Dubliners is a collection of fifteen short stories by James Joyce, first published in 1914.[1] It presents a naturalistic depiction of Irish middle class life in and around Dublin in the early years of the 20th century.

Title page of the first edition in 1914 of Dubliners
AuthorJames Joyce
GenreShort story collection
PublisherGrant Richards Ltd., London
Publication date
June 1914
823/.912 20
LC ClassPR6019.O9 D8 1991
TextDubliners at Wikisource

The stories were written when Irish nationalism was at its peak, and a search for a national identity and purpose was raging; at a crossroads of history and culture, Ireland was jolted by various converging ideas and influences. Joyce felt Irish nationalism, like Catholicism and British rule of Ireland, was responsible for a collective paralysis.[2] He conceived of Dubliners as a "nicely polished looking-glass"[3] held up to the Irish and a "first step towards [their] spiritual liberation".[4]

Joyce's concept of epiphany[5] is exemplified in the moment a character experiences self-understanding or illumination. The first three stories in the collection are narrated by child protagonists, while the subsequent stories are written in the third person and deal with the lives and concerns of progressively older people, in line with Joyce's division of the collection into "childhood, adolescence, maturity, and public life".[6] Many of the characters in Dubliners later appeared in minor roles in Joyce's novel Ulysses.[7]

Publication history


Between 1905, when Joyce first sent a manuscript to a publisher, and 1914, when the book was finally published (on June 15), Joyce submitted the book 18 times to a total of 15 publishers. The London house of Grant Richards agreed to publish it in 1905. Its printer, however, refused to set one of the stories ("Two Gallants"), and Richards then began to press Joyce to remove a number of other passages that he claimed the printer also refused to set. Under protest, Joyce eventually agreed to some of the requested changes, but Richards ended up backing out of the deal anyway. Joyce thereupon resubmitted the manuscript to other publishers, and, about three years later (1909), he found a willing candidate in Maunsel & Roberts of Dublin. A similar controversy developed, and Maunsel too refused to publish the collection, even threatening to sue Joyce for printing costs already incurred. Joyce offered to pay the printing costs himself if the sheets were turned over to him and he was allowed to complete the job elsewhere and distribute the book, but, when he arrived at the printers, they refused to surrender the sheets and burned them the next day, though Joyce managed to save one copy, which he obtained "by ruse". He returned to submitting the manuscript to other publishers, and in 1914 Grant Richards once again agreed to publish the book, using the page proofs saved from Maunsel as copy.[8]

The stories

  • "The Sisters" – After the priest Father Flynn dies, a young boy who was close to him hears some less-than-flattering stories about the father.
  • "An Encounter" – Two schoolboys playing truant encounter a perverted, middle-aged man.
  • "Araby" – A boy falls in love with the sister of his friend, but fails in his quest to buy her a worthy gift from the Araby Bazaar.
  • "Eveline" – A young woman weighs her decision to flee Ireland with a sailor.
  • "After the Race" – College student Jimmy Doyle tries to fit in with his wealthy friends.
  • "Two Gallants" – Lenehan wanders around Dublin to kill time while waiting to hear if his friend, Corley, was able to con a maid out of some money.
  • "The Boarding House" – Mrs Mooney successfully manoeuvres her daughter Polly into an upwardly mobile marriage with her lodger Mr Doran.
  • "A Little Cloud" – Little Chandler's dinner with his old friend Ignatius Gallaher, who left home to become a journalist in London, casts fresh light on his own failed literary dreams.
  • "Counterparts" – Farrington, a lumbering alcoholic scrivener, takes out his frustration in pubs and on his son Tom.
  • "Clay" – Maria, a spinster who works in the kitchen at a large Magdalene laundry, celebrates Halloween with a man she cared for as a child and his family.
  • "A Painful Case" – Mr Duffy rebuffs the advances of his friend Mrs Sinico, and, four years later, discovers he condemned her to loneliness and death.
  • "Ivy Day in the Committee Room" – Several paid canvassers for a minor politician discuss the memory of Charles Stewart Parnell.
  • "A Mother" – To win a place of pride for her daughter Kathleen in the Irish Revival, Mrs. Kearney arranges for the girl to be accompanist at a series of poorly planned concerts, but her efforts backfire.
  • "Grace" – Mr Kernan passes out and falls down the stairs at a bar, so his friends attempt to convince him to come to a Catholic retreat to help him reform.
  • "The Dead" – After a holiday party thrown by his aunts and cousin, Gabriel Conroy's wife, Gretta, tells him about a boyfriend from her youth, and he has an epiphany about life and death and human connection. (At 15–16,000 words, this story has been classified as a novella.)



