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Dubliners | Study Guide

James Joyce

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Course Hero. "Dubliners Study Guide." December 28, 2016. Accessed June 7, 2023.


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Brief Plot Summary

Course Hero Literature Instructor Russell Jaffe explains the plot summary of James Joyce's short story collection Dubliners.

Dubliners | Plot Summary



Dubliners is a collection of short stories, and while the book has no centralized plot, the stories are organized in a way that mirrors the progression through life's stages. The first three stories are about childhood. "Eveline," "After the Race," "Two Gallants," and "The Boarding House" focus on unmarried young adults, in their late teens through early thirties. "A Little Cloud" and "Counterparts" feature main characters entrenched in adulthood; both protagonists are family men with unsatisfying jobs. The remaining stories focus on characters in early to late middle-age, some with more settled lives than others.

The Sisters

In "The Sisters," a young boy learns of the death of Father Flynn, a priest he has befriended. Neighbors comment on the priest's odd behavior, but the boy is both grieved and curious in response to Father Flynn's death. He and his aunt visit Father Flynn's sisters who now wonder what they will do without the responsibility of caring for their brother.

An Encounter

In "An Encounter," an adventure-obsessed narrator and his friend Mahony skip school to explore Dublin and enjoy a day of freedom. The day goes well for them until they encounter an old man in a field near the edge of the city. Their meeting starts pleasantly enough, but the old man's repetitive talk about sweethearts and corporal punishment quickly makes the boys uneasy.


In "Araby," a boy suffers from an all-consuming crush on a neighborhood girl. He is afraid to talk to her, but thinks about her constantly. When she speaks to him, she asks if he is going to a bazaar called Araby, and the boy promises to bring back a gift. After a series of delays, he gets to the bazaar as it is closing and can find nothing to buy. He realizes that impressing the girl is a hopeless cause.


In "Eveline," a young woman named Eveline lives alone with her abusive father after her mother dies and her brothers are gone. She works an unsatisfying job in retail, but she meets a man named Frank, with whom she becomes romantically involved. Frank wants Eveline to elope with him to Buenos Ayres [sic], but Eveline has second thoughts at the last minute.

After the Race

In "After the Race," a young man named Jimmy becomes part of a group of international acquaintances from France, the United States, Canada, and Hungary. Jimmy's family is well off, but his new friends are wealthy on a much larger scale. Only after he loses a large sum in a card game with them does Jimmy begin to realize that they may be out of his league.

Two Gallants

In "Two Gallants," two men in their early 30s, Corley and Lenehan, try to live like much younger men. Lacking steady work, they spend their days drinking and looking for easy access to women. Corley tells Lenehan about his experiences womanizing housemaids, and reveals a plan to have his current girl steal from her employer for him. Lenehan wonders if he might prefer to settle down.

The Boarding House

In "The Boarding House," a man in his thirties named Bob Doran has an affair with Polly, the much younger daughter of his landlady, Mrs. Mooney. Fearing he might lose his job and destroy Polly's reputation if word of the affair gets out, Mr. Doran reluctantly caves to Mrs. Mooney's pressure to marry Polly.

A Little Cloud

In "A Little Cloud," Little Chandler questions his life choices—including a good job, a wife, and a child—when he reunites with his old friend Gallaher, who has become a reporter in London. Gallaher describes his adventures with women and travel to Chandler, who fantasizes about living a similar life and becoming a poet. When he gets home, Chandler comes to feel remorse for resenting his family.


In "Counterparts," a man named Farrington works as a clerk in a law office, but his boss repeatedly scolds him for shoddy work, exacerbated by Farrington's habit of sneaking out during the work day to drink. After a particularly bad day, Farrington goes on a pub crawl with his friends, but becomes more irritable as the night wears on, culminating in his defeat in an arm-wrestling match. When Farrington goes home, he beats his son because dinner is not waiting for him and the kitchen fire is out.


In "Clay," a laundry worker named Maria attends a Hallow Eve party at the home of a man she nursed as a child. She buys cake to give her hosts as a gift and is distraught when she finds she left it behind on the tram. Another bad omen emerges when Maria draws a lump of clay, associated with death, in a party game.

A Painful Case

In "A Painful Case," Mr. Duffy, a bachelor, forms a close friendship with a married woman, Mrs. Sinico. When Mrs. Sinico indicates she wants more from Mr. Duffy than friendship, their relationship ends. Four years later, Mr. Duffy reads a newspaper article reporting that Mrs. Sinico has been hit and killed by a train. He learns of her decline into alcoholism and feels guilty for ending their association and condemning her to a life of crushing loneliness.

Ivy Day in the Committee Room

In "Ivy Day in the Committee Room," workers on a city campaign gather at the end of the workday to share stories of canvassing and their opinions about their candidate's position on Nationalist issues. The workers are divided in their opinion about the King of England's upcoming visit to Dublin, and, to varying degrees, about Nationalism. A poem about Charles Parnell, an advocate for Irish home rule, brings them together in respect for the man's memory for a brief moment.

A Mother

In "A Mother," Mrs. Kearney makes arrangements for her daughter to perform as an accompanist in a four-concert series sponsored by a Nationalist arts society. When one of the concerts is cancelled due to poor attendance, Mrs. Kearney demands the society adhere to the contract and pay her daughter anyway. Her insistence on payment and her argument with the society's secretary ends her daughter's musical career.


In "Grace," Tom Kernan's heavy drinking causes him to fall down some stairs in a pub and hurt himself badly. A respectable businessman who has gone into decline, Mr. Kernan still has powerful and respected friends who want to help him. They arrange to go to a church service together in the hope that the power of God will help Mr. Kernan to stop drinking.

The Dead

In "The Dead," Gabriel Conroy attends his aunts' annual Christmas ball with his wife. He has an awkward conversation with the housemaid in an attempt to be friendly and a harsh disagreement with one of the guests, who questions his patriotism. These events make him nervous about a speech he is to give after dinner, but the speech goes well. Later, when he and his wife are in their hotel room, he discovers his wife had a sweetheart who died before she met Gabriel. This story and the other events of the evening lead Gabriel to question his own mortality and sense of worth.

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