AuthorJames Joyce
FinishedJuly 25, 2019
Rating4.3 / 5

Goodreads link

I really enjoyed this collection of short stories. I was inspired to make a similar set. I liked how characters were reused across the stories, which made them feel cohesive and fit together like a whole. It reminded me of snapshots into random peoples' lives in a community where some of the people are bound to interact with each other.

I had to use Sparknotes to guide me thru the stories. Themes of circularity and disillusionment come back (in circles!) but the collection of short stories does not end full circle. The last story seems to break the circularity and end the spell of circles. Maybe this also suggests that the "circle of life" is not as contiguous as we think.


  • I liked the wordplay of the word "blind." "North Richmond street being blind", "the blind end", "the blind was pulled down". Also how much the narrator is blinded by his vanity and perception of his relationship with his neighbor's sister.


  • "but she wanted to live. Why should she be unhappy? She had a right to happiness"
  • Eveline longs to leave but she can't. She doesn't love Frank but loves the idea of him as her exit ticket.

Two Gallants

  • Interesting story, felt a bit clunky in places.
  • Harp is the women used by men. Needs man to make music. But the song is overworked and overplayed.
  • Corley has confident and solid footsteps like a conquerer.
  • Lenehan has "softly padded feet". He is weary with life and the cycle of jobs and girls. Weary like the harp. "Felt keenly his own poverty of purse and spirit."
  • He acts rude and important and entitled even tho he is poor. Like James Joyce? (Also poor but pretended to be entitled for his ego). "he spoke roughly in order to belie his air of gentility"
  • Lenehan and Corley are equally rude brutes but Corley is confident while Lenehan is plagued by his own weariness. L is jealous of C and pretends to be upbeat with his friend but when left alone L looks tired and lonely


  • The mom setting up the marriage feels fake.... Like all of the relationships in the book. Similar to Eveline and her not sincere love for Frank. Everyone is lying to themselves

A Little Cloud

  • LC as little cloud and also as Little Chandler
  • LC seems obsequious. "little man". He refers to himself as little, which is derogatory, even as his friends call him by his real name.
  • LC works so tiresomely and yet Gallagher is more successful
    • LC walks fast and hurries a lot ... "he hurried on his way"
    • everything in life kinda passes him by real fast
    • "The thought that a poetic moment had touched him took life within him like an infant hope. He stepped onward bravely"
    • "his own sober inartistic life .... He tried weigh his soul to see if it was a poet's soul. Melancholy was the dominant note of his temperament, he thought..."
  • "A horde of grimy children populated the street"
  • Even what they drink and how they drink shows personality difference.... LC "sipped a little of his drink while Ignatius Gallaher finished his boldly"
  • LC justifies Gallaher's success by labeling it as tawdry and gaudy
  • LC realizes his marriage is empty... "Why had he married the eyes in the photograph?"
    • "A dull resentment against his life awoke within him... Was it too late for him to try to live bravely like Gallaher?"
    • "Could he, too, write like that, express the melancholy of his soul in verse?"
  • His wife Annie returns and has hatred in her eyes. Does Annie resent/hate Tommy? Is the child more of a man than LC, or just a continuation of his father? Little Chandler, literally, little man...
  • Even Gallaher calls LC Tommy ... only LC refers to himself as little and timid...


  • Farrington reminds me of Albert Runcorn from HP ... brutish and drunk and unaware and so depressed
    • "the barometer of his emotional nature was set for a spell of riot"
    • "staring masterfully at the office-girls"
    • "heavy dirty eyes"
    • "smiling and at times drawing forth stray drops of liquor from his moustache with the aid of his lower lip"
    • "humiliated and discontented" after losing two rounds of arm wrestling, but I think he was already feeling that way at his job and with life in general
    • "his heart swelled with fury" ... I think his heart is always swollen with fury and has never had time to rest and heal
  • "He cursed his want of money and cursed all the rounds he had stood"
  • "His wife was a little sharp-faced woman who bullied her husband when he was sober and was bullied by him when he was drunk." What a good sentence
  • Farrington is referred to as "the man" through the book and only called by name by his friends. He, who thinks he is so manly ("upholding the national identity" by arm wrestling, beating up his son) doesn't even have an identity, that's why he is called the man and not by his name. Identity seeped away in the pawn shop (where he sells his watch, and time), in the drink houses...
    • what an ending..