Besides first-person and third-person narration, Dubliners employs free indirect discourse and shifts in narrative point of view. The collection progresses chronologically, beginning with stories of youth and progressing in age to culminate in "The Dead".[9] Throughout, Joyce can be said to maintain "invisibility", to use his own term for authorial effacement.[10] He wrote the stories "in a style of scrupulous meanness", withholding comment on what is "seen and heard".[11] Dubliners can be seen as a preface to the two novels that will follow,[12] and like them it "seeks a presentation so sharp that comment by the author would be interference".[13]

Joyce's modernist style entailed using dashes for dialogue rather than quotation marks.[14] He asked that they be used in the printed text, but was refused.[15] Dubliners was the only work by Joyce to use quotation marks, but dashes are now substituted in all critical and most popular editions.[16]

The impersonal narration doesn't mean that Joyce is undetectable in Dubliners. There are autobiographical elements and possible versions of Joyce had he not left Dublin.[17] The Dublin he remembers is recreated in the specific geographic details, including road names, buildings, and businesses. Joyce freely admitted that his characters and places were closely based on reality. (Because of these details, at least one potential publisher, Maunsel and Company, rejected the book for fear of libel lawsuits.)[18] Ezra Pound argued that, with the necessary changes, "these stories could be retold of any town", that Joyce "gives us things as they are... for any city", by "getting at the universal element beneath" particulars.[19]

Joyce referred to the collection as "a series of epicleti", alluding to the transubstantiation of bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ.[20] He is said to have "often agreed... that 'imagination is nothing but the working over of what is remembered'".[21] But he used the eucharist as a metaphor, characterizing the artist as "a priest of the eternal imagination, transmuting the daily bread of experience into the radiant body of everliving life".[22]

The theme of Dubliners, “what holds [the stories] together and makes them a book [is] hinted on the first page,” the “paralysis” or “living death” of which Joyce spoke in a letter of 1904.[23][24]

The concept of "epiphany", defined in Stephen Hero as "a sudden spiritual manifestation", has been adapted as a narrative device in five stories in Dubliners, in the form of a character’s self-realization at the end of the narrative. One critic has suggested that the concept is the basis of an overall narrative strategy, "the commonplace things of Dublin [becoming] embodiments or symbols . . . of paralysis".[25] A later critic, avoiding the term "epiphany", but apparently not the concept, has examined in considerable detail how “church and state manifest themselves in Dubliners” as agents of paralysis.[26] There are numerous such "manifestations".[27]

What immediately distinguishes the stories from Joyce's later works is their apparent simplicity and transparency. Some critics have been led into drawing facile conclusions. The stories have been pigeonholed, seen as realist or naturalist, or instead labeled symbolist.[28][29] The term "epiphany" has been taken as synonymous with symbol.[30] Critical analysis of elements of stories or stories in their entirety has been problematic. Dubliners may have occasioned more conflicting interpretations than any other modern literary work.[31]

It's been said that Dubliners is unique, defying any form of classification, and perhaps no interpretation can ever be conclusive. The only certainty is that it's a "masterpiece" in its own right and "a significant stepping-stone . . . into the modernist structure of Joyce's mature work".[32]

Christ in Dubliners


On 10 June 1904, Joyce met Nora Barnacle for the first time. They met again on 16 June.[33] On both days, the Feast of the Sacred Heart was celebrated in Irish Catholic churches.[34] The feast originated on another 16 June, in 1675. A young nun, Margaret Mary Alacoque, had visions of Christ exposing his heart. During the so-called "great apparition" on that date, he asked that a new feast be established to commemorate his suffering. (In the Library episode, Mulligan calls the nun "Blessed Margaret Mary Anycock!"[35]) The Feast of the Sacred Heart was formally approved in the same year. The Jesuits popularized the devotion, and Ireland was the first nation to dedicate itself to the Sacred Heart.[36]

