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
Activities for Section I

The following activities focus on the themes, style, and issues in "Childhood." Have students select one or more of the following activities to present in class:

• Create a collage of the issues and responsibilities that adults must face in daily living. How do these issues differ from the ones presented in "Childhood?" How are they similar?
• Create an artistic rendering of the bazaar in "Araby" which shows the view the narrator creates through his infatuation with Mangan's sister as well as the actual bazaar he attends.
• Write a personal narrative in which you realized that adults were fallible. Try to employ as much of Joyce's style as you can in your writing.
• Using Joyce's "scrupulously mean" style, create a written portrait of your first love. For inspiration, reread Joyce's narrator's description of Mangan's sister from "Araby." (24-26).

Questions for Deeper Understanding

The following can be used as class discussion starters, essay topics, the bases for oral reports, and journal writing topics.

1. Joyce entitled this section "Childhood." Its central theme is the young protagonists' dawning awareness of the paralysis of adulthood. Compare and contrast the epiphanies undergone by the narrators of the three stories. What enables each narrator to experience his epiphany?
2. These stories are the only ones in the book written in first person. Why did Joyce do this? How would the stories be different if written in third person?
3. Compare and contrast the dreams of the narrator in "An Encounter" to those of the narrator of "Araby." What purpose do the dreams serve in illuminating Joyce's opinion of Dublin and Ireland? How do the dreams lead to the boys' understandings of the paralysis of adult life?
4. In each of the three stories, religion in the form of a priest(s) plays an important part in the narrators' lives. Compare and contrast the roles priests play in the boys' lives, and discuss the role religion plays in the spiritual paralysis awaiting the boys in Joyce's Dublin.
5. Why did Joyce make the narrators in "The Sisters" and "Araby" parentless? Why is it important that the boys live with an aunt and uncle rather than a father and mother?

Quotations for Response

The following are significant quotations that may be used as writing prompts, items for discussion, test items, response generators, and/or items for debate. Parentheses indicate page numbers.

"The Sisters"

"I am not long for this world" (1)
"He was too scrupulous always, she said." (10)

"An Encounter"

"The mimic warfare of the evening became at last as wearisome to me as the routine of school in the morning because I wanted real adventures to happen to myself." (14)
"He began to speak on the subject of chastising boys. His mind, as if magnetized again by his speech, seemed to circle slowly round and round its new centre." (20-21)


"We walked through the flaring streets, jostled by drunken men and bargaining women, amid the curses of labourers, the shrill litanies of shop-boys who stood on guard by the barrels of pigs' cheeks, the nasal chanting of street-singers. . . .These noises converged in a single sensation of life for me: I imagined that I bore my chalice safely through a throng of foes." (25)
"Gazing up into the darkness I saw myself as a creature driven and derided by vanity; and my eyes burned with anguish and anger." (30)

Section II
Activities for Section II

• Find popular songs which deal with the problems of each of the characters in "Adolescence" (at least one song for each story). Provide a lyric sheet for each song, and explain how each song relates to its story. In your presentation discuss the issues of Joyce's Dublin and show their relationship to the issues of America today.
• Perform a dramatic monologue in which you assume the role of a main character. Make sure you allow your audience to know that character's emotions regarding his/her environment, station in life, prospects for the future, as well as his/her motivation for behaviors shown in the story. Consider costume, physical movement, and voice patterns when planning your presentation.
• Write the "unseen" conversation between Corley and the working girl ("Two Gallants"). Use dialect and attempt Joyce's writing style as much as possible. Rewrite the scene with the same characters set in modern America.
• Plan Polly's wedding as if you were Mrs. Mooney ("The Boarding House"). Research traditional Irish weddings for details and consider how much tradition Polly's family can afford, given their social status and Polly's condition.

Questions for Deeper Understanding

1. Compare and contrast the personalities and temperaments of Eveline and Polly from "The Boarding House." Look at the outside forces shaping their lives and the choices they made. Make some predictions about their futures.
2. Compare and contrast the actions of Jimmy from "After the Race" to those of Eveline. To what is each attracted and for what reasons are they attracted? How will each be served by the choices they've made?
3. Compare and contrast the influence their parents had on Eveline, Polly, and Jimmy.
4. How would each of the following characters react if they were in Mr. Doran's position in "The Boarding House": Jimmy Doyle, Lenehan, Corley?
5. Compare and contrast the ways in which women are depicted in each of the four stories.

