“The Irish are a melancholy lot” – “Dubliners” by James Joyce proves that old saying. Written in 1914, it is a collection of fifteen short stories. The only thread that runs through the stories, tying them together is Dublin, Ireland. They are arranged with the first few stories with a child as the narrator, then on to progressively aging. The characters are Irish middle class, with varying degrees of national patriotism.
Getting the book published was a story into itself. James Joyce submitted the book eighteen times to fifteen different publishers. One agreed to publish it if she would remove the story, Two Gallants. But, still refused. Another partially printed it, then refused to return his copy without first being paid. Even though he paid them, they still burned it. Luckily, James Joyce managed to save one copy that he tricked out of them. In 1914 he was finally able to get it published.
Dubliners are written simply, with dialogue that is easy to follow. Although it is set in Ireland, the people are easy to relate to when placed in any middle-income neighborhood. Joyce brings his characters to life using their emotions without actually using many physical descriptions. The stories are short but to the point. Each story shows an epiphany, or a life changing moment or illuminating moment, that changes their viewpoint. James Joyce wrote these stories with a tendency towards close detail in order to make the settings more realistic. This allows the reader to use the environment to better understand the characters.
The story begins with a young boy waiting for the death of the priest. Every day he walks past the Father’s house and checks for a candle flickering through the window. He knows that two candles would be lit at the head of the corpse. Since the Father has had three strokes, the boy knows he is going to die soon.
One evening, the boy comes down for dinner and overhears his uncle and the man’s friend, Old Cotter, talking. When they see him, the uncle tells him that Father Flynn has died. The family watches the boy judge his reaction, but the boy remains stoic. As his aunt dishes up the meal, the two men resume their conversation. His uncle says that the priest had been planning to train the boy to become a priest someday, but Old Cotter thinks the priest was odd and that young boys should spend more time with other children their own age. When he is questioned about what he means by his remark on the priest, Old Cotter doesn’t explain.
The next day the boy and his aunt go to pay their respects at Father Flynn’s home. The boy remembers learning Latin words from the priest. He and his aunt kneel at the coffin with Father Flynn’s sister, Nannie to pray. Later they have sherry and crackers with his other sister, Eliza. The women discuss the Father. They could tell he was getting sick because of his odd behaviors, such as dropping the chalice and laughing in the confessional while alone. The story ends with the women in this conversation, and the boy quietly listening.
The story begins with a group of boys playing cowboys and Indians. The games are scripted by the magazines they pass around in the class. Every time one of the boys, Joe Dillon, wins he does a victory dance. This happens a lot because he wins a lot. The magazines are contraband for the boys. One day Father Butler caught Leo Dillon with one of them and reprimanded him for not reading his Roman texts instead.
The narrator of the story, an unnamed boy, wants a real adventure and plans a trip to the docks with his friends. Only one of them shows up the next day for their adventure, Mahony. The two boys start off and are harassed along the way by some rough boys who call them Protestants. But, they get passed them and end up at the docks, where they explore the area.
The boys take a ferry across the river and wander around on the other side. They purchase a lunch then sit on the bank to enjoy it. Soon an old man wanders past. But then, he turns around to speak to the boys. He begins to reminisce about his own childhood. The old man tells them about the books he used to like to read including books by Lord Lytton, who wrote science fiction and romances. Then he asks them about girlfriends and the boys think he’s ridiculous, especially since he kept repeating that he liked to look at young girls with soft white hands and soft hair like it was a rote. Finally, the man walked away, and while he was gone the boys decided not to use their real names, but code names, Smith and Murphy.
When the old man comes back, he resumes his odd behavior and speech. Soon Mahony leaps up and starts to chase a stray cat. While he is gone the old man remarks that Mahony is the kind of boy who gets lots of ‘whippings’ and he would be glad to administer them himself. At that ‘Smith’ leaps up and walks to the top of the hill, there he calls for ‘Murphy’ and the two boys make their escape.
This is a story of young love. A boy is remembering the games he played with a neighborhood boy named Mangan. They would run throughout the abandoned houses and dart from shadow to shadow trying to avoid being seen by his uncle or Mangan’s sister. But, as time passes the boy tries to catch glimpses of Mangan’s sister instead of avoiding her. When he sees her leaving, he walks behind her, then passes her. Although the two hardly speak, he is always thinking of her. He fears that his feelings are so intense, he would never have the courage to speak to her.
