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by James Joyce

Dubliners Questions

Bring on the tough stuff - there’s not just one right answer.

  1. Even though Dubliners isn't a novel, do the stories fit together to make a collection with rising action, climax, and denouement? Or is there a different system of organization? Is Dubliners really a single book, or just fifteen completely different tales? 
  2. A lot of the themes of this book (check out our "Themes" section) are major downers. Did you find any excitement or happiness, though? What's the most hopeful story in Dubliners? Was one story more disturbing to you than all the rest? 
  3. The lives of children are an important part of Dubliners. This is especially true in the first three stories, but there are also kids in most of the later stories (think of Farrington's son in "Counterparts" and the mischievous kiddos in "Clay"). Is it really important that all these children are growing up in the city of Dublin, or are their stories pretty much universal coming-of-age tales? 
  4. Not much happens in a lot of the stories in Dubliners. They begin with elaborate descriptions, rather than with concrete facts ("Araby" and "Two Gallants," for example), and then instead of suspense, there's a lot of long conversation ("Ivy Day in the Committee Room" and "Grace," for example). What's the meaning of this? Can you have a good story without action? 
  5. So many characters in these stories want to leave Dublin, but no one ever gets out. Is this just a coincidence? What's holding everybody back? 
  6. Which one of these stories would make the most sense if it took place where you live? Which one wouldn't make any sense at all? 
  7. Joyce's novel, Ulysses, was censored in the United States for over a decade because it was said to be immoral. One of the printers of Dubliners even refused to put some of its stories into print because of their sexual content. Which stories do you think are the most likely to be censored? Do you think they should be? Is this a dirty book, so to speak? 
  8. Some of the characters in Dubliners seem profoundly lonely and isolated, while others get into trouble with and because of their friends. After reading all of the stories, do you think isolation or peer pressure is a worse problem for the characters? Is one or the other more "Dublin" than the other? 
  9. Some of the most confusing passages in these stories have to do with Irish history and politics. Do you think there's a political message here that is still relevant for us today? 
  10. There's a lot of immaturity and stupidity at work in Dubliners, but there's also a lot of sincere emotion. Do they ever go together? Do you ever feel sorry for the immature characters, (you know, the ones like Jimmy Doyle in "After the Race," Eveline, Farrington in "Counterparts," Mrs Kearney in "A Mother," and Mr Kernan in "Grace"? Or do you only get annoyed at how they make their own problems worse with their bad decisions?

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