Book Review: Dubliners by James Joyce

Rating: ★★★✦☆

Spoiler-Free Review

Hey guys! I finished reading Dubliners, which is a collection of 15 short stories written by James Joyce. It follows Dubliners (surprise, surprise) of many ages and backgrounds, but they’re held together with the common thread of paralysis that runs through each of the stories.

I definitely preferred some short stories over others, so I decided to review this book a bit unconventionally.

I give you: a book review out of 75 stars.


1. The Sisters

This was the very first time I’d ever read Joyce’s work, and while it was definitely confusing at first, it was intriguing to see how much symbolism each sentence subtly carried.


2. An Encounter

The characters and their thoughts and emotions were so complex and even when I didn’t understand the exact purpose of each image or symbol, I was left feeling unsettled by the end.


3. Araby

This story was brimming with the theme of adolescence, and it was really interesting to see how it carried out the sense of paralysis. Also, the last sentence was so vivid and dense, I loved it.


4. Eveline

I loved this story and the way it suggested that not all forms of rebellion mean freedom from paralysis. Also, Eveline’s desperation and indecision was so raw and well-written. Poor Eveline.


5. After the Race

Not my favorite plot-wise, but I loved how strongly I felt the sense of frustration for the paralysis underlying Dubliners. Jimmy’s earnest foolishness and his refusal to change, as well as the ending, irked me, but I felt unsurprised.


6. Two Gallants

In my first read of this story, I didn’t like it and I was frankly so confused. But after rereading it, I absolutely fell in love with the subtle genius in how the ultimate purpose of this story and its characters was revealed.


7. The Boarding House

This definitely felt easier than some of the other stories to understand and it was really interesting to realize the motives of each character and the inescapable control of Dublin’s societal expectations that underlies each individual’s lives.


8. A Little Cloud

This was an interesting story and I liked the way it addressed the idea of voluntary and involuntary inaction, and questioned what circumstances may make paralysis the only option, regardless of how much you desire change.


9. Counterparts

I didn’t like this story because no matter how many times I reread it, I just couldn’t grasp what it was trying to suggest, aside from the obvious theme of paralysis.


10. Clay

The story and character dynamics were interesting and I really liked how despite the fact that everything in the story was “perfect,” there was such a sense of pitiful cyclicality.


11. A Painful Case

This was such an interesting story about the institution of marriage and it was similar to A Little Cloud in the way it addressed how almost inevitable certain decisions feel. This short story made me realize that Joyce wasn’t trying to critique Dubliners as much as he was trying to critique Dublin.


12. Ivy Day in the Committee Room

I’ve never referred to the endnotes so often while reading a story. This story primarily focused on Irish politics in order to convey the sort of paralysis and divisiveness in Dublin, and while interesting, I just don’t think I knew enough about Ireland’s political history to enjoy or appreciate it.


13. A Mother

This story was so interesting and rather dramatic. I found especially intriguing the way gender roles played into this story and the greyness in determining how justified Mrs. Kearney was in her actions.


14. Grace

There were really thought-provoking scenes that I dog-eared, and I found this insight into the role of the institution of Christianity in Dublin interesting to read.


15. The Dead

I read that a lot of people believed this was the best short story in the collection, and even despite having these high expectations going into the story, I found that I couldn’t help but agree. While long, it was so intriguing to understand the character of Gabriel as the story progressed. But what I loved the most has to be the ending–its imagery and poignancy–and how well it tied together/wrapped up this entire collection of stories. I’d give it 6 stars if I could.


Thanks for making it this far! The summation of each rating gives us a grand total of…

50/75 stars!

I know these reflections may have been a little obscure without having read Dubliners, but I hope they encourage you to pick up the book anyway! (And if not the book, then at least one of the short stories.)

Have a great day!

His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.

Joyce, The Dead

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