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Dubliners | Study Guide

James Joyce

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Dubliners | Quotes


The word paralysis ... It filled me with fear, and yet I longed to be nearer to it and to look upon its deadly work.

Child narrator ("The Sisters"), The Sisters

The child narrator learns his friend Father Flynn is dying after having a third stroke, and he has heard the priest is paralyzed. He is fascinated and repelled by this condition. In his own way, the narrator is also paralyzed, standing outside Father Flynn's house with no desire to leave (in fear) or to go see the priest (look upon its deadly work). Spiritual and emotional paralysis are major issues in the collection.


But real adventures, I reflected, do not happen to people who remain at home: they must be sought abroad.

Child narrator ("An Encounter"), An Encounter

The child narrator immerses himself in adventure stories, usually of American origin, but he finds the stories are not sufficient for him. He wants to escape from the rules of school and home, which limit opportunities for adventure, and begin to explore the world around him. His plan in the story is to see more of Dublin, but this statement reflects an ambition to go beyond the city at some point in his life. The quotation also informs decisions made by other characters, such as Eveline or Little Chandler, to remain in Ireland.


The light from the lamp opposite our door caught the white curve of her neck, lit up her hair that rested there and, falling, lit up the hand upon the railing.

Child narrator ("Araby"), Araby

The child narrator's interest in Mangan's sister represents his first romantic awakening. His detailed descriptions of her appearance reflect his awareness of her physical form; his awareness is not sexual yet, but hints at that direction. The description of light falling on her gives her an ethereal quality, as if she is beyond his world and his grasp.


All the seas of the world tumbled about her heart. He was drawing her into them: he would drown her. She gripped with both hands at the iron railing.

Narrator, Eveline

As Eveline makes her final decision to stay in Dublin or go with Frank, she is overcome by fear and anxiety. Her thought that Frank will metaphorically drown her reflects a fear that his life and world will overbalance her own, believing she will be unable to survive outside the familiar world—however flawed—that is her own.


Daybreak, gentlemen!

Villona, After the Race

After a night of drinking, talking, and gambling, Jimmy knows he will regret his losses at cards—and other follies of the night—in the morning. When Villona opens the door to the cabin of the yacht where they have been playing and announces daybreak, it signals that Jimmy will have no time for regrets. His mistakes from the night before have already seen the light of day and reality must, by necessity, set in.


I know that game ... and it's a mug's game.

Lenehan, Two Gallants

Corley tells Lenehan about his attempts at "respectable" dating, taking girls out, buying them gifts and dinners, without getting anything—specifically, sex—in return. Lenehan agrees with Corley that the respectable route is for suckers, but this comment contradicts his private thoughts. On his own, Lenehan wonders if he might prefer a wife, a home, and a respectable job to his constant scamming of friends and women.


Then she remembered what she had been waiting for.

Narrator, The Boarding House

While Mrs. Mooney speaks with Mr. Doran, Polly Mooney wipes away her tears and lovingly caresses the scene of her love-making with the young man, both physically and in her reminiscences. She has no conscious sense of wrongdoing, as Mr. Doran had, or of her reputation's ruin—only a vague sense of future happiness.


Every place is immoral.

Gallaher, A Little Cloud

When Little Chandler asks Gallaher if Paris is an immoral city, this statement is Gallaher's response. Gallaher has been to enough places to learn that every location has its vices and its flaws. The implication here is that Dublin is also immoral, though Chandler's question implies some kind of moral high ground for his home.


I'll say a Hail Mary for you, pa, if you don't beat me.

Tom, Counterparts

While Farrington beats his son for the kitchen fire being out, his son begs for mercy and offers a prayer for his father. It is an unusual moment of pathos in an otherwise relentlessly cold and oftentimes cruel collection of stories.


Mamma is mamma but Maria is my proper mother.

Joe, Clay

Joe's description of his childhood relationship with Maria indicates his affection for her, but also some situational irony. If he truly felt this way about her, he might have given her a home himself rather than put her in an institution. He also might listen more respectfully when she asks him to reconcile with his brother. It is clear that Joe, like many others in the story, does not respect Maria because of her diminutive stature and status as a fallen woman.


No one wanted him; he was outcast from life's feast.

Narrator, A Painful Case

Early in "A Painful Case," Mr. Duffy seems to be satisfied with his solitary life. Only after he copes with the loss and death of Mrs. Sinico does he begin to understand how disconnected he is from other people. He sees couples in the park and understands he will never be like them and his chance to have that connection—with Mrs. Sinico—has been lost forever.


This is Parnell's anniversary ... and don't let us stir up any bad blood. We all respect him now that he's dead and gone—even the Conservatives.

Mr. O'Connor, Ivy Day in the Committee Room

The campaign workers in the committee room argue over a number of points, even Parnell's fall from political life. O'Connor reminds them that Ivy Day is meant to unite all who love Ireland in commemorating Parnell, even if the details of their political views are different.


Anyway, if it's not your business it's my business and I mean to see to it.

Mrs. Kearney, A Mother

In one sentence, Mrs. Kearney shows how both sides of the argument over her daughter Kathleen's contract are wrong. Mr. Holohan engages in a cowardly attempt to dodge the awkward conversation by saying a contract he created is not his business. Mrs. Kearney responds with aggression and anger, which is equally unproductive to negotiations.


Wherefore make unto yourselves friends out of the mammon of iniquity so that when you die they may receive you into everlasting dwellings.

Father Purdon, Grace

In the verse Father Purdon has chosen for his sermon, he succinctly describes the group of friends that have brought Tom Kernan to the service. They have come to Kernan based on his own iniquity, his drinking, but they are the friends who are guiding him toward salvation.


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.

Narrator, The Dead

In Gabriel Conroy's thoughts he compares himself to Michael Furey, who risked death for love and died young, but he died with passion and glory rather than fade away. Gabriel, aging and feeling unsteady in his identity on this night, feels he is fading away along with everyone he loves.

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