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Literature / Dubliners

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"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 final story of the collection, and the most famous, "The Dead" was adapted into a critically acclaimed film by John Huston in 1987.

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.
    • Eveline's father becomes one after her mother's passing; at first, he was only physically abusive towards her brothers. Once they've gone, he started to hurt her as well.
  • Broken Bird: Eveline.
  • The Casanova: Mrs. Mooney from "The Boarding House" is a female example; she's even referred to as "The Madam."
  • 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.
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  • 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.
  • A Date with Rosie Palms: It's implied that the man from "An Encounter" does this after talking to the boys.
  • Despair Event Horizon: A lot of the characters either cross it or have crossed it a some point or another, but the most notable two are:
    • Mr. Duffy once he finds out his closest friend, Mrs. Sinico, died, possibly from suicide.
    • Gabriel when he comes to the realization that he saw himself as an immortal superhuman, and becomes so ashamed of himself after hearing his wife's story about Michael Furey.
  • Downer Ending: Many of the stories, the most notable being "A Painful Case", "A Little Cloud" and "Counterparts".
  • Early Installment Weirdness: More like early installment normalcy. Read Ulysses (or Finnegans Wake if you wanna lose your marbles), then go back and read Dubliners. Weird, right? Interestingly, Ulysses was originally set to be the last story of the book, called "Ulysses in Dublin" but Joyce decided that the story of Leopold Bloom deserved its own book.
  • Ephebophile: The man in "An Encounter" is this, as he talks to the narrator about how he would love to whip any boy who even talked to a girl. By the end of the story, the narrator is beginning to panic that he's in danger of being raped:
    Lest I should betray my agitation I delayed a few moments pretending to fix my shoe properly and then, saying that I was obliged to go, I bade him good-day. I went up the slope calmly but my heart was beating quickly with fear that he would seize me by the ankles.
  • 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.
  • Food Porn: The description of the dinner in "The Dead" makes you wish you were there.
  • 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: In "Counterparts," as Farrington is beating up his kid, the boy begs for mercy not to, and even promises to say a Hail Mary. Cut to the next story, "Clay," where the main character's name is Maria (which is a form of the name Mary), who is looked up to by everyone as a motherly figure.
  • 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.
  • Second Love: Gabriel is shocked when he finds out he is this for his wife, and that in his life he has never been as passionate and devoted to her as Michael Furey was.
  • 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.


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