by James Joyce
Dubliners Theme of Family
It takes a village. It really does. And Dublin is not a village in this collection. It's a tough place to raise a kid: if they aren't mistreated by their families, and sometimes outright abused, they are lovesick, ashamed, troubled or controlled by their parents. Sometimes the focus is on the kids themselves, especially in the first stories of Dubliners, and sometimes it's on the parents. Either way, there's dysfunction in Dublin.
Questions About Family
- How many traditional families are there in Dubliners? How many non-traditional ones? Do you think Joyce is trying to point something out with this balance?
- Let's give the Dubliners parents some basic advice. What should they avoid when handling their children? What could they do instead of screaming, beating, or neglecting them?
- Unlike in Little Chandler's case, Joyce doesn't show us Farrington's response or feelings about beating his son. If you added a paragraph to the story to include this, what would it say?
- At what point did Mrs Kearney's parenting skills go out the window? Did she just get caught up in the situation of the concerts, or does the situation reveal a deeper issue in her relationship to her daughter?
Chew on This
After the first three stories, which have children as narrators, very few children speak in the rest of Dubliners, even as minor characters. While the early stories demonstrate the effects of dysfunctional family life by their speaking, the nearly silent children in the remainder of the stories play no less important a role by demonstrating their vulnerability.
The only child who plays a role in the longest story of Dubliners, "The Dead," is actually a dead child. Michael Furey gives the collection's stories of children a haunting end.