Ideas for Reports and Papers

1. The titles of the stories are not always straightforward descriptions of their contents, but they are often suggestive and worthy of careful consideration. Consider how one or more of the less obvious titles (such as “The Sisters,” “A Little Cloud,” “Counterparts,” “Clay,” or “The Dead”) influences your sense of the story’s meaning.

2. Priests play some role in each of the three stories dealing with childhood: “The Sisters” tells of the death of Father Flynn; the narrator of “Araby” reads books discarded by the priest who was the former occupant of the boy’s house; Joe Dillon, the supplier of the cherished boys’ adventure magazines in “An Encounter” later has a vocation for the priesthood. How, in these early stories, is the church related to the “paralysis” that Joyce sets out to reveal?

3. Joyce often takes care to tell us precisely what his characters read. To give a few examples, the young boy in “Araby” reads Walter Scott’s The Abbot, The Devout Communicant, and The Memoirs of Vidocq; they boys in “An Encounter” read stories of the American west in the magazines The Union Jack, Pluck, and The Halfpenny Marvel; Mr. Duffy in “A Painful Case” has a volume of Wordsworth and a copy of the Maynooth Catechism on his carefully arranged shelves. Choose one story and find out something about the books to which Joyce alludes. What do they suggest about their reader? How do they contribute to your understanding of the story?

4. Discuss the kinds of family relationships depicted in Dubliners. How are these relationships reflective of the book’s larger themes?

5. Compare Joyce’s “The Dead” with John Huston’s film version. What sorts of changes have the filmmakers made? What are the effects of these changes?

6. As both “A Mother” and “The Dead” remind us, Joyce wrote these stories in the time of the Irish Renaissance, a cultural movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries that aimed to revive the Irish language and disseminate traditional Irish stories in an attempt to counter the pervasive influence of British culture. Investigate the Irish Renaissance and consider the place of Dubliners within it.

7. Joyce gives careful attention to the visual imagery of his stories. Choose one or two stories and examine its visual imagery. Consider, for instance, descriptions of light (and darkness and shadow) or color. What sorts of images predominate, and how are they related to other elements such as theme and atmosphere.

8. The downfall and death of Charles Stewart Parnell forms an important backdrop to “Ivy Day in the Committee Room.” Research Parnell’s life, cause, and downfall and discuss this story in light of your research.

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