Each section of the guide on Joyce's Dubliners contains a synopsis and activities for before, during, and after reading the novel.
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James Joyce's Dubliners

Section I

Joyce's diction is extremely important to his writing style in Dubliners. Not only does his word choice reflect the delicate balance of "scrupulous meanness" Joyce is trying to obtain, but his careful selection of words also underlines the images and themes Joyce threads throughout the novel.

To develop a keener awareness of Joyce's subtle commentary, imagery, and diction, have students keep a stylistic journal during their reading in which they note word choices, quotes, use of dialect, images (such as light and dark, motion and stillness, constraint and freedom), figurative language, and unfamiliar phrases. Students should keep notes of their impressions of and reactions to Joyce's style in addition to page numbers of the information, definitions, and, most importantly, the effect Joyce's style has on the development of the novel.

A weekly discussion of students' findings, with special emphasis on vocabulary, will develop their vocabulary skills and increase their understanding of each story as well as the effect Joyce's style has on the novel as a whole. This procedure can be followed throughout all four sections of the book. Also, the "After Reading" sections contain quotations to highlight during weekly discussions on style.

In this first section, students should focus on religious vocabulary, especially the religious and secular connotations of the words. Some of this vocabulary is as follows, with page numbers in parentheses:

"The Sisters" - Catechism (1), simoniac (4), scrupulous (10)
"An Encounter" - penitent (22), "Swaddlers" (15)
"Araby" - litanies (25), chalice (25)

Detailed Study Questions

Because of the unfamiliar language and complex writing style used by Joyce, even advanced students may need assistance following the plot. To give students the assistance they need, provide them with detailed study questions. These questions can be used as class or group discussion starters, individual writing prompts, detailed study guides, a test review, or test items.

"The Sisters" (1-11)

1. What is old Cotter's opinion of Father Flynn? (1-2)
2. What was the boy's relationship to Father Flynn? (2)
3. What is the boy's reaction to the news of the priest's death and old Cotter's scrutiny? (2-3)
4. What are old Cotter's and the uncle's views on the benefits of the boys relationship with the priest? (2-3)
5. What is the boy's opinion of old Cotter? How has it changed? (2-3)
6. What did the priest die from? Describe the physical aspects of his illness. (3-4)
7. When he realizes that Father Flynn is dead, what is the boy's reaction? (5)
8. What lessons did the priest teach the boy? (5-6)
9. Who took care of the details of Father Flynn's lying in state? (8)
10. What was the beginning of Father Flynn's ill health? (10)
11. What happened to let everyone know that Father Flynn had become mentally unbalanced? (10-11)

"An Encounter" (12-22)

1. Why does Joe Dillon always prove victorious in the mock Indian battles? Why is this ironic in light of his chosen future? (12)
2. Why do the pulp magazines appeal to the narrator? (13)
3. What does the narrator plan to break up the "weariness of school-life?" What is ironic about Leo not showing up? (14-15)
4. What does the "ragged troop" calling them "swaddlers" tell you about the religious make up of Dublin? (15-16)
5. What is the lure of the docks to the boys? (16)
6. What does the narrator's ideas about sailors with green eyes tell us about his education? (17)
7. How does the man try to ingratiate himself to the boys? How do their answers demonstrate differences in their personalities? (18-19)
8. The man talks in "circles" around a few subjects. What do his speech patterns and the subjects he dwells on tell you about him? (19-21)
9. Do you think the narrator's fear of him is justified? Why or why not? (21-22)

"Araby" (23-30)

1. Judging from the games the boys play, how old do you think the narrator is? (24)
2. What is the mood of the story? How does Joyce establish it in the first few pages? (23-24)
3. Would you describe the narrator's feelings toward Mangan's sister as realistic or romantic? Explain. (24-25)
4. Why does the word Araby contain so much meaning for the narrator? Discuss the possibilities the word represents to him. (26-27)
5. How are the results of the trip to Araby foreshadowed? (27-28)
6. Why is the uncle late coming home Saturday night? (28)
7. Why does he not buy anything at the young lady's booth? (29-30)

Section II: Adolescence

In Section II students should focus on the development of setting and characters in their journals. In discussion students should note the detail with which Joyce develops setting and characters as well as the overall picture of Dublin created through both.

