Dubliners: Imagery and symbolism

Religious symbolism

As explained in Critical approaches, Dubliners can be seen to contain religious symbolism. For example, according to Marvin Magalaner, Clay is particularly symbolic: the ring is symbolic of marriage, the prayer book symbolic of solitary and celibate life, clay is symbolic of death and Maria is symbolic of both the Virgin Mary and a witch (A James Joyce Miscellany, 1957).

Images of escape

Several of the stories in Dubliners deal with themes of home and away, exile and/or the desire for escape:

  • In Eveline, the desire for escape is symbolised in the exotic Argentina
  • In An Encounter, the outskirts of Dublin are enough of an escape for the young, inexperienced boys
  • In A Little Cloud, it is Little Chandler’s friend, Gallaher, who represents freedom and escape.

The paralysis motif

As discussed in Themes > Paralysis, immobility recurs as a motif throughout Dubliners:

  • It is first mentioned in The Sisters 
  • The protagonist is immobile at the end of Eveline
  • The halts made by Mr Duffy as he walks in the park at the end of A Painful Case
  • Little Chandler is stuck in a boring job in A Little Cloud
  • The futility of politics in Ivy Day in the Committee Room.
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