Review | Dubliners by James Joyce (1/5)

Your dreams are ridiculous. And that sucks.

Thanks for the motivation, Joyce.


I’m doing something a little different with this anthology of short stories. I’m doing mini reviews on each individual story, with a recommendation for each. (This might seem odd with the recommendation of “buy” for a short story, but hey, that’s how this is going to work.) Because of this, the review has been divided into parts, each containing 3 stories.

The basis of Dubliners is that Joyce is taking familiar romanticized stories, and turning them one their head. His style is considered “scrupulous meanness”, meaning his syntax and diction are on point. Words aren’t wasted.

It’s actually fortunate that I’m reviewing the anthology this way, as each set has a sort of overarching idea to go with it. In this case, its the naive first person narrative.

The Sisters

At the funeral of our young narrator’s good friend, Father Flynn, the late priest’s sisters discuss the manner of his death. Or rather, the economics of it.

The lack of grief in this story is rather striking. There is no crying, and not even the protag seems to be sad that one of his good friends died. He’s quite passive during the whole ordeal. For most of the other characters, the priest’s death is less of an emotional ordeal because the priest is revealed to be going insane.

It hard to say whether or not the protag understands this by the end of the story (he seems rather thick-headed about the whole thing). He’s very uncomfortable with the idea of death.

This story is also supposed give hints as to how to read Dubliners. Joyce clearly highlights three words: paralysis, gnomon (something missing/hidden), and simony (corruption). Here, paralysis seems to represent the death of the priest. Gnomon is the skirt-about manner of his death and madness, and simony is the fact that this priest is going insane.

Recommendation: Read. The Sisters is a good introduction to the mind of Joyce. Read it to get a feel for what you’re getting into.

An Encounter

Inspired by their favourite wild west stories, two boys decide to skip school for a day. On their excursion, they meet an old man, who gives their adventure a rather dark twist.

Until the old man comes around, this story is pretty slow. The boys are simply running around, rather aimlessly, until they encounter the old man. That’s when things get really disturbing.

This man is super creepy. Obviously pedophilic, this dude is first kindly and then violent(ly passionate). He symbolizes the dangers of seeking adventure.

Recommendation: Read. An Encounter is that creepy story you tell kids so they don’t run off on you…that’s actually believable and does happen.


Utterly in love with his friend Mangan’s elder sister, the protagonist goes to Araby for her sake. Araby is an oriental fair, and the protag intends to show off his common love of the orient with Mangan’s sister, only to be disappointed as the night drags on.

I really do love the way that Joyce writes the romanticized fantasies of the young boy. They’re relatable and understandable. The waiting and longing—followed vast disappointment and anger is natural progression to follow in the story. It’s a realistic and relatable destruction of dreams, and the frustration that goes along with it.

Recommendation: Buy. Araby is one of my favourite stories in this anthology. Definitely read this one.


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