In discussing Joyce's characters and his setting, students should attribute each of their notes on language and style to the character or setting Joyce creates. Relate characters to settings: Which characters in "Adolescence" are most alike in the vocabulary used to describe them? Which settings relate to each other? What is Joyce's purpose in placing these specific characters in these specific settings?

"Eveline" - cretonne (31), quay (36)
"After the Race" - remonstrative (38), deft (39), trepidation (40), deploring (41), torpid (42)
"Two Gallants" - jauntily (46), rotundity (46), adroitness (46), eloquence (46), nimbly (46), vagrant (46), sauntered (51), pensively (52), obliquely (52), slatternly (54
"The Boarding House" - rakish (62), agitation (64), celibate (64), delirium (65), implacable (65), discomfiture (65)

Detailed Study Questions

"Eveline" (31-36)

1. What was the children's biggest worry while playing in the field? (31)
2. Now that Eveline has decided to leave, what sort of things has she begun to notice? Why? (32)
3. What are the advantages and disadvantages of her going away? (33-34)
4. What does her father mean by, "I know these sailor chaps"? (34)
5. How does the memory of her mother both hold her and drive her to escape? (35)
6. Why does she not go with Frank? What holds her back? (36)

"After the Race" (37-44)

1. Describe Jimmy's education. Why is his father secretly proud of his excesses? (38)
2. Why is Jimmy taken with Segouin? (38-39)
3. Why has Jimmy kept his excesses within limits? What does this say about him? (39-40)
4. In what is Jimmy about to invest? Does this seem to be a good investment? Why or why not? (40)
5. How does Segouin diffuse the heated discussion of politics? What does this say about him? (41-42)
6. What meaning do you take from the following line, "he would lose, of course"? (44)

"Two Gallants" (45-57)

1. From Joyce's initial descriptions, what are your impressions of Corley and Lenehan? (45-48)
2. What information does Lenehan want from Corley? What does his desire for this information and Corley's giving him the information say about each of them? (48-49)
3. How has Corley changed his approach to attracting and then getting what he wants from women? (48-49)
4. What does Joyce's description of the girl tell you about her? (51-52)
5. Why does Lenehan choose to keep walking rather than join a crowd of people with whom he is acquainted? What does this say about his existence? (53)
6. When he stops to eat, what does Lenehan do to fit in with the other customers? What does this information add to your understanding of Lenehan's life? (54)
7. What does Lenehan want out of life? (54)
8. What does it say about Corley that he talks the girl into giving him the money? What does it say about her that she gives it to him? What does it say about Lenehan that this is what he has so anxiously waited for all night? (57)

"The Boarding House" (58-66)

1. Why have the boarders bestowed the title of "The Madam" on Mrs. Mooney? What qualities have earned her this title? (59)
2. Describe Mrs. Mooney's son and daughter. What kind of people are the Mooney family? (59-60)
3. Why does Mrs. Mooney not object to Polly's affair with one of the boarders? What does this say about Mrs. Mooney? (60)
4. Why is Mrs. Mooney sure she will win her confrontation with Mr. Doran? What will she win? Why does she want to win? (61-62)
5. Why is Mr. Doran reluctant to marry Polly? What does this say about his social status? About him personally? (63-64)
6. Who is most responsible for the affair? What evidence can you give to support your opinion? (64-65)

Section III: Maturity

In Section III students should pay close attention to the richness of foreign expressions, especially Latin and French, that Joyce uses. Students should list and note how foreign idiom reflects the "Maturity" theme, yet creates an ironic tone for the stories which comprise it. How is the idea of maturity reinforced through Joyce's other word choices?

  • "A Little Cloud" - necessitous (67), horde (68), punctiliously (68), melancholy (68), revery (71), ardently (71), agitation (71), parole d'honneur (77), deoc an doruis (78), equipoise (78), paroxysm (83)
  • "Counterparts" &150; shirking (85), slake (86), furtively (87), execrate (88), impertinent (90), eclogues (92), tincture (93), chaffed (93)
  • "Clay" - barmbracks (98)
  • "A Painful Case" - betokened (108), saturnine (108), dissipations (109), timorous (111), fervent (112), exonerated (115), squalid (116), malodorous (116), obsequiously (117), venal (118)