One morning she asks the boy if he is planning to go to the Araby Bazaar. She would like to go, but is committed to a class outing. As soon as his tongue unties, he tells her that he is planning to and asks if he can get her a present. Now he has something to look forward to and can’t concentrate on his studies. Finally, on the morning of the Bazaar, he reminds his uncle to return home in time to give him money to attend. The boy waits for his uncle anxiously, and when the man does return it is late. The boy doesn’t arrive at the Bazaar until just before ten at night, as the Bazaar is about to close. He stops at one of the stalls but doesn’t buy anything because he feels unwanted by the proprietress who was busy talking to two young men. Soon the lights began to be turned off, so he stayed outside feeling anguished and angry.
Eveline works many jobs trying to help support her home and her sometimes abusive father. As she considers leaving with Frank, a sailor that wants her to marry him and move to Buenos Aires, she remembers when their family was happy. Days when her mother was still alive and her brother still lived with them. She also thinks about the promise she made her mother take care of the home.
At first, her father and Frank were getting along fine, but as their romance progresses the two men begin to bicker, so she and Frank carry on their romance in secret. She begins to remember that her father wasn’t always mean, but the life her mother led is not what she wants. So she plans to meet Frank at the docks. But, when she gets there, she can’t bring herself to leave with him, and the ship sails off without her. “Her eyes gave him no sign of love or farewell or recognition.”
After the Race
This the story of a party after a road race. As the fancy cars drive into Dublin, the crowd cheers their victory, even though the came in second and third. Jimmy Doyle is in one of the cars with his friends. One of them is Charles Segouin, who is starting an auto business that Jimmy has invested in. There is also a Hungarian pianist named, Villona.
Segouin drops Jimmy off at his house and also drops off Villona, who is staying with him, so they can change clothes before they go to the party. After Segouin returns to pick the two men up, they meet their other friends at the hotel where Segouin is staying. There they are introduced to an Englishman named, Routh. Jimmy starts to discuss the problems between the Irish and the English, but, Segouin stops the discourse with a toast, and opened a window to let out the heat.After dinner, the group start off down the street, singing and gay, when they come across another old friend, an American. He invites them all aboard his yacht. There they play music and drink. Then they start to play cards, and Jimmy loses a lot of money but doesn’t care. He knows he will be remorseful the next day, but for now, he was “glad of the dark stupor that would cover up his folly.”
After dinner, the group start off down the street, singing and gay, when they come across another old friend, an American. He invites them all aboard his yacht. There they play music and drink. Then they start to play cards, and Jimmy loses a lot of money but doesn’t care. He knows he will be remorseful the next day, but for now, he was “glad of the dark stupor that would cover up his folly.” The story ends with Jimmy beginning to sober, and the Hungarian opening the cabin door and shouting “Daybreak, gentlemen!”
Lenehan and Corley are walking along the street discussing Corley’s latest girlfriend. She is a maid at an expensive home and steals cigarettes for him. Even though he hasn’t told her his name, she will do anything he asks her to do. He calls her a ‘slavey’. Corley says that he used to spend money on women and take them out, but that was stupid. The last girl he took out like that became a prostitute. Lenehan says that was probably Corley’s fault.
Corley plans to have the maid steal money from the rich house. When they see her waiting on the street corner, Lenehan walks by like he’s not involved with Corley, but he indicates that he likes the looks of the maid.
While Corley is wooing the maid, Lenehan spends some time in a pub, thinking morosely about the life he could have with a home and hearth of his own. Shaking off his melancholy, Lenehan leaves the pub and finds Corley and his maid. He follows them discreetly until they stop in front of a nice house. Corley waits by the gate while the maid runs inside. Soon she returns and stops in front of Corley where Lenehan can’t see what she is doing. Then she runs back into the house and Corley starts walking down the street. Lenehan follows after him and calls his name. After a couple of calls, Corley stops and reluctantly shows Lenehan the gold coin in his hand.
The Boarding House
Mrs. Mooney runs a boarding house catering to a variety of people. Tourists from Liverpool, artists from the Music Hall, but mostly clerks from downtown offices. “All the resident young men spoke of her as the Madam.” Having escaped from a bad marriage with an abusive drunk, Mrs. Mooney had a legal separation allowed by the church. Her abusive husband had poorly managed the butcher shop left to her by her father, so she took the money from the sale of the shop and opened a successful boarding house.
