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Free Book Summary-Dubliners by James Joyce-Study Guide/Synopsis
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Joyce steps out of the lower middle class milieu into a more flashy, luxurious world of the "self-made" rich men. The protagonist is spoilt young show off his father a "merchant- prince" who has risen from one butcher-shop to chains of them.


Jimmy Doyle

Young heedless and spoiled. He is a fool but not insensitive.


Rich, polished he behaves like a playboy, but is shrewd behind the mask. He manipulates the new-rich Doyles with ease.

Doyle Senior

An ex-nationalist, Doyle now concentrates on making money. Tough and hard working, his weakness is the desire for social acceptance.


Jimmy’s Hungarian friend, a talented musician who represents the more artistic and sensitive side of Jimmy. Villona does not lose his bearings as Jimmy does.



Jimmy Doyle-a pleasant loving young son of a rich man, he has been cultivated as his father’s status symbol.


Segouin is an even richer French man, scion of a big business family long established. He is all that Jimmy would love to be and takes the younger man into deep waters.


Entering into a business deal with the Frenchman, Jimmy is eager to be seen with him, and gets involved in hectic partying over twenty four hours. The tireless Frenchman involves him in a card game at the end of their bout, and the reckless Jimmy keeps playing in a semi conscious state.


With the coming of dawn, Jimmy becomes aware that he has lost a fortune, that his "friends" are not really his friends, and that he is out of his depth.


The story begins on a note of hectic excitement at the end of the car race. A sharp analysis of the Doyle’s is full of irony. This mood is carried into the dinner party and its inevitable end.


The protagonist is Jimmy Doyle, 26 years old, the refined son of a self-made "merchant prince." Starting out as a butcher, his father has made a fortune with a string of shops. He has had Jimmy educated in England, then at Dublin University and finally at Cambridge. Jimmy is extravagant and certainly no scholar. But his father even when scolding him is "covertly proud of the excess." Jimmy is torn between his love of music and of motor car racing. He has friends in both circles.

At the start Jimmy with his penniless but talented musician friend Villona and two rich young French businessmen-Segouin and Reviére is taking part in a car race near Dublin. The wealthy family of the two Frenchman have recently set them up in a motor car business. Jimmy’s father has invested some capital in their venture. Segouin has accepted his money graciously as if doing him a favor.

At first, Segouin is driving the car through the outskirts of Dublin where "clumps of people raised the cheer of the gratefully oppressed." The cars are described as the ‘wealth and industry of the continent’ while Dublin represents "this channel of poverty and inaction." Like the 2bystanders, Jimmy too, is overwhelmed by the style, and prosperity of the young Frenchman, and he basks in their reflected glory. The race ends. The four separate, planning to meet, at a dinner party later. Jimmy’s parents are pleased and proud of his style when dressed for dinner. His father is even friendly towards Villona, whom he disapproves of an account of his poverty.

In Jimmy’s opinion-the dinner party is exquisite. A young Englishman, Routh, joins them. The young men’s tongues loosen under the influence of good food and drink. There are heated arguments carefully dampened by the shrewd Segouin. They walk along the streets in high spirits, singing and later, dance. Jimmy makes a drunken speech and is applauded. At last, the table is cleared and they settle down to play cards. The party spirit continues, and Jimmy’s brain is fuddled, not only with drink, but with the euphoria of being in such stylish company. He keeps playing and losing, and can’t keep track of his losses. Villona meanwhile stays clear of these activities, participating only in the discussion. He plays the piano for their amusement, but is more interested in the food than in the company.

Routh wins the game. Jimmy’s losses are totted up by the others as he is too far gone to do it himself. Gradually, he becomes aware of his huge losses and is "glad of the dark stupor that would cover up his folly." It is fitting that Villona who had gone up on deck, suddenly opens the door, announcing-"Daybreak, gentleman!"


Jimmy Doyle’s predicament is different from that of the earlier protagonists. The others are poor and more paralyzed, having fewer options. Jimmy is young, rich, educated and has no serious conflict with his family. His situation is that of the rootless new rich in a colonial society. He and his father are not satisfied with their riches, they feel they lack refinement and are colonials. His father has been a Nationalist in his youth, but has long since lost his pride in being Irish. Hence, he cultivates his son as a status symbol; presentable and polished enough to enter sophisticated "Continental" circles. However they are shown never to "belong" there. Their money is accepted by Segouin with condescension. Jimmy pretends to laugh at jokes he can’t hear, plays cards he can’t even clearly see, and loses a fortune to a group of people, just so he can feel he "belongs" with them. This comes out in his delight at being seen by the crowd with this group of rich young Continentals.

Unlike, Jimmy, his father is a shrewd businessman but his weakness is the desire for acceptance among the social elite of Europe. Thus, Jimmy’s "refinement" is bought and paid for by his father. It gives the senior Doyle some satisfaction, but ultimately leads to his being exploited by the sharp Frenchmen. Jimmy lacks self-esteem and genuine values, unlike Villona who provides a sharp contrast to him. Villona is poor, and steers clear of gambling and social artifice, being interested only in a good meal! During the conversation, he talks about music, which is close to his heart, not taking any interest in the jokes, which Jimmy tries desperately to laugh at. Joyce has thus brought out in this story another kind of paralysis-the lack of pride in ones identity and blind worship of wealth and of those who process it.

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Dubliners by James Joyce-Free Online Book Notes Study Guide/Synopsis


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