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Dubliners | Study Guide

James Joyce

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Dubliners | Discussion Questions 11 - 20


Why does Eveline's story begin with memories of her neighborhood when she was a child in "Eveline" in Dubliners?

Eveline is contemplating whether to leave Dublin, which makes her nostalgic for better times in her life. She may even be delving deep into her memories in order to find a happy one that will prompt her to stay. In her childhood she played freely in a nearby field with the other neighborhood kids, her mother was healthy, and her father was less violent than he is now. However, the field is gone and new houses have been constructed in its place, a change so profound it might provide incentive for Eveline to change herself and go with Frank. The neighborhood reflects the inevitability of change, but Eveline chooses to focus instead on the past. This pattern will repeat at the end of the story when Eveline again chooses to focus on what is comfortable and known to her from her past—her father, her job, her familiar surroundings. She chooses familiar experiences, even though they are unsatisfying, rather than brave an uncertain future. Eveline, like many of the characters in Dubliners, is defined by her fear.

How is Eveline's identity defined by her fears in "Eveline" in Dubliners?

Eveline's entire existence is based on fear. The reader learns almost nothing about her that is not based on her fears. If she likes anything or has any hobbies or interests, those preferences are not presented as part of her personality. She fears her father's violent behavior will cause him to beat her, although he has not yet done so. She fears her father not giving her grocery money in time for her to complete the shopping on Saturday nights. She fears being reprimanded by her supervisor at the store where she works. She also fears becoming like her mother, trapped in a bad marriage and slowly losing her mind. These are the fears that prompt her to make plans with Frank to leave the country. However, as much as she fears these things, she fears the unknown even more. She fears finding herself on a ship bound for another country, unable to turn back. She fears leaving what she knows and what is familiar. With all of these fears roiling around inside her, there is very little of Eveline left to know in the story.

In what ways is Eveline's decision to remain in Dublin a good one or a bad one in "Eveline" in Dubliners?

Eveline's memories of her childhood are positive. But all the people from her past, including her brothers, are either dead or have moved away. She knows little about her own home or her family history. Her job is humiliating, and she cannot afford to quit. She lives in fear of a father who was violent with her brothers and who is stingy with her, making it nearly impossible for her to run their small household with two young children. Being married and having children would bring her a respectable social status, but Frank has not proposed. He has walked her home, taken her to the movies, given her a nickname, sung her songs, and told her stories. He says he has made a life for himself in Buenos Ayres [sic] and that he has come home just for the holidays. When she meets him at the station, he is glad to see her, and they have booked a passage, but beyond that, her life away from Ireland is entirely unknown. Frank promises her a home and a marriage, but the story contains no evidence about his career beyond being a sailor. It is not clear whether he will be able to provide her with a stable income, and there is a possibility Eveline might be left at home in an unfamiliar city while he is away on a ship. Such a life is explored in the character of Mrs. Sinico in "A Painful Case" whose husband is always away on his merchant ship, while she suffers at home from crushing loneliness that ultimately leads to her death. Eveline also has a weak model for marriage in her own family. She knows her father was abusive toward her mother. She also knows her father's abuse eventually drove her mother to insanity and death. Such an example provides Eveline with little incentive to commit to marrying anyone. Eveline's instinct that Frank "would drown her" indicates she fears entwining her life with a man's the way her mother entwined with her father.

How does "After the Race" in Dubliners expose a problematic relationship between Ireland and the rest of the world?

Each of the men in "After the Race" might read as a symbol of his home country. The Frenchman, the Englishman, and the American are all fabulously wealthy, as are their home countries. The Canadian is also very well off. The Irishman, Jimmy, has some wealth, but not on the same scale as his comrades. Jimmy recognizes the importance of having good relations with these other men of the world, just as James Joyce advocated for Ireland to cultivate good relations with Europe and the rest of the world. At the same time, Jimmy is not as sophisticated or wealthy as his compatriots, and he gets into trouble quickly as a result of his overreach. This trouble is both financial and political. He nearly causes trouble at dinner when he repeats his father's nationalistic speeches while drunk, not knowing much of what he is saying or the impression it has on the Englishman at the table. Later, while playing cards, he overextends himself and possibly ruins his chances of investing in the auto business. While good international relations are useful and beneficial, it is vital to know one's own limitations, as an individual or as a country. If "After the Race" is a kind of allegory for Ireland seeking a place in the world at large, the story also cautions against trying to do too much too quickly before the country is ready to build those international relations as well as moderating its virulent political stance.

How does Jimmy's family life contribute to his massive loss of money at the end of "After the Race" in Dubliners?