The young nun claimed that Christ had made 12 promises to all who would dedicate themselves to the Sacred Heart.[37] The 12th promise offers "salvation to the one who receives communion on nine consecutive First Fridays".[38] Mrs. Kiernan in the Dubliners story "Grace" and Mr. Kearney in "A Mother" try to take advantage of this promise, as did Stephen's mother.[39] A colored print of the 12 promises hangs on Eveline's wall,[40] and there are resemblances between her and Margaret Mary Alacoque and between Frank, her "open-hearted" suitor, and the Sacred Heart.[41] Both young women have been made a promise of salvation by a man professing love. Hugh Kenner argues that Frank has no intention of taking Eveline to Buenos Ayres and will seduce and abandon her in Liverpool, where the boat is actually headed.[42] Since "going to Buenos Ayres" was slang for "taking up a life of prostitution",[43] it appears that Frank does intend to take Eveline to Buenos Aires, but not to make her his wife.[44] That Eveline's print of the 12 promises made by the Sacred Heart hangs over a "broken" harmonium confirms the close similarity between the two suitors. In "Circe", the Sacred Heart devotion is concisely parodied in the apparition of Martha Clifford, Bloom's pen pal. She calls Bloom a "heartless flirt" and accuses him of "breach of promise".[45]

Media adaptations

  • Hugh Leonard adapted six stories as Dublin One, which was staged at the Gate Theatre, Dublin, in 1963.[46]
  • In 1987, John Huston directed a film adaptation of "The Dead", written for the screen by his son Tony and starring his daughter Anjelica as Mrs. Conroy.
  • In October 1998, BBC Radio 4 broadcast dramatisations by various writers of "A Painful Case", "After the Race", "Two Gallants", "The Boarding House", "A Little Cloud", and "Counterparts". The series ended with a dramatization of "The Dead", which was first broadcast in 1994 under the title "Distant Music". The broadcasts were accompanied by nighttime abridged readings of other stories from Dubliners, starting with "Ivy Day in the Committee Room" (in two parts, read by T. P. McKenna), and continuing with "The Sisters", "An Encounter", "Araby", "Eveline", and "Clay" (all read by Barry McGovern).
  • In 1999, a short film adaptation of "Araby" was produced and directed by Dennis Courtney.[47]
  • In 2000, a Tony Award-winning musical adaptation of "The Dead" premiered, written by Richard Nelson and Shaun Davey and directed by Nelson.
  • In April 2012, Stephen Rea read "The Dead" on RTÉ Radio 1.[48]
  • In February 2014, Stephen Rea read all fifteen stories spread across twenty 13-minute segments of Book at Bedtime on BBC Radio 4.
  • In July 2014, Irish actor Carl Finnegan released a modern retelling of "Two Gallants" as a short film. Finnegan wrote the script with Darren McGrath and also produced, directed, and performed the role of Corley in the film.[49]
  • In May 2023, Irish folk music act Hibsen released the album The Stern Task of Living, inspired by Dubliners. The 15-track album by duo Gráinne Hunt and Jim Murphy follows the sequence of the stories in the novel, with each song based on the story after which it is named.[50]


