27 pages 54 minutes read

James Joyce

An Encounter

Fiction | Short Story | Adult | Published in 1913

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Important Quotes

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“It was Joe Dillon who introduced the Wild West to us. He had a little library made up of old numbers of The Union Jack, Pluck and The Halfpenny Marvel. Every evening after school we met in his back garden and arranged Indian battles.”

(Page 10)

As the story begins, the narrator immediately introduces the reader to “the Wild West.” He’s going on an adventure in this story, and it’s important for that sense of adventure to be evoked right from the start. The narrator has a strong Wanderlust, and it is this adventurous characteristic that drives him to explore past his comfort zone the day he skips school.

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“A spirit of unruliness diffused itself among us and, under its influence, differences of culture and constitution were waived. We banded ourselves together, some boldly, some in jest and some almost in fear: and of the number of these latter, the reluctant Indians who were afraid to seem studious or lacking in robustness, I was one.”

(Page 10)

In a city of social and religious division, there were still things that could always bring kids together. As the boys leave the safety of their small world later in the story, the societal divisions that dominate the lives of adults become more and more apparent. With the narrator’s friends, however, these differences held no weight. Some boys joined in more enthusiastically than others, however, and the narrator points out his flaws perhaps to indicate motivation for his later actions.

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“One day when Father Butler was hearing the four pages of Roman History clumsy Leo Dillon was discovered with a copy of The Halfpenny Marvel.”

(Page 11)

This seemingly minor event is in fact the catalyst for everything that happens in the story. In direct but detailed prose, Joyce sets the scene within the classroom on this fateful day.