Dubliners: an Introspection in the Stories Essay
Dubliners: an Introspection in the Stories
“The Sisters” narrator – The reserved and contemplative boy who deals with the death of his friend, Father Flynn. The narrator avoids showing outward emotions to his family members, but he devotes his thoughts to the priest’s memory. Others in the story see the narrator’s relationship with the priest as inappropriate and exploitative, and the narrator himself seems unsure of what the priest meant to him. Father Flynn – The priest who dies in “The Sisters.” Father Flynn’s ambiguous presence in the story as a potential child molester initiates a book-long critique of religious leaders, consistently portraying them as incompetent. Old Cotter – The family friend in “The Sisters” who informs the narrator of Father Flynn’s death. Old Cotter voices concern about the priest’s intentions with the narrator, but he avoids making any direct statements.
“An Encounter” narrator – The young boy who endures an awkward conversation with a perverted old man while skipping school. Bored with the drudgery of lessons, the narrator dreams of escape. When imaginary games fail to fulfill his yearning for adventure, he embarks on a real one with his friend Mahony by skipping school and spending the day in Dublin, only to encounter fear.
“Araby” narrator – The amorous boy who devotes himself to his neighbor Mangan’s sister. Images and thoughts of the girl subsume the narrator’s days, but when he finally speaks to her it is brief and awkward. When Mangan’s sister tells the narrator about a bazaar called Araby, the narrator decides to go there and buy something for her. However, he arrives at the bazaar too late and buys nothing. The narrator illustrates the joys and frustrations of young love. His inability to pursue his desires angers him. Mangan’s sister – The love interest in “Araby.” Mangan’s sister mentions the Araby bazaar to the narrator, prompting him to travel there. She suggests the familiarity of Dublin, as well as the hope of love and the exotic appeal of new places.
Eveline – The protagonist of the story that shares her name. Eveline makes a bold and exciting decision to elope to Argentina with her lover, Frank, but ultimately shrinks away from it, excluding herself from love. Her constant review of the pros and cons of her decision demonstrates her willingness to please everyone but herself, and her final resolve to stay in Dublin with her family casts her as a woman trapped in domestic and familiar duties and afraid to embrace the unpredictable.
“After the Race”
Jimmy Doyle – The upwardly mobile protagonist of “After the Race.” Infatuated with the prestige of his friends and giddy about his inclusion in such high-society circles, Jimmy conducts a life of facile whims and excessive expenditure.
“A Little Cloud”
Gallaher – Little Chandler’s old friend who visits Dublin in “A Little Cloud.” For Little Chandler, Gallaher represents all that is enticing and desirable: success in England, a writing career, foreign travel, and laid-back ease with women. His gruff manners and forthright behavior contrast with Little Chandler’s delicacy. Little Chandler – The unhappy and fastidious clerk who reunites with his friend Gallaher in “A Little Cloud.” Little Chandler’s physical attributes match his name—he is small, fragile, and delicately groomed. His tendency to suppress his poetic desires suggests that he also earns his title by living quietly and without passion. He fleetingly rebels against his domestic life after hearing about Gallaher’s exciting life, then shamefully re-embraces it.
“A Painful Case”
Mr. Duffy – A solitary and obsessive man who eschews intimacy with Mrs. Sinico in “A Painful Case.” Disdainful of excess and tightly self-regulated, Mr. Duffy lives according to mundane routine, and when a relationship evolves beyond his comfort level, he squelches it. His remorse over Mrs. Sinico’s death makes him realize that his pursuit of order and control has led only to loneliness. He is one of the most tragic protagonists of Dubliners. Mrs. Sinico – Mr. Duffy’s companion in “A Painful Case.” After being shunned by him, Mrs. Sinico becomes an alcoholic and dies when she is hit by a train. She once grasped Mr. Duffy’s hand and held it to her cheek, and this small, affectionate gesture led to the end of their relationship.
Mrs. Kearney – The commanding protagonist of “A Mother.” One of the four female protagonists in Dubliners, Mrs. Kearney is ambitious but also haughty. She orchestrates her daughter’s upbringing as an exemplary proponent of Irish culture and poise, but she has trouble dealing with Dubliners of different backgrounds and any challenges to her authority. Mr. Holohan – The befuddled secretary who organizes the musical concerts in “A Mother.” Mr. Holohan is the subject of Mrs. Kearney’s abuse, and though he remains quiet throughout the story, he is the only character who resists and counters her critiques.
Gabriel Conroy – The protagonist from “The Dead.” A university-educated teacher and writer, Gabriel struggles with simple social situations and conversations, and straightforward questions catch him off guard. He feels out of place due to his highbrow literary endeavors. His aunts, Julia and Kate Morkan, turn to him to perform the traditionally male activities of carving the goose and delivering a speech at their annual celebration. Gabriel represents a force of control in the story, but his wife Gretta’s fond and sad recollections of a former devoted lover make him realize he has little grasp on his life and that his marriage lacks true love. Gretta Conroy – Gabriel’s wife in “The Dead.” Gretta plays a relatively minor role for most of the story, until the conclusion where she is the focus of Gabriel’s thoughts and actions. She appears mournful and distant when a special song is sung at the party, and she later plunges into despair when she tells Gabriel the story of her childhood love, Michael Furey.
