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by James Joyce

Dubliners Theme of Freedom and Confinement

Trying to find a way out of some situation or country or relationship motivates so many characters that the collection could have been titled, Wannabe Ex-Dubliners. (Hmm, Joyce must have preferred the ring of Dubliners.) In several cases, the desire to ditch Dublin is literal—folks want to flee to London, Buenos Aires, continental Europe, you name it. But in each of these cases, the desire for freedom and the confinement that prevents it has something deeper lurking behind, something more psychological than simply not having the dough to get out.

Questions About Freedom and Confinement

  1. What if one of these characters actually did escape Dublin? Based on what you know about them, how would someone like Eveline handle Buenos Aires? 
  2. If you had to convince Little Chandler to stop dreaming about London, how would you do it? 
  3. Confinement makes us think of the slammer (don't mess with Shmoop, we've done our time). 
  4. Who or what locked all of these characters up in solitary?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Technically, no one in Dubliners finds freedom from confinement, but there are several deaths in the stories, which is about the closest thing. Maybe it's better to say that no one gets out alive.

There are also lots of temporary escapes in Dubliners, in particular music, alcohol, and even daydreaming about leaving. Even memory is a way for characters like Gretta Conroy to be removed from their present circumstances. Most of the time the temporary freedom just makes the difficulty of actually getting out feel even worse.

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