Quotations for Response


"A bell clanged upon her heart. She felt him seize her hand." (36)
"He rushed beyond the barrier and called to her to follow. He was shouted at to go on but he still called to her. She set her white face to him, passive, like a helpless animal. Her eyes gave him no sign of love or farewell or recognition." (36)

"After the Race"

"Now and again the clumps of people raised the cheer of the gratefully oppressed." (37)
"He knew that he would regret in the morning but at present he was glad of the rest, glad of the dark stupor that would cover up his folly." (44)

"Two Gallants"

"Most people considered Lenehan a leech but, in spite of this reputation, his adroitness and eloquence had always prevented his friends from forming any general policy against him." (46)
"In his imagination he beheld the pair of lovers walking along some road; he heard Corley's voice in deep energetic gallantries and saw again the leer of the young woman's mouth. This vision made him feel keenly his own poverty of purse and spirit." (54)
"Experience had embittered his heart against the world." (54)
"Then with a grave gesture he extended a hand towards the light and, smiling, opened it slowly to the gaze of his disciple. A small gold coin shone in the palm." (57)

"The Boarding House"

"Polly was a slim girl of nineteen, she had light soft hair and a small full mouth. Her eyes, which were grey with a shade of green through them, had a habit of glancing upwards when she spoke with anyone, which made her look like a little perverse madonna." (59-60)
"As a young man he had sown his wild oats, of course; he had boasted of his free-thinking and denied the existence of God to his companions in public-houses." (63)
"He longed to ascend through the roof and fly away to another country where he would never hear again of his trouble, and yet a force pushed him downstairs step by step." (65)
"Then she remembered what she had been waiting for." (66)

Section III
Activities for Section III

• Write a new dramatic scene in which Farrington's and Alleyne's ("Counterparts") worst and best characteristics are highlighted. In this scene show whether you think they are true counterparts by "bouncing lines" off each other. For instance, if they are indeed equals, the effect will be like a ping-pong match.
• Create a game for the "Maturity" stories in which the goals of the main characters is to achieve their objectives without being stalled by internal or external forces. Consider the weight of these forces in conflict with the strength of the characters' resolve.
• Retell one of the stories from "Maturity" from the first person viewpoint of a minor character. Consider these questions when constructing your version. What is that character's opinion of the main character's plight. Does that minor character perceive the main character's emotional upheaval?
• Write a script for a talk show focusing on main characters from "A Little Cloud," "Counterparts," and "A Painful Case." Allow your characters to tell their stories and audience members to comment on these characters' plights. Panel members (characters, psychologists, and the talk show host) should also take part in giving advice to each other.
• Organize a class debate in which male-female relationships are discussed. Touch on issues raised in "Maturity": marriage, independence, friendships, and adultery. Prepare arguments for each side based on characters' opinions from Dubliners as well as information gathered in independent research.

Questions for Deeper Understanding

1. Explain the meaning of the titles "Clay" and "Little Cloud." Who are the counterparts in the story "Counterparts"? Cite the text to support your discussion.
2. In the story "Little Cloud," compare and contrast Dublin to the other capitals discussed. What do the characters say about Dublin in comparison to Paris, London, and Berlin? From their comparisons, how would you judge Dublin in comparison to the other three capitals?
3. In the story "Counterparts," why does Joyce make Farrington a large man? How would the story have been different if he had been similar in physique to Little Chandler?
4. In the story "Little Cloud," Little Chandler emphatically insists that Gallaher will get married some day. Why does he defend the institution of marriage so strongly? Is he arguing out of loyalty to his own marriage? Explain.
5. Compare and contrast the concept of romantic love espoused by Gallaher in "Little Cloud" to that espoused by Mr. Duffy in "A Painful Case."
6. What was Mrs. Sinico's cause of death? How is the cause of her death significant? What effect does it have on Mr. Duffy?
7. Why is Maria the constant brunt of "bride" jokes in "Clay"? How do these jibes define her existence?
8. Compare and contrast the male-female relationships in the four stories. Considering that Joyce apparently had a happy marriage himself, why does he paint such a bleak view of marriage in these stories? How does his view of marriage here reflect his view of Dublin?