She raised her two children there and they still lived with her. Polly, her daughter, had had a job as a clerk in town, but Mrs. Mooney asked her to quit so she could help at the boarding house. Lately, Polly had become romantically involved with a boarder, Mr. Doran. Mrs. Mooney was aware of their relationship but was waiting for the right time to make him marry her daughter.
Mr. Doran is weighing the decision to marry Polly or to run away. He knows that running would ruin his good reputation, but he doesn’t want to get married either. Mr. Doran is angry at Mrs. Mooney for not stopping the affair and is unhappy with the way Polly looks and her uncouth manners.
Polly comes into his room threatening to kill herself if he doesn’t marry her, and Mr. Doran remembers her kindness is why he started their affair. Then he leaves his room to find her mother. While Polly is waiting, she smugly crawls into his bed. Soon she hears her mother calling her with the news that Mr. Doran wants to talk to her.
A Little Cloud
Little Chandler (so called because he is a small man) is excited to meet his old friend, Ignatius Gallaher at the pub for drinks after work. Although Little Chandler works at a desk all day and goes home to a wife and son every evening, he sometimes envies his friend who is a journalist and travels all over the world.
Finally, quitting time arrives and Little Chandler meets his friend. They reminisce over a few drinks and Little Chandler is a bit put off by his friend’s rough manner and course speech. When the conversation turns to marriage, Little Chandler tells Gallaher that he will think differently about his life when he marries. But, Gallaher assures him that the only way he would marry is if the woman was rich. Until then he will continue to play the field around the world.Little Chandler feels obligated to invite Gallaher to his house to meet his
Little Chandler feels obligated to invite Gallaher to his house to meet his wife but is relieved when Gallaher turns him down. Later, Little Chandler is at home. He forgot to bring home coffee, so his wife leaves to get some and places the sleeping baby in his arms with orders not to wake him. Little Chandler walks about the room with the sleeping child and notices a picture of his wife, feeling guilty for the small thoughts he harbored of another life. By the time his wife returns, the baby is awake and crying. She scolds Little Chandler and takes the baby back. As the baby’s cries began to lessen, Little Chandler shed tears of remorse.
Farrington is not a nice man. He has a job in an office but performs it halfway. Most of his time is spent thinking about his next drink. He sneaks out during the workday to have a beer in the pub, then returns back to the office where he has not finished the work assigned to him. After work, he pawns his watch to get money to drink on and meets some of his friends. They make an evening of going from pub to pub where Farrington buys most of the drinks. When he finally reaches his house, he is drunk and yells for his wife. After discovering from his young son that his wife is at church, he orders the boy to start the fire and make him something to eat. The fire has gone out, though, so he begins to beat his son. The story ends with the boy begging his father to stop hitting him with his walking stick and offering to say some Hail Mary’s for him.
It’s Halloween, and Maria, a kind middle-aged woman, is working at a Protestant shelter for women. She helps to prepare an Irish bread called, Brambrack for the celebration. Then she leaves to celebrate the holiday with Joe Donnelly and his family. She used to nurse him and his brother, but now he has had a falling out with his little brother.
Along the way, Maria buys some little cakes for his children and a plum cake for him and his wife. She has a conversation with a man on the train, and when she arrives at the house she has lost the plum cake. Chiding herself for not paying closer attention, she enters into the games with the children, while they celebrate Halloween with the neighborhood children. One of the games involves a lump of clay that she touches while blindfolded. It is supposed to predict an early death. The mother insists the children remove the clay and they have Maria play again. This time, she chooses a prayer book which symbolizes a life in the church. Then she sings a song that brings Joe to tears.
A Painful Case
Mr. Duffy is a tidy bachelor. His life is orderly and predictable, but once in awhile, he attends the opera. One night he notices a woman with her little daughter. On subsequent opera nights, he notices her again, then begins to plan his opera nights in order to see her. Soon he strikes up a conversation with her. Mrs. Sinico is married to a captain of a merchant ship and therefore is lonely quite often.