Jimmy's father has been a very successful entrepreneur in Dublin. Starting with one butcher shop, he has expanded to open other shops around the city and gotten contracts to feed the police department. The newspapers call him "a merchant prince." He sends Jimmy to distinguished colleges, including Cambridge University, even though Jimmy is not an especially serious student. His father indulges Jimmy's behavior, "remonstrative, but covertly proud of the excess." He pays for Jimmy's experiences and does not make a concerted effort to discipline him or press him to work harder. These indulgences have made Jimmy feel entitled to evenings such as the one he spends after the race. He enters into a card game and loses a great deal of money, and while he feels somewhat bad about the loss, past experience has shown him his father will bail him out. Furthermore, his father has actively encouraged Jimmy's association with Charles Ségouin and the others, believing there is benefit in knowing such people. This is probably true, but Jimmy's attempts to ingratiate himself with the group have only led to an extreme hangover and a pile of IOU's.

What is ironic about the title "Two Gallants" in Dubliners?

The word gallant describes a person who is brave or noble, as well as polite and attentive to women. It is a term that calls to mind an image of a handsome knight or Prince Charming–type. The characters in "Two Gallants" are an example of dramatic irony in which the reader is aware of something the characters are unaware of. Corley and Lenehan are the opposite of the definition of gallant, though they behave like two young dandies. As described in the story, Lenehan is dumpy and balding, and Corley is a brutish sort. Their attitude toward women is based almost entirely on what those women can do for them. Both men complain about dating women in the conventional way that involves paying for outings and gifts and getting nothing in return, by which they mean these women will not have sex with them. Corley has discovered that dating low-ranking house servants gives him access to sex with a woman who also buys things for him. At the end of the story, he even convinces a woman to steal from her employers and risk her job, or worse, for his benefit.

How does Corley's girl indicate her devotion to him before she steals the coin for him in "Two Gallants" in Dubliners?

When Corley goes to meet the woman he is seeing, she is dressed in her "Sunday finery." She wears a belt that accentuates her waist, a jacket with mother of pearl buttons, and a feather boa. She has pinned flowers to her collar. None of her clothes are new; the boa is "ragged." It is unlikely she makes much money, but she has purchased flowers to wear on this date. Clearly, she has taken pains with her appearance before meeting Corley and wants to impress him. Her body language toward him also indicates her feelings toward him. She bends her head and laughs in flirtation when he stands close to her, and she turns on her heels as if dancing while they speak. The footwork shows she is excited to see him, and the head bending and laughing show she wants him to think she is ladylike in another attempt to impress him.

What does "Two Gallants" reveal about the lives of working-class women in Dubliners?

The women in "Two Gallants" may actually be slightly below working class, and their economic position makes them vulnerable to the attentions of men such as Corley and Lenehan. The housemaid Corley is seeing likely has few opportunities to meet men, as her work limits contact outside her employer's house as well as her free time. Lenehan speculates the maid might want to marry Corley. While Corley believes he has put her off that idea, the fact remains that marriage would allow this woman an alternative to the hard labor of a low-ranking servant commonly known as a "slavey." She must be hoping for something from Corley to take the risk for stealing from her employers for him. Corley and Lenehan also talk about a girl Corley slept with in the past who is now "on the turf." The turn of phrase and the use of the word "turf" imply that she has fallen and has metaphorically hit the ground. It may even mean she has become a prostitute, as Corley has seen the woman out with two men in a car, which shows that once a woman has a reputation for sleeping with a man, she has nowhere to go but down.

What makes Mrs. Mooney in "The Boarding House" different from other women in Dubliners?

Many of the other women in Dubliners, such as Farrington's wife in "Counterparts" and Tom Kernan's wife in "Grace," tolerate their husbands' heavy drinking. Like Mr. Mooney, Tom Kernan in "Grace" has nearly ruined his business, but his wife stays with him. Not so with Mrs. Mooney. When her husband is no longer useful and is more devoted to drink than to her, she gets a separation order from the priest and leaves him. She is the only woman in all of Dubliners who leaves her husband, and it is an extraordinary thing to do. Even with the priest's sanction, she must face social censure for leaving her marriage. Also unlike the other women in Dubliners, Mrs. Mooney has a little money of her own, which gives her the option to leave her husband and open her boarding house. The money gives her a level of flexibility not available to other women who might like to get out of their marriages, and the confidence and fortitude she displays in her interaction with Mr. Doran shows how she had the personal strength to change her life.

What evidence in "The Boarding House" indicates that Mrs. Mooney's plan all along was to marry Polly Mooney to one of her boarders in Dubliners?

Although Mrs. Mooney attempts to send Polly to work in an office, she brings her home because Mr. Mooney is bothering Polly at work. Mrs. Mooney could have simply placed Polly in another office job, but she decides to put Polly to work in the boarding house instead. She encourages Polly to flirt with the male tenants. While the flirting makes the men happy and comfortable, it also gives Polly a chance to form a relationship with one of them. Mrs. Mooney watches them and concludes "none of them meant business." This phrasing shows that Mrs. Mooney is on the lookout for one of Polly's relationships with the tenants to become serious. She even thinks about sending Polly back to typing because she seems to be making no progress with any of the tenants, so the clear intention is for something to happen between Polly and one of these men.

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