As Dubliners is made up of 15 self-contained short stories, the collection has no singular antagonist. The following is a list of notable antagonists from a selection of short stories.
The narrator’s uncle in “Araby” is an interesting antagonist because he wanted and promised to give the narrator the money he needed for the bazaar, and he only foils his nephew’s plans by accident. Further, the story never explains why the narrator is being raised by his aunt and uncle instead of his parents. The lack of clarity lurks in the story’s periphery, as the reader may infer some tragedy or dramatic poverty that they have kept secret from the narrator. The uncle, unlike many men in Dubliners, is not withholding, or abusive, or drunk. He is a dutiful caretaker, but the demands of life nevertheless get in the way and he neglects to return in time to give his nephew the money for the bazaar, and this small offense suffuses all hope and magic from the narrator’s worldview. In this way, the uncle’s forgetfulness represents the realities of adulthood that will await the young narrator as he gets older, realities that are perhaps even tied to the reasons he is being raised by an uncle in the first place.
Father Flynn, “The Sisters”
Once Father Flynn dies, the young narrator only wants to process and understand the meaning of their relationship. The priest’s role as an antagonist to this objective is twofold: first, the memory of the priest haunts and confuses the narrator, and secondly, the story hints in very vague terms that the priest may have been abusive. While the narrator is in bed, the “heavy grey face of the paralytic” priest haunts him and murmurs in the dark, wanting “to confess something.” Neither the boy nor the reader knows what needs to be confessed, but the reader can assume it is sinful in nature. Further, even though the priest taught the boy about history and religion, lessons that he enjoyed and appreciated, the boy felt, to his surprise, that he “had been freed from something by his death.” Whatever influence the priest had on the boy, it was dark, confusing, and probably controlling. Though we never learn exactly why, the reader can confidently agree with the men in the narrator’s life, that Father Flynn’s impact was not appropriate for the boy.