Detailed Study Questions

"A Little Cloud" (67-83)

1. How did Little Chandler receive his name? (67)
2. Why does Little Chandler admire Ignatius Gallaher? How did he know that Gallaher was destined for success? (69-70)
3. What does Little Chandler believe one must do to succeed? What does this commentary say about Joyce's opinion of his birth place? (70)
4. How would the English critics recognize Little Chandler as one of the Celtic poets? What does this say about life in Ireland? (71)
5. How do Little Chandler's and Gallaher's perceptions of Paris differ? What does this say about their personalities? Their lives? (73-75)
6. How does Dublin compare to the other European capitals? (75-76)
7. What does Little Chandler find unjust about the differences in his and Gallaher's lives? How accurate is his assessment? (78)
8. What are Gallaher's views on marriage? What are his plans for getting married? (79-80)
9. How does the last scene with his crying son and his wife neatly sum up Little Chandler's life? (82-83)

"Counterparts" (84-97)

1. What do Mr. Alleyne's complaints about Farrington tell us about Farrington? What is his private reaction to these complaints, and how does this reaction support or weaken Mr. Alleyne's accusations? (85-86)
2. Why is Farrington unable to concentrate on his work? (88-89)
3. What is Farrington's reaction when Mr. Alleyne publicly reprimands him? Is his reaction justified? (89-90)
4. What got Farrington off to a bad start with Mr. Alleyne? What does this say about Farrington? (90)
5. How does Farrington get enough money to go drinking? What is his reaction to getting money in this way? What does this say about him? (91)
6. What is the basis for conversation between Farrington and his friends? What do these stories say about them and about their lives? (91-92)
7. How does Weathers anger Farrington? What breach of etiquette has he made? (93)
8. Compare Farrington's treatment by his bosses to his treatment of his son? What is the irony in this comparison? (96-97)

"Clay" (98-106)

1. Why are the women so fond of Maria? (98)
2. Why is Maria working at the Dublin by Lamplight laundry? What has she learned in her time there? (99)
3. What is Maria's reaction when teased about getting married? Why do people tease her about this? (100-101)
4. Why is Maria so upset about the loss of the plumcake? What does this reveal about her? (103)
5. What event are they celebrating? How is this celebration similar to and different from our
celebration of this holiday? (104)
6. What does Maria represent to Joe and his family? What commentary does this make on Maria's life? (105-106)

"A Painful Case" (107-118)

1. "Mr. Duffy abhorred anything which betokened physical or mental disorder." How does the physical description of his room, his occupation, and his daily routine reinforce this? (107-108)
2. Why does Mr. Duffy insist on being invited to Mrs. Sinico's house? Why doesn't her husband protest his visits? (110)
3. In their growing relationship, what does Mr. Duffy provide for Mrs. Sinico? What does she provide for him? (110-111)
4. What ruined the relationship for Mr. Duffy? What does this say about him? What does it say about Mrs. Sinico? (112)
5. How is Mr. Duffy initially affected by Mrs. Sinico's death? What does this initial reaction reveal about him? Is his reaction surprising? Why or why not? (116)
6. What is Mr. Duffy's ultimate realization about his role in Mrs. Sinico's death? How do you think this will affect the rest of his life? (117-118)

Section IV: Public Life

In Section IV students should list Irish idiomatic expressions and trace their effect on the themes highlighted in this section. Joyce titled this section "Public Life," implying the judgements that a community makes on individuals and itself. How do the phrases and words Joyce employs imply judgement?

"Ivy Day in the Committee Room" - shoneens (122), hunkersliding (122), Musha (123),
fenians (126), Yerra (129), hop-o'-my thumb (129), wisha (130)
"A Mother" - Eire Abu Society (139)
"Grace" - gaiters (159)
"The Dead" - palaver (186), shades (235)

Detailed Study Questions

"Ivy Day in the Committee Room" (119-138)

