him, Lenehan is famished. What’s the significance of this?
7. Rather than just having encounters, Lenehan would like to “settle down” and “live happily.” What’s the importance of this?
8. Joyce goes to great lengths to represent Lenehan’s wandering route through the Dublin streets. Why?
9. Beyond the fact that the slavey’s stealing money for him is immoral, how does it connect to the fact that Corley’s former girlfriend is now “on the turf”?
10. Lenehan imagines “Corley’s voice in deep energetic gallantries.” What’s the irony in this?
1. The moon is traditionally a romantic image, but Corley’s treatment is abusive and contemptible; it’s hardly romantic.
2. Lenehan is Corley’s disciple in the underhanded treatment of women. Therefore, the “biscuit” referred to represents the Holy Eucharist.
3. He is very conceited and self-absorbed.
4. Women with less money and no education are easier for Corley to manipulate and less demanding.
5. The symbolism is ironic; the slavey is not pure and probably not a virgin if she’s involved with Corley.
6. Corley’s exploits are titillating but not emotionally satisfying for Lenehan because they are empty. He longs for something more meaningful.
7. Although he admires Corley in a perverse way, Lenehan is a very different person, as is evidenced by Lenehan’s mild criticism of Corley’s “adventures.”
8. Torn between Corley’s way of life and his own desires, Lenehan leads a directionless and “wandering” existence.”
9. Both women have been lead to commit crimes through Corley’s negative influence.
10. Corley is no gallant; Lenehan only imagines that he has that potential.
The Boarding House: Questions and Answers
1. What is implied in the fact that Polly couldn’t continue to work in the corn-factor’s office?
2. Why is Mrs. Mooney so intent on her daughter marrying practically anyone?
3. How innocent was Polly’s initial approach to Bob Doran?
4. Interpret the statement: “She was an outraged mother.”
5. The “short twelve” Mrs. Mooney hopes to catch after her conversation is the abbreviated noon-time mass. What’s the symbolism implied in this?
6. Bob seeks religious counsel after the affair has become serious. What is the irony in this?
7. Why is Polly’s brother physically described before Bob talks to Mrs. Mooney?
(The entire section is 369 words.)
A Little Cloud: Questions and Answers
1. Why is Little made to appear so juvenile in the story?
2. What is the significance of Gallaher’s working for the London press?
3. Interpret the line about Little: “At times he repeated the lines [of poetry] to himself and this consoled him.”
4. Thinking of his meeting with Gallaher, Little feels “superior” to others “for the first time in his life.” Why and what does this represent?
5. The restaurant where Gallaher is to meet Little is a swanky spot, where the waiters “spoke French and German.” What’s the significance of this?
6. Why is Gallaher described as possessing an “unhealthy ¬pallor”?
7. What does...
(The entire section is 318 words.)
Counterparts: Questions and Answers
1. What tone does Alleyne take when reprimanding Farrington?
2. Why does Joyce describe Alleyne as small and egg-shaped in appearance?
3. Where does Farrington imply that he’s been going all afternoon?
4. What is suggested by the fact that Farrington holds out for an extra shilling (a small amount) at the pawnbroker’s?
5. What is the symbolism implied in Farrington’s pawning of his watch?
6. The bartender is referred to as a “curate.” What’s the irony in this?
7. What is the significance of the alluring woman at the bar?
8. Farrington’s wife is at the chapel when he returns. What is the irony in this?...
(The entire section is 298 words.)
Clay: Questions and Answers
1. Joyce had originally intended to title this story “Hallowe’en.” Why was the title changed to “Clay”?
2. To what degree is Maria able to develop a relationship at her job?
3. How does Maria’s early relationship with her nephews compare to her present one?
4. What is the irony of Maria’s description as a “peace-maker”?
5. Why is Joyce’s description of Maria so grotesque?
6. Why, ironically, is Maria able to converse with the man on the train?
7. What is the significance of Joe’s drinking problem?
8. How can we tell that Maria is alienated from Joe’s children?
9. What is the ironic...
(The entire section is 314 words.)
A Painful Case: Questions and Answers
1. Mr. Duffy lives in Chapelizod, in legend associated with the great romance of Tristan and Isolde. Comment on the irony of this.
2. The reader is surprised to find a copy of Wordsworth’s poetry on Duffy’s shelf. Why?
3. Why is his liking for Mozart described as a dissipation?
4. Duffy collects quotations and communicates with Emily through them. What’s the significance of this?
5. Why does Duffy insist that they meet at her house?
6. Why has it never occurred to Duffy to publish his ideas?
7. When he first learns of Emily’s death, Duffy feels no responsibility. Why not?
8. Where does Duffy go to think about...
(The entire section is 362 words.)
Ivy Day in the Committee Room: Questions and Answers
1. The men wear their collars turned up due to the weather. What is the irony in this?
2. Jack longs for the good old times of Ireland and Irish politics, but the younger men don’t. What does this imply?
3. Before he was a politician, what was Richard Tierney’s profession?
4. The men are extremely focused upon the arrival of the stout. What does this imply?
5. There’s irony in their distrust of Tierney in light of question #4. What is it?
6. Why is Fr. Keon described as looking like “a poor clergyman or a poor actor”?
7. What does Tierney’s connection with Keon imply?
8. What does O’Connor’s unwillingness...
(The entire section is 303 words.)
A Mother: Questions and Answers
1. What is the significance of Mr. Holohan’s limp?
2. Why is Mrs. Kearney so overbearing and eager to showcase her daughter at any cost?
3. Explain the similarity between Mr. Holohan and Mr. Kearney.
4. The story’s controversy centers around Kathleen Kearney’s playing, but she never speaks. What the implication of this?
5. Madam Glynn, the English soprano, is described as “startled” and “meagre.” What does she represent?
6. What is ironic about the Eire Abu society?
7. What is Joyce’s implication in the poor quality of the performances artistes?
8. The name Healy was notorious in Joyce’s day because it...
(The entire section is 363 words.)
Grace: Questions and Answers
1. Considering the title, why is Kernan’s fall ironic?
2. Comment on the meaning of grace in the following quote: “[Kernan] had never been seen in the city without a silk hat of some decency and a pair of gaiters. By grace of these two articles of clothing, he said, a man could always pass muster.”
3. Why is it ironic that Mrs. Kernan celebrated her anniversary by waltzing with her husband “to Mr. Power’s accompaniment”?
4. What is significant about Mr. M’Coy’s comment that the Jesuits are “the boyos [that] have influence”?
5. When Kernan recollects hearing Fr. Tom Burke preach, he recalls that he sat in “back near the door.” What...
(The entire section is 457 words.)
The Dead: Questions and Answers
1. What function does the “fringe of snow” on Gabriel’s coat play at the story’s beginning?
2. When Mary Jane plays the piano, “the only persons who seemed to follow the music was Mary Jane herself.” What does this signify?
3. Why is it ironic that Molly Ivors and Gabriel dance to an Irish tune during their argument?
4. During the argument, Gabriel “wanted to say that literature was above politics,” but he doesn’t. What is Joyce’s opinion about that belief?
5. What is signified by the fact that Gabriel—standing in the party—longs to “walk out alone, first along the river and then through the park”?
6. What is ironic...
(The entire section is 386 words.)