Dubliners by James Joyce | Book Report

Dubliners by James Joyce

It seems that every Irish person I've met possesses the gift of gab. Perhaps it's their endearingly playful accent, with the ending of every phrase punctuated by an inviting rise in tone, or the way in which even their most simple recollections are orated like epic tales. In poetry, song, and novel, they are a nation of storytellers and mystics. And being that I've always been intrigued by Irish culture, in which I have some ancestry, I have been meaning to read more from its own writers, both past and present.

To begin, I dusted off James Joyce's Dubliners and dove right in. 

As the title suggests, the book possesses 15 short stories that highlight the religious, moral, nationalistic, and cultural influences that shaped the city of Dublin in the earlier part of the 20th century by zooming into the (fictitious) lives of some of its citizens. Of the 15 stories, I most enjoyed A Little Cloud because I felt that Joyce's own internal struggle in finding identity as a man and a writer is projected onto its main character, Mr. Chandler. Now, perhaps I'm only projecting my own interpretation of the story onto Joyce, but, from what I know about him at the time of writing Dubliners, it seems likely that he must have resonated with the lines he attributed to Mr. Chandler which read:

"There were so many different moods and impressions that he wished to express in verse. He felt them within him. He tried to weigh his soul to see if it was a poet's soul." 

And I liked this story most because I, too, have been "weighing my soul" as of late. Though time and talent (and fiction) separate all of us, we're bound, in our humanity, by the same longings and musings presented in Dubliners' characters, and Joyce is a master at bringing you into their lives by way of your own yearning. I liked that nationality, time, and some Irish colloquialisms couldn't separate me, as a reader, from knowing the stories as true. 

Favorite Quotes

"Better pass boldly into that other world, in the full glory of some passion, than fade and wither dismally with age." - The Dead

"She respected her husband in the same way as she respected the General Post Office, as something large, secure and fixed; and though she knew the small number of his talents, she appreciated his abstract value as a male." - A Mother

"No memory of the past touched him, for his mind was full of a present joy." - A Little Cloud

"He was not so old – thirty-two. His temperament might be said to be just at the point of maturity. There were so many different moods and impressions that he wished to express in verse. He felt them within him. He tried to weigh his soul to see if it was a poet's soul." - A Little Cloud

New Vocabulary

  • Gnomon: the project piece on a sundial that shows the time by position of its shadow
  • Simony: the buying or selling of ecclesiastical privileges, for example pardons or benefices
  • Venial: (of a fault or offense) slight and pardonable
  • Truculent: eager or quick to argue or fight; aggressively defiant
  • Scrupulous: diligent, thorough, and extremely attentive to details
  • Incredulous: unwilling or unable to believe something
  • Sedulous: showing dedication and diligence
  • Paltry: small or meager
  • Imperturbable: unable to be upset or excited; calm
  • Garrulous: excessively talkative, especially on trivial matters
  • Cretonne: a heavy cotton fabric, typically with a floral pattern, used for upholstery
  • Spurious: not being what it purports to be; fake or false
  • Voluble: speaking or spoken incessantly and fluently
  • Reverie: a state of being pleasantly lost in one's thoughts; a daydream
  • Implacable: relentless, unstoppable; unable to be placated
  • Discomfiture: making someone feel uneasy or embarrassed
  • Punctilious: showing great attention to detail or correct behavior
  • Pallor: an unhealthy pale appearance
  • Connubial: of or relating to marriage or the relationship of a married couple
  • Equipoise: balance of forces or interests
  • Tawdry: showy but cheap and of poor quality
  • Suffuse: gradually spread through or over
  • Obsequious: obedient or attentive to an excessive and servile degree
  • Ebullient: cheerful and full of energy
  • Debonair: confident, stylish, and charming
  • Valises: a small traveling bag or suitcase
  • Portmanteau: a large trunk or suitcase
  • Sententious: given to moralizing in a pompous or affected manner
  • Obdurate: stubbornly refusing to change one's opinion or course of action
  • Farce: an absurd event
  • Impetuous: acting or done quickly without thought or care