Dubliners

by: James Joyce

Inertia

Quotes Inertia
She set her white face to him, passive, like a helpless animal. Her eyes gave him no sign of love or farewell or recognition.

In “Eveline,” the main character Eveline debates whether to leave Ireland and go to Argentina with a sailor who has been courting her. Eveline does not love the sailor, but she sees him as a means to escape. Although her life in Dublin consists of relentless hard work and abuse by her father, she promised her mother to keep the family together. The uncertainty of the venture also undermines her confidence. In the end, Eveline makes her decision—by not making a decision. Immobilized by her family’s expectations like a caged animal, her resignation to the status quo shows in her death mask face emptied of feelings.

He watched the scene and thought of life; and (as always happened when he thought of life) he became sad.... He felt how useless it was to struggle against fortune, this being the burden of wisdom which the ages had bequeathed to him.

At the beginning of “A Little Cloud,” the narrator relates how Little Chandler thinks of his life. He has a habit of morose brooding about his circumstances that inevitably ends with acceptance of the status quo. On this particular day, a visit from a childhood friend arouses his melancholy as he compares their lives. He envies Gallaher’s success as a London reporter and believes that he might be at least as successful. However, the reader can see that his habit of passivity has become a self-fulfilling prophecy: He has no idea how to struggle against fate.

He could not have carried on a comedy of deception with her; he could not have lived with her openly. He had done what seemed to him best. How was he to blame?

At the end of “A Painful Case,” Mr. Duffy searches his soul for culpability in a woman’s death. Four years prior he had become friends with a married woman. Although he found their relationship intellectually satisfying, Mr. Duffy felt surprise when she expressed physical interest in him, and he broke off the relationship. When he reads of her death in an accident related to a drinking problem she developed after the breakup, he begins to regret his decision. Mr. Duffy recognizes that, by deciding that an extramarital relationship was not an option, he doomed both of them to be lonely forever.