27 pages 54 minutes read

James Joyce

An Encounter

Fiction | Short Story | Adult | Published in 1913

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Character Analysis


The narrator is a young middle-class Catholic school boy whose Wanderlust is the main catalyst for the story. When the reader is first introduced to him, he is explaining how he and his friends vent their need for adventure through games set in the Wild West. The narrator is somewhat of a reluctant participant, but he doesn’t want to stand out from the other kids. This lack of a strong attachment to the games could explain why he so readily seeks out new adventures beyond his usual routine.

The narrator is an active participant in the decision to skip school and explore the city. However, as the story unfolds, the detachment of Joyce’s naturalist prose often makes it seem as though the narrator is more of a passenger along for the ride. He follows a prescribed route and reacts to Mahony’s antics, but his role is primarily observational throughout. He wants to see things, but it isn’t entirely clear whether he also wants to experience things. He simultaneously wants to be on an adventure and be in the safety of familiarity.

When the narrator finally does experience something, the encounter that gives the story its name, he first tries to act smarter and more well-read than he actually is.