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Dubliners

Dubliners

by James Joyce

Dubliners Grace Summary

  • Someone's fallen, and he can't get up.
  • We're in a bar, which helps explain the poor guy's total balance fail. It takes three people to carry him back upstairs, and no one in the bar knows who he is.
  • This story's plot gets thick quick.
  • A cop shows up and starts asking questions, but he's not nearly as helpful as a cyclist who stops to help. Brandy does the trick: with a few sips, the guy wakes up.
  • It's pretty clear he's in bad shape, but the man doesn't think he's hurt too bad because he's still intoxicated. Shmoop's not so sure about that logic.
  • Lucky for him, his friend Mr Power shows up to take care of him. 
  • As Mr Power and the cyclist lead the man out of the bar, he thanks the cyclist and says, "y na'e is Kernan." That's not gibberish—just a thick brogue… or is it?
  • Things are looking up, though: "The shock and incipient pain had partly sobered him" (Grace.37). 
  • The man can't tell his story to Mr Power because, get this, he bit off a piece of his tongue during the fall. (So it wasn't his accent, but his injury, that made him sound so weird.) But still, Kernan's not too worried about it. 
  • When he's not drunk and bloodied up, Kernan works as a business traveler, and he's a pretty classy dresser. 
  • Mr Power, though, is even higher up in business, since he works in the Dublin Castle as part of the Royal Irish Constabulary Office, which was Ireland's police force. 
  • On the great ladder of success, Mr Power is going up, and Mr Kernan is falling pretty fast. The only thing keeping him from hitting bottom is a good group of pals. 
  • When Mr Power takes him home, he even comes inside to play with his children. What a guy. Meanwhile, Mrs Kernan puts Mr Kernan to bed. 
  • It's time for a little convo between Mr Power and Mrs Kernan. It wasn't his fault that Mr Kernan got drunk, because Mr Power arrived by coincidence. And she says what is Mr Kernan's fault is that he spends all the family's money on alcohol. 
  • One last nice thing Mr Power does is promise to Mrs Kernan that he'll make Mr Kernan "turn over a new leaf," and that he'll talk to a friend about it (Grace.57).
  • A little backstory on the Kernans: they've been married for 25 years, and even though they renewed their vows recently, she had already started to hate things after about three weeks. Not really a great partnership from the start. They have five children, two of whom are grown up. 
  • Mr Kernan stays home from work the next day, and Mrs Kernan takes care of him like he's a kid with a fever.
  • Since it was all his fault that he can't work, though, she "scolded him roundly" for drinking and getting hurt.
  • His friends visit and stage an intervention, the cast of which includes Mr Power, Mr Cunningham, and Mr M'Coy.
  • Apparently Mr Kernan was a convert to Catholicism but he's hardly been to church since, and even likes to make fun of it. 
  • Cunningham knows what it's like to live with a drunk: his wife is one.
  • Mrs Kernan's not overly religious, but she gives her approval for the intervention, which will consist of a Catholic retreat.
  • M'Coy has had a roundabout life, working lots of different jobs. He works for the Coroner now, and because a coroner investigates deaths, he is "professionally interested in Mr Kernan's case" (Grace.77). That's awkward.
  • The night he got banged up, Mr Kernan tells his friends, he'd been drinking with two friends. One of them he doesn't even remember, but the other is a bloke named Harford. 
  • Cunningham doesn't approve of Harford because he's known as a drunk. He's also a loan shark, which isn't exactly the classiest of occupations. 
  • Mr Power keeps saying "All's well that ends well" during the conversation. It's an allusion to Shakespeare, and it foreshadows the intervention he wants to make. If this retreat can change Mr Kernan, then everything that happened before it—even his injury and his fall—could be seen as worthwhile, or at least not horrendously awful.
  • In the conversation, Mr Kernan tries to hide the grisly details, but Cunningham and Power press him for them and make small, serious side-comments about Kernan's drinking. 
  • They all complain about the police, and Kernan is actually angry, while the others mostly make jokes. 
  • The friends talk about meeting on Thursday, and then tell Mr Kernan all about this spiritual retreat. They invite him to come along, but he gives that question the silent treatment. 
