Literature: Dubliners

"Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. It was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried."
Dubliners, "The Dead"

Dubliners is a 1914 collection of short stories about various residents of Dublin written by James Joyce. It was his first published work and is much less experimental than Ulysses, although still considered a masterpiece, and one of the most famous short story collections of all time. The stories are interrelated, although no one character repeats. But the first three stories and the last one (especially the last one) can be very easily interpereted as being about early versions of Stephen Dedalus, the main character of his first novel, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.

The stories are largely quite plotless, being observational pieces about the people of Dublin and the multiple ways they subtly trap themselves in unhappiness. Joyce's goal was to show Dublin to itself in the hope that he would inspire people to break their self-imposed shackles. He found great difficulty in publishing it due its uncommmercial nature, all publishers asked that he give some stories happy endings, that some be removed for their upsetting material, and that references to to real people and places be removed. When he finally got it published, ten years after he started writing it, it did not sell well. Joyce referred to it as "un fiasco solenne" (an utter failure), a direct reference to the final story, where the Author Avatar worries that the speech he's written will be too high-brow for his audience.

The collection consists of the following fifteen short stories:
  • The Sisters
  • An Encounter
  • Araby
  • Eveline
  • After the Race
  • Two Gallants
  • The Boarding House
  • A Little Cloud
  • Counterparts
  • Clay
  • A Painful Case
  • Ivy Day in the Committee Room
  • A Mother
  • Grace
  • The Dead


  • Abusive Parents: Farrington in "Counterparts", who beats up his kid and pisses away his earnings.
  • A Date with Rosie Palms: It's implied that the man from "An Encounter" does this after talking to the children.
  • Creator Provincialism: You'll need to do a bit of googling while you read, there are a lot of references that are very specific to the place, and especially to the time.
  • Creepy Cleanliness: Mr. Duffy's room is dominated by order, cleanliness and symmetry, however it becomes creepier as you keep on reading. It stands for the protagonist's paralysis, as well as the sterility of his own life.
  • Downer Ending: Many of the stories, the most notable being A Painful Case, A Little Cloud and Counterparts.
  • Epiphanic Prison: In a sense, all characters are trapped in an Epiphanic Prison called Dublin. The most straight-forward example is Eveline Hill, whose mental paralysis prevents her escape even when she is given the chance.
  • Fetch Quest: the protagonist of "Araby" promises to get Mangan's sister, his crush, something from the exotically-named bazaar Araby, as if he were a knight heading for the holy land in search for a sacred relic.
  • Gold Digger: Ignatius Gallaher in "A Little Cloud" means to "marry money", with some rich German or Jews.
    • "Two Gallants" concerns two young men who endeavor to make their female company pay for their expenses.
  • Meaningful Name
  • Meddling Parents: the mother in "A Mother" behaves like her daughter's artist agent.
  • Neat Freak: Mr. Duffy.
  • Novella: The last story, The Dead, can be classified as such.
  • Rule of Symbolism
  • Short Story: The work is a collection of short stories.
  • Snow Means Death: Probably the most famous example in Western culture.
  • Stage Mom: "A Mother," again. It's a remarkably early example, and the historical context — there really weren't many opportunities for professional women in Ireland at the time — may make this an example of an Unbuilt Trope.