Review | Dubliners by James Joyce (4/5)

It’s too late to change things.

Joyce is still bleak.


Ah, almost there! These three stories—“Clay”, “A Painful Case”, and “Ivy Day in the Committee Room”—are about people who have missed their chance.

Chance at what, you ask? Just read and see.


Maria is nice. Her life is nice. On All Hallows Eve, she goes to a dinner party, where they play many games, including the saucer game. Isn’t it nice?

“Clay” is about avoiding conflict. Maria is kind to everyone, and always does what she thinks is nice for everyone else. She sort of sees the world through her own lens.

The story puts a heavy emphasis on marriage and how Maria is too old to get married. The saucer game basically is where a person is blindfolded and has to choose between 4 items: water (long life), prayer book (nunnery), ring (marriage), and clay (death). Maria picks the clay, but it is immediately replaced with a prayerbook.

The family does this because they seem to be maintaining Maria’s lens in which everything in the world is nice. And I think that speaks to the danger of living a sheltered life.

Recommendation: Read. Maria’s story is interesting. You can’t avoid conflict to solve conflict. I almost wish the story forced Maria to face conflict head-on, but it doesn’t.

A Painful Case

Mr. Duffy leads a measured life. No excitement. No surprises. That is, until he meets Mrs. Sinico, a married woman with whom he can talk to easily and love dearly. Afraid of his affection, he leaves her, only to hear of a terribly painful case four years later.

“A Painful Case” is most striking to me Duffy doesn’t dream, unlike the other protagonists. He’s perfectly happy with his boring life, but realizes how much he’s missing out on when he meets Sinico. He actually enjoys himself in her company.

But he’s also afraid of destroying the order of the world. He doesn’t want to break up Sinico’s marriage. He doesn’t want to break up routine…despite the fact that it would make both of them infinitely more happy. And that’s really relatable.

Recommendation: Buy. I think “A Painful Case” is a good reminder of what happens when we let “what ifs” go by. Not only is it detrimental to us, but to people we care about.

Ivy Day in the Committee Room

It’s Ivy Day, the day in celebration of Parnell, a famous nationalist. Men of the nationalist party sit around a room and talk, drink, and complain instead of canvassing for their Nationalist candidate.

This story was just plain boring, simply because it is such a product of the times. And I know, it’s supposed to be a cross-section of the political situation in Ireland at the time but…

…I’m not interested in their politics. There is another side to this story…hypocrisy. The men represent nationalism…and then talk about how Kind Edward is going to save their economy.

…yeah, I’m just not engaged by this story.

Recommendation: Maybe. If you’re into the political history of Ireland, then by all means, read this. But I’m going to take a pass.

Other Dubliners Reviews:
Part 1: The Sisters, An Encounter, Araby
Part 2: Eveline, After The Race, Two Gallants
Part 3: The Boarding House, A Little Cloud, Two Gallants


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