The two become friends, meeting at her home to discuss politics, books, music, etc. As their relationship grows closer, she begins to see him as more than a friend. One evening she places his hand on her cheek. This leads Mr. Duffy to cut off their relationship. He avoids her then finally meets her in a neutral location to completely sever their ties. Two years later he reads her name in the paper. Mrs. Sinico had become an alcoholic and her relationship with her husband had deteriorated. After a presumed heart attack, she fell onto the train tracks and was hit by a train. At first, Mr. Duffy is disgusted with her supposed suicide, but later, after a drink became melancholy about losing the only woman he would ever love.
Ivy Day in the Committee Room
Ivy Day is a holiday that observes the death of Charles Stuart Parnell, the ‘uncrowned king’ of Ireland. It is observed on Sunday closest to October sixth. Since he was a well-known politician, the story is based around a group of people who have been campaigning for their candidate, Richard Tierney, a pub owner who is running for the office of Lord Mayor. The group are tired and are resting in the committee room where they discuss politics. Some of them suspect spies from the opposing party are among them. The story ends after one of the men reads a poem about the death of Parnell.
Mrs. Kearney likes things to be done just right. When Mr. Holohan, the head of the Eire Abu. Or Ireland to Victory wants to hire her daughter to perform in a concert to raise money, she is not surprised. Kathleen has studied piano and French in school and has also taken classes in Gaelic.
The girl was contracted for four concerts, but when the first two have a poor showing, Mrs. Kearney is not happy with the slipshod organizing of Mr. Holohan and Mr. Fitzpatrick, who is also in charge of the group. The men suggest canceling the third concert to build up an audience, but Mrs. Kearney believes the men plan on not paying her daughter for the concert they canceled.
At the fourth concert, which has a large audience, Mrs. Kearney refuses to let her daughter perform without payment up front. They pay half at the beginning of the concert and promise the other half at a later meeting. The concert goes on, but Mrs. Kearney leaves afterward angry.
Grace is a story about religion. It covers the fall, conversion, and redemption. Mr. Kernan has fallen down a flight of stairs and is carried into a pub. Soon he regains consciousness and leaves with his friend. When they arrive at his house, the friend discusses the recent downturns in Mr. Kernan’s life with his wife. He convinces her that the church would be the answer to his problems. A few days later some of the men from the church arrive at the Kernan’s home and he tells them that he was Protestant but converted to Catholicism for his wife. They offer to take him to meet the priest. Mr. Kernan agrees but refuses to light candles, because he doesn’t believe in magic.
Gabriel Conroy and his wife Greta attend the annual Epiphany dinner and dance held by his two aunts and their niece. At the party are the usual group of characters. The drunk, the old man who likes to flirt with young girls, the piano player who sings, and the angry political person. Gabriel dances with her, and the woman berates him throughout the dance and beyond for not being Irish enough. She accuses him of having English leanings. He becomes angry and gives a toast congratulating his aunts on the party and asking everyone to let the old dead beliefs rest.
Before he and his wife leave, he notices her listening to one of the guests singing an Irish ballad. Her melancholy face reminds him of their courtship. Later at the hotel, he asks her about it and she tells him the story of a young boy who used to sing the song to her, he died after waiting outside her window in the cold. After they go to bed, Gabriel thinks about the snow that is falling on Ireland that night and wonders if it is falling on the grave of the young boy.
Father Flynn – the priest who is dead in the first story, The Sisters. His character is ambiguous enough to raise questions about him that follow throughout the book whenever religious leaders in the Catholic church come up. The priests are written as incompetent.
Narrator in The Encounter – the Narrator is a little boy, who uses the code name, Smith. He has an active imagination and is bored with school. He plans an adventure with his friends to go to the wharf. But, on the day of the trip, only one friend shows up. At the wharf, the boys meet an old man, who seems to be a twisted personality. They scamper off away from him after he asks inappropriate questions.
The Narrator for Araby – the narrator is a young man who has developed a crush on his neighbor’s sister. When he finally works up the nerve to talk to her, he offers to buy her a small gift at the Bazaar but is unable to.
Evaline – the main character in the story by the same name. She is a young woman that has been trapped keeping house for an abusive father since her mother died. She also works a variety of jobs to support the family. She meets a sailor who wants to marry her, but she finally decides to stay with her family and take care of them, forgoing her own happiness.
Jimmy Doyle – in After the Race, Jimmy Doyle is captivated by the lifestyle of decadence his wealthy friends live.
Corley – in The Two Gallants Corley is a con man and a thief. He uses women and convinces his latest girlfriend to rob her employers and then he takes the money from her. He brags about his blatant misuse of women and is proud of it.
