Review | Dubliners by James Joyce (3/5)

There’s only one way to be satisfied with dreams. Don’t have them.

Dang, Joyce is depressing.


The theme in the next three stories in Dubliners is the idea that expectations are thwarted by monotony, by the commonplace. Super depressing, right?

The Boarding House

Mrs. Mooney runs a boarding house, keeping her daughter, Polly, around to the draw in male customers. When news gets around that Polly had an affair with one Bob Doran, what will Mrs. Mooney do?

There’s an air of calculation in “The Boarding House”. Mrs. Mooney plans how to confront Doran in such a way to force him to marry Polly, meanwhile Doran ponders his reputation regarding the subject.

The whole story is about the transaction of marriage, how it saves reputation and impoverished circumstance. In this case, the ruined dream is that of marriage for love. Polly herself doesn’t even know why she’s excited at the prospect of marrying Doran.

Recommendation: Read. I just find this story to be the least compelling of the anthology, mostly because I expected what was going to happen. Hard to put a twist on something when i already know what the twist is.

A Little Cloud

Little Chandler meets his childhood friend, Gallagher in a bar, who is visiting from his life in London where he works as a journalist. Chandler fantasizes about becoming famous Irish poet, basing his dreams on the wild stories of women and France from Gallagher. When he returns home, he is lost in his life with his wife and child.

I have a special kind of hatred for Little Chandler. He sees the world through his own little romanticized filter, without any regard for how to actual make those dreams a reality. Chandler doesn’t take action—he fantasizes until he’s upset that life doesn’t change. And that’s rather flawed logic.

Funnily enough, I can actually identify with Chandler. As an avid reader, aspiring writer, and blogger, I know what it feels like to want my writing to be read and appreciated. The thing with Chandler is that he misplaces the blame on his boring life than on his own inaction. Why not read to your wife and child? Why not try writing something?

Recommendation: Read. While I find Chandler’s predicament more compelling than in “The Boarding House”, I think the story is a little too…easy to beg a reread.


Farrington is bored with his job as a copy clerk. Not to mention he sucks at his job. Sneaking out of work to go to a pub, he gets verbally abused by his boss upon his return. He returns to the pub only to be proven even more inept by losing to an arm wrestle with a younger man and his failed advances on a beautiful young woman. Finally, he returns home, the only place where he can assert his authority.

This story reminds me of Barney Stinson’s chain of screaming from HIMYM. To be honest the ending was more shocking because he had a family, not the fact that he was abusive to his own son. Not to say that the violence wasn’t horrifying. Because, believe me, it was.

What’s interesting here is that where Chandler has his head way up in the clouds, Farrington is stuck so far into monotony of his life, it just builds up—so, once again, we’re looking at a protagonist who suffers from inaction. I think in combination Joyce is trying to say we need a healthy balance of both dreaming and keeping our feet on the ground.

Recommendation: Read. I’m just a little too irritated with Farrington’s inaction and misdirected frustration to really get into this story. Like the other two in this section, it’s just too easy to see what’s wrong in their lives.

The question at the end of each story is how will they act now, and in terms of the stories, there’s only one answer: Just as they always have been. Sure, their lost and frustrated, but there’s no real indication that they’re going to move on.

And that’s frustrating for me.

Other Dubliners Reviews:
Part 1: The Sisters, An Encounter, Araby
Part 2: Eveline, After The Race, Two Gallants


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