Her pure intentions and loyalty to this boy unnerve Gabriel and generate his despairing thoughts about life and death. Lily – The housemaid to the Morkan sisters who rebukes Gabriel in “The Dead.” Molly Ivors – The nationalist woman who teases Gabriel during a dance in “The Dead.” Julia Morkan – One of the aging sisters who throw an annual dance party in “The Dead.” Julia has a grey and sullen appearance that combines with her remote, wandering behavior to make her a figure sapped of life. Kate Morkan – One of the aging sisters who throw an annual dance party in “The Dead.” Kate is vivacious but constantly worries about her sister, Julia, and the happiness of the guests. Michael Furey – Gretta Conroy’s childhood love in “The Dead” who died for her long ago.
ANALYSIS OF MAJOR CHARACTERS
Torn between two extreme options—unhappy domesticity or a dramatic escape to Argentina for marriage—Eveline has no possibility of a moderately content life. Her dilemma does not illustrate indecisiveness but rather the lack of options for someone in her position. On the docks, when she must make a choice once and for all, Eveline remembers her promise to her mother to keep the family together. So close to escape, Eveline revises her view of her life at home, remembering the small kindnesses: her father’s caring for her when she was sick, a family picnic before her mother died. These memories overshadow the reality of her abusive father and deadening job, and her sudden certainty comes as an epiphany—she must remain with what is familiar. When faced with the clear choice between happiness and unhappiness, Eveline chooses unhappiness, which frightens her less than her intense emotions for Frank.
Eveline’s nagging sense of family duty stems from her fear of love and an unknown life abroad, and her decision to stay in Dublin renders her as just another figure in the crowd of Dubliners watching lovers and friends depart the city. Eveline holds an important place in the overall narrative of Dubliners. Her story is the first in the collection that uses third-person narration, the first in the collection to focus on a female protagonist, and the only one in the collection that takes a character’s name as the title.
Eveline is also the first central adult character. For all of these reasons, she marks a crucial transition in the collection: Eveline in many ways is just another Dubliner, but she also broadens the perspective of Dubliners. Her story, rather than being limited by the first-person narration of earlier stories, suggests something about the hardships and limitations of women in early twentieth-century Dublin in general. Eveline’s tortured decision about her life also sets a tone of restraint and fear that resonates in many of the later stories. Other female characters in Dubliners explore different harsh conditions of life in Dublin, but Eveline, in facing and rejecting a life-altering decision, remains the most tragic.
Gabriel Conroy, “The Dead”
Gabriel is the last protagonist of Dubliners, and he embodies many of the traits introduced and explored in characters from earlier stories, including short temper, acute class consciousness, social awkwardness, and frustrated love. Gabriel has many faces. To his aging aunts, he is a loving family man, bringing his cheerful presence to the party and performing typically masculine duties such as carving the goose. With other female characters, such as Miss Ivors, Lily the housemaid, and his wife, Gretta, he is less able to forge a connection, and his attempts often become awkward, and even offensive. With Miss Ivors, he stumbles defensively through a conversation about his plans to go on a cycling tour, and he offends Lily when he teases her about having a boyfriend. Gretta inspires fondness and tenderness in him, but he primarily feels mastery over her. Such qualities do not make Gabriel sympathetic, but rather make him an example of a man whose inner life struggles to keep pace with and adjust to the world around him.
The Morkans’ party exposes Gabriel as a social performer. He carefully reviews his thoughts and words, and he flounders in situations where he cannot predict another person’s feelings. Gabriel’s unease with unbridled feeling is palpable, but he must face his discomfort throughout the story. He illustrates the tense intersection of social isolation and personal confrontation. Gabriel has one moment of spontaneous, honest speech, rare in “The Dead” as well as inDubliners as a whole. When he dances with Miss Ivors, she interrogates him about his plans to travel in countries other than Ireland and asks him why he won’t stay in Ireland and learn more about his own country. Instead of replying with niceties, Gabriel responds, “I’m sick of my own country, sick of it!”
He is the sole character in Dubliners to voice his unhappiness with life in Ireland. While each story implicitly or explicitly connects the characters’ hardships to Dublin, Gabriel pronounces his sentiment clearly and without remorse. This purgative exclamation highlights the symbolism of Gabriel’s name, which he shares with the angel who informed Mary that she would be the mother of Christ in biblical history. Gabriel delivers his own message not only to Miss Ivors but also to himself and to the readers of “The Dead.” He is the unusual character in Dubliners who dwells on his own revelation without suppressing or rejecting it, and who can place himself in a greater perspective. In the final scene of the story, when he intensely contemplates the meaning of his life, Gabriel has a vision not only of his own tedious life but of his role as a human.
The “Araby” narrator’s experience of love moves him from placid youth to elation to frustrated loneliness as he explores the threshold between childhood and adulthood. Like the narrator of “An Encounter,” he yearns to experience new places and things, but he is also like Eveline and other adult characters who grapple with the conflict between everyday life and the promise of love. He wants to see himself as an adult, so he dismisses his distracting schoolwork as “child’s play” and expresses his intense emotions in dramatic, romantic gestures. However, his inability to actively pursue what he desires traps him in a child’s world. His dilemma suggests the hope of youth stymied by the unavoidable realities of Dublin life. The “Araby” narrator is the last of the first-person narrators in Dubliners, all of whom are young boys.
Subject: James Joyce,
University/College: University of California
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 14 February 2017
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