Study Guide

Dubliners Disappointment

By James Joyce


Disappointment in Dubliners is all about the painful experience of finding out that what you thought was possible was nothing but a pipe dream. If you're lucky, you get over it. Not so much for these Dubliners. They find out that their wives have had other lovers, that the business world can be flaky and mean, and that their own families don't always have their best interests at heart, and that yelling at a baby never got anyone anywhere. If you're looking for contentment and satisfaction, trust Shmoop when we say you are barking up the wrong book.

Questions About Disappointment

  1. Is disappointment something that happens all of a sudden, or can you sometimes see it coming? 
  2. Can the reader see it coming before the character? 
  3.  If the anticipation is bigger, is the disappointment stronger in Dubliners
  4. Joyce writes that Mr Duffy's eyes reveal his disappointment with other people not meeting his expectations? What do you think that actually looks like? And do you think that's the only kind of disappointment Mr Duffy feels? Do any of the characters in the other stories experience a similar kind of disappointment?

Chew on This

One of the strangest things about disappointment in Dubliners is that characters often experience it in very original ways. The narrators of "An Encounter" and "Araby," for example, feel shame and self-hatred at moments when we might expect them to feel relief and shock or heartache and anger.

It's not really fair, but disappointment is an essential part of growing up. It's no coincidence that Dubliners is a book organized in part by the age of its main characters.