Quotations for Response


"His body ached to do something, to rush out and revel in violence. All the indignities of his life enraged him. . . .The barometer of his emotional nature was set for a spell of riot." (89)
"I don't think, sir, that that's a fair question to put to me." (89)
"His wife was a little sharp-faced woman who bullied her husband when he was sober and was bullied by him when he was drunk." (96)
"I'll say a Hail Mary for you, pa, if you don't beat me." (97)


"Maria had to laugh and say she didn't want any ring or man either; and when she laughed her grey-green eyes sparkled with disappointed shyness and the tip of her nose nearly met the tip of her chin." (100)
"She felt a soft wet substance with her fingers and was surprised that nobody spoke or took off her bandage." (104)

"A Painful Case"

"He had dismissed his wife so sincerely from his gallery of pleasure that he did not suspect that anyone else would take an interest in her." (110)
"Her companionship was like a warm soil about an exotic. . . .This union exalted him, worn away the rough edges of his character, emotionalised his mental life." (111)
"He thought that in her he would ascend to an angelical stature; and as he attached the fervent nature of his companion more and more closely to him, he heard the strange impersonal voice which he recognized as his own, insisting on the soul's incurable loneliness." (111-112)

Section IV
Activities for Section IV

• Write poems reflecting the jarring nature of each encounter Gabriel has with guests at the party. Concentrate on the tone of each meeting as well as the effect each has on Gabriel. Include some of Joyce's images, and try to achieve the feeling of universality at the end of your series of poems with your concluding poem.
• Create an elegy for Gretta's singer who died young and unknown.
• Write a love song that Gabriel might write for Gretta.
• Professor Harry Levin wrote, "Gabriel Conroy is what Joyce might have become, had he remained in Ireland." (The Portable James Joyce, Penguin Books, p.18) Research Joyce's life and note the parallels between "The Dead" and Joyce's life.

Questions for Deeper Understanding

1. In the story "Ivy Day in the Committee Room," examine how the different characters wear their sprigs of ivy in honor of Parnell. What is revealed by the way they wear their ivy?
2. Compare and contrast the way political committees are illustrated in "Ivy Day in the Committee Room" to the way Joyce describes the concert committee in "Mother." What might Joyce be saying about public organizations in Ireland?
3. What is the significance of the titles for the stories "Grace" and "The Dead"?
4. Considering the literal meaning of the word grace, which of the characters in this story truly understand the meaning of grace?
5. In "Grace" look at the men's discussion of religion and the priest's sermon to the men at the workshop. What is Joyce saying about spiritual paralysis in Ireland?
6. Gabriel's desire for his wife Gretta is rekindled when he sees her leaning against the banister, listening to the tenor's song (221). Why does he wish to paint her in that attitude? How does it reflect his own perspective?
7. When Gretta confides in Gabriel about the young man who died for her love, how does that cause him to look at her in a new way? How does this new way of looking at his wife extend to his view of the world?
8. The snow at the end of "The Dead" takes the story as well as the entire novel to a new level. Discuss the significance and interpretations of the image of snow and the effect it has on the reader, the story, and the novel. Why doesn't Joyce take the story further? How does the snow provide a fitting ending?

Quotations for Response

"Ivy Day"

"Couldn't he have some spark of manhood about him?" (126)
"Some of those hillsiders and fenians are a bit too clever if you ask me. . . .Do you know what my private and candid opinion is about some of those little jokers? I believe half of them are in the pay of the Castle." (126)
"Mr. Crofton said that it was a very fine piece of writing." (138)

"A Mother"

"His conversation, which was serious, took place at intervals in his great brown beard. After the first year of married life Mrs. Kearney perceived that such a man would wear better than a romantic person but she never put her own romantic ideas away." (140)
"She respected her husband in the same way as she respected the General Post Office, as something large, secure, and fixed." (145)
"The poor lady sang Killarney in a bodiless gasping voice, with all the old-fashioned mannerisms of intonation and pronunciation which she believed lent elegance to her singing. She looked as if she had been resurrected from an old stage-wardrobe." (1 51)


"Do you know what, Tom, has just occurred to me? You might join in and we'd have a four-handed reel." (169)
"But one thing only, he said, he would ask of his hearers. And that was: to be straight and manly with God. If their accounts tallied in every point to say:
-Well, I have verified my accounts. I find all well. But if, as might happen, there were some discrepancies, to admit the truth, to be frank and say like a man:
-Well, I have looked into my accounts. I find this wrong and this wrong. But, with God's grace, I will rectify this and this. I will set right my accounts." (181-2)

"The Dead"

"The men that is now is only all palaver and what they can get out of you." (186)

"West Briton!" (199)

"He longed to be master of her strange mood." (229)
"I think he died for me." (232)
"It hardly pained him now to think how poor a part he, her husband, had played in her life." (234)
"One by one they were all becoming shades. Better pass boldly into that other world, in the full glory of some passion, than fade and wither dismally with age." (235)

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