1. What is Mr. O'Connor's job, and why is he not doing it? (120)
2. What are the virtues of the working man that Mr. Hynes points out to old Jack? According to Mr. Hynes, why do men like Tierney want to get elected? (122-123)
3. What news does Mr. Henchy bring? What does this say about their current occupation? (123-124)
4. Of what does Henchy accuse Hynes? To what extent is this a current practice in politics? (125-126)
5. What is the group's opinion of the High Mayor of London? What "hard" evidence do they cite to support their views? (129-130)
6. What is ironic about the men giving the tavern delivery boy a drink? (131)
7. Why did Mr. Crofton quit canvassing for Wilkins and begin working on behalf of Tierney? What does this say for the canvassers' allegiance to political positions? (133)
8. What does Henchy say are Tierney's qualifications for office? Are these important qualities or just political double talk? Explain. (133)
9. Why does Mr. Henchy believe the impending visit by England's King Edward is a good thing? What are the arguments against his visit? (133-135)
10. Why are the men so moved by Mr. Hynes's poem "The Death of Parnell"?(138)

"A Mother" (137-154)

1. Why did Miss Devlin get married? Why did she marry Mr. Kearney? (139-140)
2. What kind of husband and wife were Mr. and Mrs. Kearney, and what kind of parents were they? What evidence can you cite to support your position? (140)
3. What does the Kearneys' interest in learning Irish say about their politics? (140-141)
4. What role did Mrs. Kearney take in her daughter's performance? (141-142)
5. How does the concert go the first two nights? What is Mrs. Kearney's reaction? What does the committee decide to do to salvage the last night's performance? (143-144)
6. Why does Mrs. Kearney want Mr. Kearney to go to the concert with her on Saturday night? (144)
7. When the Freeman man says he will make sure that the review of the concert will go in the paper, do you believe he will take care of it? Why or why not? (148-149)
8. Why does Mrs. Kearney delay the concert's start? Is she justified in keeping her daughter from performing? (149-150)
9. What are the reactions of the people backstage to Kathleen's not playing until she is paid? Are they justified in their feelings? (151-152)
10. Why does Mrs. Kearney think she is justified in delaying the concert's start? Is she justified? (152-153)
11. How is the disagreement resolved? Why did Mrs. Kearney act the way she did? (153-154)

"Grace" (155-182)

1. How is the man revived? What is his response once revived? (156-157)
2. Why can't Mr. Kernan explain what happened to him? (159)
3. According to Mr. Kernan, what two articles of clothing would always allow a man to give a presentable appearance? (159)
4. What was Mr. Kernan's occupation? Mr. Power's? (159)
5. Why does Mrs. Kernan not blame Mr. Power for Mr. Kernan's condition? How often does he get in this condition? (160)
6. How does Mrs. Kernan, who is unhappy in married life, occupy herself? What are the symbols of her success? (161-162)
7. Why does Mrs. Kernan accept Mr. Kernan's drinking? (162)
8. Why was Mr. Cunningham chosen to carry out the plot? (162-163)
9. Why is Mrs. Kernan skeptical of the plan's possibility for success? Why does she go along with it anyway? (163)
10. Why do the men look down on Mr. Harford? (165)
11. To which aspect of the retreat does Mr. Kernan object? Why? (178)
12. What reassures Mr. Kernan once he is at the retreat? (180)
13. How does the priest appeal to the men in the audience? On what theme does he base his talk? (181)
14. How is the priest's message ironic in regard to the plan to reform Mr. Kernan? (182)

"The Dead" (183-236)

1. Why did Mary Jane and her aunts worry about Freddy Malin's tardiness? (184)
2. What stops Gabriel's flirting with Lily? How does he pay penance for his improper thoughts? (185-186)
3. What does Gabriel think is wrong with his speech? (187)
4. What causes the ladies to suddenly ignore Mr. Browne? What does this say about them? (192)
5. What was the cause of Gabriel's quarrel with his mother? Who was proven right? (196)
6. What are Gabriel's primary and secondary occupations? What does he enjoy most about his second job? (197)
7. Why does Miss Ivors call Gabriel "West Briton"? What does she mean by this?
8. How does Gabriel plan to put Miss Ivors in her place? What does his plan indicate about his opinion of his aunts? (202)
9. Why did Aunt Julia not pursue her solo singing? How was she rewarded for her years of dedication? (203-204)
10. As they are leaving his aunts' house, what does Gabriel long to tell his wife? Why does he want to do this? (223-225)
11. How does Gabriel feel when he finds that his wife has been thinking of a boy from her past? (231-232)
12. What does his wife's story cause Gabriel to realize about his marriage and his own life? (234-236)

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