Topics for Discussion
1. Only the first three stories in the collection, the ones dealing with childhood, have first-person narrators; the remainder are told in the third-person. Why do you think this might be the case?
2. The manner in which the narrator of "Araby" imagines himself, Mangan's sister, and the "Araby" bazaar tells us much about his youthful perceptions of his world. How would you describe those perceptions? How does the imaginary picture he paints differ from the world in which he lives.
3. How does Joyce establish the characters of Mr. Doran, Mrs. Mooney, and Polly in "The Boarding House"? Why will Mr. Doran marry Polly? How aware is Polly of her mother's scheme?
4. Look carefully at Eveline's thoughts regarding the sailor, Frank, in "Eveline." Do you think she would have found happiness if she had gone to Buenos Aires with him? What evidence suggests that this might not have been the case?
5. The title of "A Little Cloud" alludes to a Biblical passage, I Kings 18:44: "And it came to pass at the seventh time, that he said, Behold, there ariseth a little cloud out of the sea, like a man's hand" The little cloud is the harbinger of a great rain, which the prophet Elijah summons to end a drought. What might be the significance of this allusion in Joyce's story?
6. In "The Dead," we get our first close look at Gabriel Conroy during his exchange with Lily, the caretaker's daughter. What does it reveal about him?
7. Describe the path followed by Gabriel Conroy's thoughts from the moment he sees Gretta on the stairs listening to Bartell D'Arcy singing "The Lass of Aughrim" to the end of the story. What has he learned by the story's end?
8. In the closing moments of "The Dead," Gabriel thinks, "the time had come for him to set out on his journey westward." Is this a literal journey (such as the one Miss Ivors is planning to the Aran Isles) or a figurative one, or both? Consider how journeys (and thwarted journeys) figure in other stories in the collection.
9. The term "closure" refers to our sense that a story is finished, that its various threads have been tied up at the end. Which of the stories achieve closure? Which ones do not? Why do you think Joyce left some of the stories open-ended?
10. In retrospect, Joyce felt he had painted an unduly harsh portrait of Dublin in this collection, slighting the city's more vital and generous side. Was he correct? What evidence is there in the book of the city's more positive qualities?