46 pages 1 hour read

James Joyce

Dubliners

Fiction | Short Story Collection | Adult | Published in 1914

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Summary and Study Guide

Overview

Dubliners is a collection of 15 short stories by Irish writer James Joyce. Originally published in 1914, the collection met resistance from publishers and critics due to its controversial themes and unusual portrayal of the everyday. Dubliners follows a range of people living in the titular city, often seeking some form of social or emotional transcendence without ever truly achieving it.

This study guide is for the 1965 paperback edition from Penguin Modern Classics.

Content Warning: This book contains mentions of domestic abuse, violence, and suicide.

Plot Summaries

“The Sisters” follows a young boy whose friend, a local priest, has died. He and his aunt go to visit the priest’s sisters, and the boy considers what he learned from his mentor.

“An Encounter” follows two boys who skip school to explore the city and end up having a run-in with a mentally unstable man.

“Araby,” follows a boy who develops a crush on his neighbor and agrees to go to a local market to buy her a treasure. When he arrives, the market is shutting down, and he is left with nothing.

“Eveline” follows a young woman whose paramour has invited her to run away with him. Eveline considers the life she is leaving behind and the life ahead of her, but she is ultimately unable to take the final step.

“After the Race” follows a group of young, wealthy friends gallivanting after driving in a car race. The protagonist, Jimmy, is outclassed but enthusiastic. He ends up losing a large amount of money in a game of cards.

“Two Gallants” follows two friends who consider their attitudes toward women. One man disappears with a woman, re-emerging with a prize to show his friend.

“The Boarding House” takes place in the titular setting, in which the house’s matron tries to find a match for her daughter. One guest romances the matron’s daughter and is shamed into proposing marriage.

In “A Little Cloud,” a man named Little Chandler meets with an old friend, who left Dublin years ago and found his fortune. Little Chandler unfavorably compares his life to that of his friend and wishes he could do more.

“Counterparts” follows an office worker, Farrington, who stands up to his boss in a moment of fervor. Later, Farrington is humiliated in an arm-wrestling match and focuses his anger on his family.

“Clay” follows a middle-aged woman named Maria who celebrates Halloween with old friends. She buys cakes for everyone, but accidentally leaves one behind on the tram and is devastated. She’s invited to play a Halloween fortune-telling game.

“A Painful Case” follows Mr. Duffy, a man who enters an intellectual relationship with a married woman. When the woman implies a need for more, Mr. Duffy rejects her, and the friendship falls apart. Years later, he learns that the woman has died and considers his role in the tragedy.

“Ivy Day in the Committee Room” takes place on Ivy Day, a commemorative day celebrating historic nationalist Charles Parnell. A group of colleagues discuss opposing politicians and the impact of Parnell and the English king on the current state of the country.

“A Mother” follows Mrs. Kearney and her daughter Kathleen, who has been enlisted to play piano in a series of concerts. When the concerts don’t do as well as expected, Mrs. Kearney resorts to drastic measures to ensure her daughter is fairly compensated.

“Grace” explores religion and politics through a downtrodden man, Mr. Kernan, who injures himself after a night of heavy drinking. His friends stage an intervention and bring him on a religious retreat in order to cleanse his spirit.

The final story of the collection, “The Dead,” follows a man named Gabriel Conway as he and his wife attend an annual holiday party. He begins a heated conversation with an acquaintance about his work writing for an anti-nationalist publication, and his lack of loyalty to his home country. Later, Gabriel learns that his wife once had a passionate and tragic love, and he feels that his own small life lacks passion in comparison.

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