Below you will find five outstanding thesis statements for “The Dubliners” by James Joyce that can be used as essay starters or paper topics. All five incorporate at least one of the major themes in “The Dubliners” and are broad enough so that it will be easy to find textual support, yet narrow enough to provide a focused clear thesis statement. These thesis statements offer a short summary of The Dubliners in terms of different elements that could be important in an essay. You are, of course, free to add your own analysis and understanding of the plot or themes to them for your essay. Using the essay topics below in conjunction with the list of important quotes from “The Dubliners” by James Joyce at the bottom of the page, you should have no trouble connecting with the text and writing an excellent essay.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #1: The Monotony of Routine in Joyce’s Dubliners
If there is one thing that many of Joyce’s characters in The Dubliners have in common, it is the boredom that they find when inundated with routine and many of them, such as the character Eveline (click here for an in-depth character analysis of Eveline), to name one of a few, wishes for escape. However, it seems as if when the character makes a concentrated effort to break free of routine, they are met with disaster, such as in “An Encounter". However, when they allow routine to rule their lives, they self-destruct, such as in “Counterparts". What do you think Joyce is saying about the necessity of routine here? Pick two or three stories and give detailed examples behind this phenomenon, along with your opinions regarding Joyce’s thoughts on routine.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #2: Death and Its Effects on the Dubliners
The Dubliners begins and ends with stories that involve death. In “The Sisters", a priest, who has befriended a small boy, has just passed away, and in “The Dead", a woman recounts to her husband the story of a man who died for her love. What is significant about the way these two works frame the other pieces in Joyce’s novel? Pick one or two other works and discuss the way in which they relate to the first and last story in terms of mortality. What do you think that Joyce is saying about death and how does it relate to the other themes in The Dubliners?
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #3: The Role of Money in James Joyce’s The Dubliners
While James Joyce’s The Dubliners deals with several bigger themes, one prevalent motif throughout the novel is the use of money. Talk about money shows up in nearly every story, and it is spoken of with desire and envy. As Joyce’s novel is very realistic, so his characters embody the spirit of Dublin in every aspect, including their lower class. Find references to money in two or three of the stories, and describe the characters attitude towards it. Are they resentful? Jealous? Greedy? Then examine whether or not the characters receive the money that they need and how that money (or lack thereof) affects their life.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #4: The Role of Colonization and Political Climate in The Dubliners
One key element in almost all native Irish literature is the involvement of colonization and politics, and Joyce’s The Dubliners is no exception. From the insults hurled at Gabriel in The Dead to the attitude of Gallaher in “A Little Cloud", there is the underlying attitude that Ireland should be making strides for freedom. Anyone who shows favoritism towards England, or is perceived to be spending too much time away from Ireland is chastised. What is Joyce saying here about the effects of the Irish nationalist movement? Find two or three stories to support your thoughts, and deconstruct the emotions and historical background that cause such passionate feelings towards the relationship between England and Ireland.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #5: The Desire to Escape and the Inability to Follow Through in Joyce’s Dubliners
While Dublin is full of eclectic lives and personalities, nearly all of the inhabitants visited by Joyce express the desire to escape. That desire is fueled not only by the monotony of routine, but also by the desire to do something greater, the desire to flee the bleak political landscape and the hope of starting anew. Little Chandler, for example, wishes to join Gallaher in his pursuits of other nations, yet he’s too afraid to try his hand at a new career. Likewise, Mr. Doran does not want to marry Polly in “A Boarding House" but he can see no other alternative. In what ways are Joyce’s characters trapped within their lives? What is it that holds them back from breaking free and starting over? Be specific, using only two or three short stories.
Still looking for ideas? Here is a great character analysis of Eveline that also discusses several major themes in “The Dubliners” through the lens of this one character.
This list of important quotations from “The Dubliners” by James Joyce will help you work with the essay topics and thesis statements above by allowing you to support your claims. All of the important quotes from Joyce’s “The Dubliners” listed here correspond, at least in some way, to the paper topics above and by themselves can give you great ideas for an essay by offering quotes and explanations about other themes, symbols, imagery, and motifs than those already mentioned and explained. Aside from the thesis statements for “The Dubliners” above, these quotes alone can act as essay questions or study questions as they are all relevant to the text in an important way. All quotes contain page numbers as well. Look at the bottom of the page to identify which edition of the text they are referring to.
“‘I think he’s what you call a black sheep. We haven’t many of them, thank God! but we have a few..” (104)
“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.” (131)
“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.” (192)
“One by one, they were all becoming shades. Better pass boldly into that other world, in the full glory of some passion, than fade and wither dismally with age." (224)
“Besides, the invariable squabble for money on Saturday nights had begun to weary her unspeakably. She always gave her entire wages–seven shillings–and Harry always sent up what he could but the trouble was to get any money from her father." (31)
“Uphold the National Honor" (95)
“Well, I’m ashamed of you,” said Miss Ivors frankly. “To say you’d write for a paper like that. I didn’t think you were a West Briton.” (220)
“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.” (46)
“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.” (13)
“He remembered the books of poetry upon his shelves at home. He had bought them in his bachelor days and many an evening, as he sat in the little room of the hall, he had been tempted to take one down from the bookshelf and read out something to his wife. But shyness always held him back; and so the books had remained on their shelves." (62)
Source: Joyce, James. The Dubliners. Clayton, DE: Prestwick House, 2006.