  • Maria gets on the bus but none of the young men make room for her. An old man makes room for her, and she thinks that he is more polite "than the young men who simply stared straight before them"... This seems to foreshadow present-day, with youth staring at their phones, oblivious, on public transit..
  • Maria is naive and demure, taken advantage of ... a little hoity toity laundry woman...
  • At the end, she sings her song (wrong) and "when she had ended her song Joe was very much moved" and "his eyes filled up so much with tears that he could not find what he was looking for and in the end he had to ask his wife to tell him where the corkscrew was"
    • I interpreted this as ... Joe really doesn't care about Maria, and he pretends to cry and be really moved when in fact all he wants is another drink.

A Painful Case

  • Mr. Duffy lives "an adventureless tale" (like this story...?)
    • he "abhorred anything which betokened physical or mental disorder... His face, which carried the entire tale of his years, was of the brown tint of Dublin streets."
    • "he had an odd autobiographical habit which led him to compose in his mind from time to time a short sentence about himself containing a subject in the third person and a predicate in the past tense"
    • His life is so routine, like a machine
  • I love the descriptors.... Captain Sinico had "dismissed his wife so sincerely from his gallery of pleasures." Mr. Duffy "entangled his thoughts with hers."
    • "An obtuse middle class which entrusted its morality to policemen and its fine arts to impresarios"
    • "insisting on the soul's incurable loneliness"
    • "the cabbage began to deposit a cold white grease on his plate"
    • "the threadbare phrases, the inane expressions of sympathy"
  • "Her companionship was like a warm soil about an exotic" (Similar to how his face is brown like Dublin streets?
  • Mrs. Sinico's death initially disgusts Mr. Duffy... "The whole narrative of her death revolted him"
    • According to him, she had been unfit to live, "an easy prey to habits" .... As if he isn't!
  • But then he feels sorry and sad
    • "He understood how lonely her life must have been, sitting night after night alone in that room"
    • "He gnawed the rectitude of his life; he felt that he had been outcast from life"

Ivy Day in the Committee Room

  • I actually didn't finish this one..
  • "A denuded room"
  • "Mr. Henchy snuffled vigorously and spat so copiously he nearly put out the fire"

A Mother

  • Basically, Mrs. Kearney gets mad because her daughter is being scammed. But because she is a woman, her pushiness, bossiness, and directness is seen as unladylike, annoying, and hostile. She is scoffed at, ignored, humiliated, and eventually ostracized. She is literally doing what a dude would have done to get things done (literally, get payment for something she was promised) but because she is a woman she is not taken seriously
    • "I'm asking for my rights"
    • "I thought you were a lady"
    • "Haggard with rage"
  • "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"
  • "Melancholy of the wet street"
  • "His magniloquent western name was the moral umbrella upon which he balanced the fine problem of his finances"
  • "Swift struggle of tongues"


  • I didn't like this one quite as much. Maybe because I didn't read it in one go so it didn't feel quite so contiguous. His name is Kernan, which is similar to Kearney (the mother from the last story)

The Dead

  • I liked this one a lot. It ended differently from the other stories. We don't know if Gabriel ends up going full circle like the other short stories. Does he finally break out of the circle? Does he realize his faults, and then will he try and change things? Or will he have an epiphany, like the other characters, and then never learn?
    • Gabriel doesn't try and figure out his wife. Definitely doesn't love her. Her love of Michael is an enigma to him
    • She is an enigma to him... She looks like the "symbol of something. He asked himself what is a woman standing on the stairs in the shadow, listening to distant music, a symbol of."
    • He just wants to control her. "He longed to be master of her strange mood"
  • When Gabriel looks in the mirror, he has a moment of self reflection and sees himself clearly. He has rare moment of clarity - that his aunts will die, that they will all become shades, and that he doesn't love Greta
    • "One by one, they were all becoming shades"
  • Note: Joyce mentions Kathleen Kearney - the pianist from the last story!
  • In Gabriel's speech - "I will not let any gloomy moralising intrude upon us here tonight ... We are gathered together for a brief moment from the bustle and rush of our everyday routine" ... except, he does end up gloomy moralising, and everyone is still in routine
  • Gretta: "I am thinking about a person long ago who used to sing that song"
    • Like that one time when I was high in John's bed, thinking of Stephen, getting sad