  • The conversation veers toward the topic of the Jesuits, an order or organization of priests that was established in 1540. These are the priests who are organizing the retreat. 
  • (The conversation includes some misinformation about the Jesuit order, so don't use this stuff in your paper for history class, okay?)
  • Mr Cunningham defends the Irish priests against Mr Kernan's insults and say these men are "honoured all the world over" (Grace.167).
  • Trying to add to the topic, Kernan tells everyone that he and Crofton (the same one from "Ivy Day in the Committee Room") once heard a sermon given by the famous Irish priest Father Thomas Burke. 
  • Because Crofton's a Protestant, this gets Mr Power all up in a tizzy. He argues with Kernan that there are strong similarities between the Catholic and Protestant faiths, but Mr Cunningham defends Catholicism as "the religion, the old original faith" (Grace.198).
  • Mr Fogarty comes to visit. He's a grocer, and brings whisky for everyone even though Mr Kernan hasn't paid his bills at his store. Wow, this is more gift-giving in a few pages than in all of Dubliners.
  • They talk about popes, and for this crowd, popes make for very stimulating conversation. Leo XIII was a poet and scholar who wanted to unify the Roman Catholic Church and the Greek Orthodox Church, but it didn't happen. 
  • Mr Kernan asks if any of the popes were bad, and Mr Cunningham admits that some of them were. The really important thing, however, is that they were "infallible" when they preached ex cathedra, or when they performed their duties as pope.
  • Mr Cunningham tells the story of the legendary archbishop of Tuam, John MacHale. (He's not to be confused with legendary Celtics basketball star Kevin McHale, but both of these guys could switch things up pretty fast.)
  • MacHale did not like the idea of papal infallibility one infallible bit, but when the pope himself proclaimed it, he totally changed his mind and said, "Credo!" which is Latin for, "I believe" (Grace.258). 
  • Once again, it's Mr Kernan's turn to try and stay in the game. He tells the group that he once saw John MacHale in a crowd while attending a speech. When MacHale looked at him, Mr Kernan remembers, "It was as much as to say: I have you properly taped, my lad. He had an eye like a hawk." (Grace.268).
  • In some pictures, he has a hand-claw like a hawk, too. 
  • The retreat is on. Mr Kernan agrees, "nervously," to go with his friends (Grace.275).
  • But let's not get ahead of ourselves. The ritual of carrying a lighted candle—which is part of the retreat—bugs Mr Kernan. He says "I draw the line there […] no candles!" (Grace.287). 
  • The story cuts, and picks up at retreat o'clock. 
  • The men sit in a "quincunx," with two in one row, one in the second row, and two in the third row. It looks just like a 2-1-2 zone defense in basketball. In the Catholic Church, a quincunx represents something more serious: the cross and the five wounds of Christ on the cross (Grace.295).
  • The church is full and a lot of familiar faces are there, including Harford and Mr Hendrick, the Freeman reporter from "A Mother." 
  • Mr Kernan has his hat on his knee. It's a classic look for him. 
  • The sermon uses a passage from the biblical Gospel of Luke. The passage advises believers, "the children of light," to become friends with those who are corrupt, "the children of this world" (Grace.297). 
  • The priest says that the passage is "one of the most difficult texts in all the Scriptures," but that is especially important for leaders and businessmen like the ones at the retreat (Grace.298). Basically, he's like, "Don't go to sleep quite yet. I'm just getting started." 
  • The priest says that he acts as the "spiritual accountant" for the men at the retreat. "He wishes each and every one of his hearers to open his books, the books of his spiritual life, and see if they tallied accurately with conscience." (Grace.299) 
  • He goes on to say that Jesus requires "one thing only," and that is to be honest about their "accounts," and "to be straight and manly with God" (Grace.300). 
  • If anything is wrong in the accounts, the important thing is to say, "I will rectify this and this. I will set right my accounts" (Grace.303). It's like balancing your checkbook—except that instead of paying rent, you've got a monthly amount of morality, justice, and righteousness to dole out.

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