  1. ^ Osteen, Mark (22 June 1995). "A Splendid Bazaar: The Shopper Guide to the New Dubliners". Studies in Short Fiction.
  2. ^ Curran, C. P. (1968). James Joyce Remembered. New York and London: Oxford University Press. p. 49. ISBN 0192111795. Retrieved 16 February 2024. I call the series Dubliners to betray the soul of that hemiplegia or paralysis which many consider a city.
  3. ^ Gilbert, Stuart (1957). Letters of James Joyce. New York: The Viking Press. pp. 63–64. Retrieved 21 February 2024. It is not my fault that the odour of ashpits and old weeds and offal hangs round my stories. I seriously believe that you will retard the course of civilization in Ireland by preventing the Irish people from having one good look at themselves in my nicely polished looking-glass.
  4. ^ Gilbert 1957, pp. 62–63: I believe that in composing my chapter of moral history in exactly the way I have composed it I have taken the first step towards the spiritual liberation in my country
  5. ^ Joyce, James. Stephen Hero. London: Jonathan Cape. p. 216. Retrieved 1 March 2024. By an epiphany he meant a sudden spiritual manifestation, whether in the vulgarity of speech or of gesture or in a memorable phase of the mind itself.
  6. ^ Ellmann, Richard (1966). Letters of James Joyce Volume II. London: Faber and Faber. p. 134. Retrieved 16 February 2024.
  7. ^ Michael Groden. "Notes on James Joyce's Ulysses". The University of Western Ontario. Archived from the original on 1 November 2005.
  8. ^ Jeri Johnson, "Composition and Publication History", in James Joyce, Dubliners (Oxford University Press, 2000).
  9. ^ Atherton 1966, p. 44.
  10. ^ Joyce, James (1916). A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. B. W. Huebsch. p. 252. Retrieved 18 February 2024. The personality of the artist, at first a cry or a cadence or a mood and then a fluid and lambent narrative, finally refines itself out of existence, impersonalises itself, so to speak… The artist, like the God of the creation, remains within or behind or above his handiwork, invisible, refined out of existence, indifferent, paring his fingernails.
  11. ^ Ellmann, Richard (1966). Letters of James Joyce Volume II. London: Faber and Faber. p. 135. Retrieved 18 February 2024.
  12. ^ Tindall, William York (1959). A Reader's Guide to James Joyce. London: Thames and Hudson. pp. 12–13. Retrieved 18 February 2024.
  13. ^ Ellmann, Richard (1982). James Joyce (Rev ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 88. ISBN 0195031032. Retrieved 16 February 2024.
  14. ^ Bonapfel, Elizabeth M. (2014). “Marking Realism in Dubliners.” Doubtful Points: Joyce and Punctuation. Amsterdam and New York: Rodopi. pp. 67–86. ISBN 978-90-420-3901-8. Retrieved 19 February 2024.
  15. ^ Atherton 1966, p. 48.
  16. ^ Bonapfel 2014, pp. 81, 85.
  17. ^ Tindall 1959, pp. 6–7. sfn error: multiple targets (2×): CITEREFTindall1959 (help)
  18. ^ Atherton 1966, pp. 29–30.
  19. ^ Pound, Ezra (1935). “Dubliners and Mr James Joyce," Literary Essays of Ezra Pound. London: Faber and Faber. p. 401. Retrieved 1 March 2024.
  20. ^ Atherton 1966, p. 34.
  21. ^ Ellmann 1982, p. 661 n.62.
  22. ^ Joyce, James (1916). A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. New York: B. W. Huebsch. p. 260. Retrieved 19 February 2024.
  23. ^ Tindall, William York (1959). A Reader's Guide to James Joyce. London: Thamas and Hudson. pp. 3–4. Retrieved 10 March 2024.
  24. ^ Curran, C. P. (1968). James Joyce Remembered. New York and London: Oxford University Press. p. 49. ISBN 0192111795. Retrieved 16 February 2024. I call the series Dubliners to betray the soul of that hemiplegia or paralysis which many consider a city.
  25. ^ Tindall 1959, p. 12. sfn error: multiple targets (2×): CITEREFTindall1959 (help)
  26. ^ Williams, Trevor L. (1998). “No Cheer for ‘the Gratefully Oppressed’: Ideology in Joyce’s Dubliners.” ReJoycing: New Readings of Dubliners. p. 91. Retrieved 5 March 2024.
  27. ^ Williams 1998, pp. 87–109.
  28. ^ Tindall 1959, pp. 8–10. sfn error: multiple targets (2×): CITEREFTindall1959 (help)
  29. ^ Basic, Sonja (1998). "A Book o Many Uncertainties: Joyce's Dubliners." ReJoycing: New Readings of Dubliners. The University Press of Kentucky. p. 13. ISBN 9780813182797. Retrieved 6 March 2024.
  30. ^ Tindall 1959, pp. 10–12. sfn error: multiple targets (2×): CITEREFTindall1959 (help)
  31. ^ Basic 1998, pp. 13–14.
  32. ^ Basic 1998, p. 36.
  33. ^ Ellmann 1982, p. 156.
  34. ^ Lang 1993, p. 99-100.
  35. ^ Lang 1993, p. 93.
  36. ^ Lang 1993, pp. 94–95.
  37. ^ Lang 1993, p. 95.
  38. ^ Ryan 2015, p. 238.
  39. ^ Lang 1993, pp. 96–97.
  40. ^ Ryan 2015, pp. 239, 240n.
  41. ^ Torchiana, Donald T. (Fall 1968). "Joyce's 'Eveline' and the Blessed Margaret Mary Alacoque". James Joyce Quarterly. 6 (1): 22–28. JSTOR 25486736. Retrieved 6 April 2024.
  42. ^ Kenner, Hugh (Fall 1972). "Molly's Masterstroke". James Joyce Quarterly. 10 (1): 64–65. Retrieved 22 February 2024.
  43. ^ Reinares, Laura Barberan (Spring 2011). ""'Like a Helpless Animal"? Like a Cautious Woman: Joyce's 'Eveline,' Immigration, and the Zwi Migdal in Argentina in the Early 1900s". James Joyce Quarterly. 48 (3): 531. doi:10.1353/jjq.2011.0060. Retrieved 5 March 2024.
  44. ^ Reinares 2011, pp. 529–33.
  45. ^ Lang 1993, p. 100.
  46. ^ "PlayographyIreland – Dublin One". irishplayography.com.
  47. ^ Alan Warren Friedman (2007). Party pieces: oral storytelling and social performance in Joyce and Beckett. Syracuse University Press. p. 232. ISBN 9780815631484.
  48. ^ "Rea reads The Dead on RTÉ Radio". RTÉ Ten. Raidió Teilifís Éireann. 2 April 2012. Retrieved 2 April 2012.
  49. ^ "New film to mark 'Dubliners' centenary". Irish Times.
  50. ^ "Album Review: Hibsen, The Stern Task of Living". Hot Press.



