Category Archives: Dubliners

Dubliners: Read from November 27, 2014 to November 15, 2015

Much like Eastern Europeans, the Irish seem to have an uneasy relationship with “the continent” Europe. Yes they are economically and geographically part of Europe but they always seem to be outsiders looking in. The Irish, like the Russians and the Hungarians do not have the perceived cultural heritage of, say, the Italians or Greeks with all their glorious Ancient History. That’s not to say Ireland and other nations do not have a vibrant history, but when we think of “refined Europe” we immediately think of England, or the French, or the Spanish Empire, or the German kings and their castles.

And so when reading Joyce I always get the feeling he is doing everything he can to make the case for Ireland and the Irish people to be noticed, to be taken seriously, to include the Irish as equals among states who have looked down on them for centuries. Joyce shows us a people just as deep in thought and sensitivity as any other people, but who are also afflicted by the oppression of the Church, of England, of their own poverty and shortcomings. Joyce shows us the art of his people to be just as rich as that of an English gentleman or tragic Greek hero.

This, I believe, is the aim of any artist: to be noticed. Not in necessarily for selfish vanity (though that often happens), but to force other people to take notice of what the artist is trying to teach us. Here Joyce is trying to teach us – show us – the lives of regular Irish people with all their hopes, fears, failings, humor, love, vice, and beauty. And Joyce isn’t trying to make the Irish to be better than any other people but he is trying to say “We are people, too”.

I suppose it might seem odd to think the Irish would need a cultural champion when there are peoples in other places in the world who have been prosecuted and murdered for millennium, but from another perspective that belittling attitude is eternally frustrating, it’s like being invited to the ball every year, but you’re made to sit at the kids table and wear a bib. Yes you’re “included” but its patronizing and belittling.

This is the power of any great art, to force us to empathize with someone we never would have otherwise even thought about. And this was Joyce’s gift to art in his ability to take us into the mind of so many different people in an absolutely realistic way. All his characters feel as if they could step right off the page and take up residence in our own lives and so we are forced to deal with these people. We might not like all of them, or even understand all of them, but we at least now know them and if we do a bit of work on our side and try to look at the world through their eyes then we might learn something and be just a little less selfish and self-centered.

99% done with Dubliners

The Dead

The characters in this story are a bit different than the preceding stories in that they are more affluent which allows the central character to think about the beauty of life. Not that the poorer characters don’t or aren’t capable of same thoughts, but here we can linger on a more refined concept in a more refined setting, a comfortable setting, a place we will one day all have to exit stage from.

93% done with Dubliners


This is one of those stories that represent my struggles with Joyce: the story is so realistic it doesn’t feel like a story and its weight becomes tedious. Yes we get caught up in the lives of these characters, but on the other hand I don’t feel like I’m reading a story. Yet it’s great art, too. It’s absolute realism, but why does art have to be so real? Do we learn anything from this? Is it just a mirror?

86% done with Dubliners

A Mother

I really liked this one. Everyone here is flawed but they are all acting in their best interests no matter how imperfectly. This story might say a lot about how the Irish at the time viewed their place in higher society against England. They want to fight for their due, but they are too disorganized and not quite as talented as they think and the audience doesn’t care that much anyway. It’s sad.

80% done with Dubliners

Ivy Day in the Committee Room

I had no idea who any of the real life people being referenced were (other than the King of England) so along with also not being Irish there is a lot of cultural texture I’m missing out on. However, what’s not lost is that you have a room full of (mostly) old men talking about how the younger generation is no count, how they were more lively in their day, and things used to be better

73% done with Dubliners

A Painful Case

Nobody is happy in a Joyce story. Still, I thunk Mr Duffy was someone protecting himself from pain and so he chose to be alone and when love did enter his life he was afraid.It wasn’t until too late when he saw how his actions affected her that he realized how much he had given up.

73% done with Dubliners

A Painful Case

Nobody is happy in a Joyce story. Still, I thunk Mr Duffy was someone protecting himself from pain and so he chose to be alone and when love did enter his life he was afraid.It wasn’t until too late when he saw how his actions affected her that he realized how much he had given up.

66% done with Dubliners


Maria is a very good and kind person yet for whatever reason life seems to deny her the chance for love. Yet she bears it well and is always happy and helpful and humble. Again like in Counterparts, I would have liked more direct insight in the character’s mind, but I find her intriguing and quite beautiful.

60% done with Dubliners


This was depressing and uncomfortable even by Joyce’s standards. The story does build the feeling of frustration quite well but the main character is a bit thin and probably cliche, though at the time that might not have been the case. I never felt really ‘inside’ Farrington.

53% done with Dubliners

A Little Cloud

This is, so far, my favorite story in the book. He’s still young enough that he could possibly do something more exciting with his life, but he also has responsibilities and he’s too timid to really do anything adventurous – he can barely buy his wife a dress. But he’s jealous of his friend even if his friend might not be as successful as hr makes himself out to be. He’s at a sharp point in life.

46% done with Dubliners

The Boarding House

it would be unfair to judge everyone too harshly here. The mother had a rough life and knows what’s best for her daughter. Polly has only ever been seen by men with less than honorable intentions. Doran is trapped but only through the mother’s inaction. He’s morally strong but Polly will be a terrible wife. Boarding is almost a pun for corporal punishment.

33% done with Dubliners

Two Gallants

This is what Joyce does better than any writer, he puts you in the mind of someone struggling with their own shortcomings. But the twist here is that it ends on a high note with the gold coin stolen for him by the girl he seduced. Yet it’s still petty and is just one coin that will probably be wasted. Great story.

26% done with Dubliners


“All the seas of the world tumbled about her heart.”

What could have been, what could be, what will probably happen in reality. This is her first real decision in life, something unique for her to always have, a major decision that nobody will ever understand like she does. It’s sad but also noble, too, with her expressionless face giving away nothing, as if she feels she made the right decision.

20% done with Dubliners


“The cold air stung us and we played till our bodies glowed” (this following the image of the darkening sky and feeble streetlamps)

This was the first anything of Joyce I ever read when in college. I loved the story, but can’t remember why I never read more of Joyce until so much later in life. However, there is something to be said for being a bit older and experiencing this particular story.

13% done with Dubliners

An Encounter

Joyce’s ability to put you into a story, to create a fully realized world with hardly any “effort” makes me so jealous. It’s not fair he could write so well!

So this story taught me about ‘Gnomon’, which I love and is why I love Hemingway and the dirty realists – I love less doing more, I love anything that engages you actively. And, yes, I do think that old man was a pervert who wanked it a little

6% done with Dubliners

The Sisters

“There was a heavy odour in the room—the flowers”

There’s no getting around the fact that Joyce is hard work. I feel I need to read his stories multiple times to grasp what he’s writing about, but in the process he forces you to be a better reader.

This failed priest, for example, we learn about only through off hand comments and only a few clues as to what his life had been life. And it’s so sad