Mrs. Mooney – the owner of The Boarding House. She is headstrong and manipulative. She plans on Mr. Doran marrying her daughter, and waits until his sense of decency makes him go through with it.
Little Chandler – a small and unobtrusive man in A Little Cloud. Although he had dreams of becoming a poet, he works as a clerk and returns home to a cold wife and screaming baby.
Farrington – in Counterpart, Farrington is an angry man who drinks too much and wants to fight. He finally takes his anger home where he beats his son.
Maria – a quiet and kind woman in Clay. She is helpful, taking care of the women at her job, and then spending time with the young children at the Halloween party.
Mr. Duffy – in A Painful Case, Mr. Duffy is a fastidious man who strikes up a friendship with a lonely married woman. When she tries to take their relationship to a higher level, he shoots it down and then later regrets it.
Matt O’Connor – a quiet arbitrator in Ivy Day in the Committee Room. When tempers begin to flair in the committee room of their political candidate, Matt O’Connor brings up Parnell and compares their actions to his.
Mrs. Kearny – the mother in A Mother. Mrs. Kearney has raised her daughter, Kathleen to be the perfect Irish Miss. But, she finds difficulty when dealing with the lower classes and the actual Irishmen.
Tom Kernan – begins Grace by falling down the stairs. He hurts his tongue and can’t speak at first. But when he does he agrees to attend the church as long as he doesn’t have to light candles, because he doesn’t believe in magic.
Gabriel Conroy – in The Dead, Gabriel Conroy is a well-educated teacher and writer. He and his wife visit his aunts for Epiphany when they have their annual dinner and dance. He has trouble dealing with regular people because his studies have made him above them. After many brushes with uncouth people at the party, he sees his wife looking melancholy. When she tells him that she was thinking about a young man who she had loved, but he died, Gabriel realizes there is no passionate love in his marriage.
James Joyce Biography
Born James Augustine Aloysius Joyce (1882 – 1941) James Joyce was an Irish novelist and poet. His psychological perceptions and innovative literary techniques made him one of the most influential writers of the twentieth century. He was born in Dublin, the son of an impoverished civil servant. Although middle class, his family quickly lost that distinction with his father’s alcoholism, they began a steady downward slope. Educated at Jesuit schools, he was raised to be Roman Catholic but broke with the church while in college. In 1904 he left Ireland with a chambermaid named Nora Barnacle. The two finally married and had two children. They lived in Trieste, Italy, Paris and Zurich, Switzerland. They eked out a living on his salary as a language instructor and gifts from patrons.
In 1907 James Joyce was struck with iritis. This was the first of the severe eye troubles that left him almost blind. After living in Paris for twenty years, Joyce took his family to Zurich just after the start of World War II for their safety. He lived there until his death in 1941. Most of his stories are set in his fictional Ireland, which is populated with caricatures of family members and people from his Irish community. He said that he always wrote on Dublin, because if he could get to the heart of Dublin, he could get to the heart of any city.
Joyce’s early works consisted mostly of essays and poetry. His first book, Chamber Music, published in 1907, consisted of thirty-six love poems. The poetry showed a preference for Elizabethan James Joyce’s book, Dubliners, is comprised of fifteen short stories, that all tie in together as stories set with the middle class. The book is broken up into three groups. Childhood, adulthood and old age. His first long work of fiction was The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and is largely autobiographical. It recreates his home life as a child in his character, Stephan Dedalus.
He became internationally famous after his publication of Ulysses, in 1922. Based on Homer’s Odyssey, it tells the story about a twenty-four hour period in the life of a Jewish Irishman. It also tells of the same day in the life of Stephan Dedalus. Then the two characters meet at the end. “Finnegan’s Wake” was the last novel by James Joyce. It was also his most complex. It is an attempt to embody in fiction a cyclical theory of history. The novel is written in the form of an interrupted series of dreams of the Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker, during one night. Joyce uses various historical figures and mythological creatures in the book.
James Joyce used symbols to create what he called and “epiphany”. The revelation of certain inner qualities. Using experimental techniques to convey the essential nature of realistic situations, Joyce merged in his greatest works the literary tradition of realism, naturalism, and symbolism. Thus, the earlier writings reveal individual moods and characters and the plight of Ireland and the Irish artist in the early nineteen hundreds.