Further reading

  • Ellmann, Richard. James Joyce. Oxford University Press, 1959, revised edition 1983.
  • Burgess, Anthony. Here Comes Everybody: An Introduction to James Joyce for the Ordinary Reader (1965); also published as Re Joyce.
  • Burgess, Anthony. Joysprick: An Introduction to the Language of James Joyce (1973)
  • Benstock, Bernard. Narrative Con/Texts in Dubliners. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1994. ISBN 978-0-252-02059-9.
  • Bloom, Harold. James Joyce's Dubliners. New York: Chelsea House, 1988. ISBN 978-1-55546-019-8.
  • Bosinelli Bollettieri, Rosa Maria and Harold Frederick Mosher, eds. ReJoycing: New Readings of Dubliners. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1998. ISBN 978-0-8131-2057-7.
  • Cross, Amanda. The James Joyce Murder. New York: Macmillan, 1967. ISBN 0345346866
  • Frawley, Oona. A New & Complex Sensation: Essays on Joyce's Dubliners. Dublin: Lilliput, 2004. ISBN 978-1-84351-051-2.
  • Hart, Clive. James Joyce's Dubliners: Critical Essays. London: Faber, 1969. ISBN 978-0-571-08801-0.
  • Ingersoll, Earl G. Engendered Trope in Joyce's Dubliners. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 1996. ISBN 978-0-8093-2016-5.
  • Kenner, Hugh. Dublin's Joyce. Chatto & Windus, 1955.
  • Norris, Margot, ed. Dubliners: Authoritative Text, Contexts, Criticism. New York: Norton, 2006. ISBN 0-393-97851-6.
  • Pound, Ezra. "Dubliners and Mr James Joyce," Literary Essays of Ezra Pound. London: Faber and Faber, 1918. 399-402
  • Thacker, Andrew, ed. Dubliners: James Joyce. New Casebook Series. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006. ISBN 978-0-333-77770-1.
  • Tindall, William York. A Reader's Guide to James Joyce. London: Thames and Hudson, 1959. Syracuse University Press, 1995. ISBN 0815603207