- "Mahoney said it would be right skit to run away to sea on one of those big ships and even I, looking at the high masts, saw, or imagined, the geography which had been scantily closed to me at school gradually taking substance under my eyes." (p. 13)
The young sensitive narrator in "An Encounter" voices one of Joyce's primary themes-flight-running away to sea. This could be interpreted as a biographical note because Joyce himself felt firmly convinced that the only way to succeed as an artist was to run away, as he himself did as a young man. The child here is being given a key to a positive future.
- "Corley halted at the first lamp and stared grimly before him. Then with a grave gesture he extended a hand towards the light and, smiling, opened it slowly to the gaze of his disciple. A small gold coin shone in the palm." (p. 46)
Joyce paints the picture of a particularly foul young man in "Two Gallants," who simultaneously uses poor women as sexual objects and cons them into giving him money. Joyce demonstrates how impoverished lives, and futures without promise, lead people to behave in reprehensible ways.
- "But delirium passes. He echoed her phrase, applying it to himself" What am I to do?" The instinct of the celibate warned him to hold back. But the sin was there; even his sense of honour told him that reparation must be made for such a sin." (p. 52)
In "The Boarding House," Mr. Doran has just discovered that he has impregnated young Polly Mooney and will soon be forced to marry her regardless of the fact that he neither loves nor respects her, if he is to retain his job and respected place in the community. Joyce believed marriage was a trap and illustrates how society and the Church forces people into living miserable lives.
- "He was sure he could do something better then his friend had ever done or could ever do, something higher and than mere tawdry journalism if he only got the chance." (p. 64)
Little Chandler feels jealous of the success his friend Chandler has achieved in London in ""A Little Cloud," while he himself has remained in Ireland in a dead-end job. The passage illustrates one of Joyce's major themes-paralysis. Dublin was a stagnant city and in order to succeed as an artist, it was necessary to leave.
- "'O pa!' he cried. 'Don't beat me, pa! And I'll say a Hail Mary for you.I'll say a Hail Mary for you pa, if you don't beat me.I'll say a Hail Mary..'" (p. 79)
After a grueling day of abuse from his boss and stress over how to get enough money to get drunk, Farrington in "Counterparts," returns home in a sullen mood to find his dinner has gone cold. He takes his anger out on his young son Tom who entreats his father not to beat him by bribing him with prayers. The passage demonstrates the little regard Joyce had for the Catholic Church.
- "He could hear nothing: the night was perfectly silent. He listened again: perfectly silent. He felt that he was alone." (p. 96)
This passage deftly illustrates one of Joyce's major themes-isolation. In "A Painful Case," Mr. Duffy finally realizes how lonely he is after hearing of Mrs. Sinico's death. She loved him. He spurned her. He is alone now and he will always be alone.
- "'I think he's what you call a black sheep. We haven't many of them, thank God! but we have a few.."He's an unfortunate man of some kind'." (p.104)
Mr. Henchy and Mr. O'Connor are gossiping about a defrocked priest, Father Keon in "Ivy Day in the Committee Room." The passage illustrates Joyce's technique of leaving much unsaid which in turn prompts questions that unfold the story.
- "Miss Devlin had become Mrs. Kearney out of spite." (p. 113)
Mrs. Kearney, the protagonist in "A Mother," metaphorically represents the Irish Revival, an artistic movement that sought to meld nationalism with art and recover the Irish language. Joyce was against this movement and in his tale paints it as small-minded, spiteful and as spiritually bereft as Mrs. Kearney who will go to any lengths to get her way.
- "After three weeks she found a wife's life irksome and, later on, when she was beginning to find it unbearable, she had become a mother." (p. 131)
Mrs. Kernan is the wife of the alcoholic salesman who has just fallen down the stairs of a pub in "Grace." Sinking ever deeper into emotional and financial distress, she feels increasingly helpless. Joyce was particularly adept at providing insights into the dire lives lived by Irish women at the turn of the twentieth century.
"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." (p. 192)
This, the final sentence in "The Dead," is probably one of the best known sentences in English literature. Gabriel Conroy has just had an epiphany and realizes that he too will die. The falling snow that covers all the living and the dead throughout Ireland is the frozen blanket that keeps the country frozen, paralyzed.
Dubliners: Top Ten Quotes