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Dubliners: Mature Life

“A Little Cloud�

  • How would you describe the structure of "A Little Cloud"? How is it put together? What are the larger and smaller chunks, and how do they work? For instance, how many scenes? How many major characters? Are they similar or different (or both)?


  • What are the difficulties of creating a character who doesn’t know (or barely knows) what’s going on around her? How does Joyce try to ensure that you won’t just see the world in the rose-colored-glassees-ified way Maria does? To what extent does it work? What are the pitfalls of trying something like this?

“A Painful Case�

  • How is Duffy’s portrait constructed? In what ways do we learn about him? What is the effect of the long reaction scene at the end? Why does that have so much weight?


"Little Cloud" feels really episodic to me. It's like Little Chandler (hilarious name) is recalling event and telling them as they come up in sequence, with the middling details a little hazy. It has a nice pattern, it goes from LC's head to a scene with Gallaher, back to LC's head, his family, and then his head. It also seems that the length of the scenes decrease as the story goes on, until the final escape into LC's head is just one wee paragraph.

I actually had a tough time with the story "Clay" I found it a little difficult to follow along (which might contribute to the sense of not knowing what's going on around the main character) and it wasn't until I read a summary of the story that I figured out where the title comes from (Maria plays a game and chooses clay, which foretells her death apparently). I think the way Joyce keeps us in the real world instead of looking at the world Maria does by giving us a lot of sorid details about Maria's surroundings. We can clearly see the ills around her, even thought she can't. It works...but it does lead to a dissociation between the readers and the character.

This had to be my favorite story so far. It was just so creepy. Duffy's personality really comes out through his actions and his internal monologues. He seems just on the edge of crazy to me, and I really like characters like that because they can go through such interesting moods like Duffy does, especially after he discovers the death of his lady-friend. The long reaction scene, to me, just really adds to Duffy's "insanity" and contributes to the uneasy mood and confusion present in the characters. The end scene really made the story as well as the characters seem very dynamic and, not real, but definitely surreal.

I agree about the sections getting shorter as time goes on in Little Clouds. The movement from what it happening in the world to what is happening in his head keeps the transitions smooth, and keeps interest. Little Chandler is the main character and we only see bits of his wife, Gallaher, and his son. Gives a nice look into his and the people of his life.

Clay seemed very beautiful to me. The girl’s disillusionment of the world is portrayed very well, as we can see the poverty and problems around her, though she sees everyone as such happy nice people. The clay that she finds in the bowl is a very discreet and sad way to foretell a death and it allows us to see the darker side of Dublin, but the allusion to her being blindfolded and dying soon though she cannot see it is very beautiful.

In A Painful Case, we learn a lot about him in his inner monologues, his choices in music and books, and how he interacts (or doesn’t) with people. The story gives a very deep look into this man’s mind. Based on his choice of books, how he lived, his lack of charity to the poor, I feel like Joyce did a good job of making me not like this character, but it is hard not to feel some empathy? toward someone we get to know so well. The final monologue of his thoughts at the end portrays very well the thought process that many people go through after a loss (sadness, guilt) and at the end he realizes how he has cut himself out of the world and is alone.

In “A Little Cloud� we have two very different characters and two very different moods. At first, Little Chandler is excited and thinks Gallaher is the greatest. Then he feels the opposite. The change in the character’s mood makes him want to change his life, but his attempts are sad and brief.
A difficulty of a Maria-type character is that the audience has to get what’s going on without being told. The clay in the bowl was a foreshadowing of death. If we were as unfamiliar with the game as Maria, we would have no idea what was going on because the narrator can’t tell us without skewing the integrity of the close third person.
We learn about Duffy by “watching� him. By the end, we sort of feel like we know more about him than he does. It was my favorite, too, Chelsea.

"A Little Cloud" felt so melancholy. It kind of reminded me of “Counterpoints�, if only because of the whole “going home to be mean to the kids� vibe I got. Gallaher is the world traveler, out living large with no baggage or women to tie him down. LC is mired down in “dear dirty Dublin� with a wife he can’t read poetry too (a damn shame, in my opinion), a kid he makes cry, and furniture he hasn’t paid off. I think there similarities lie in as much as they try and impress each other. Gallaher tells tales of his escapades, and LC tries to make him feel bad that he hasn’t settled down (“must get a bit stale� etc.).
Joyce bombarded me from all sides with names of people and places, which I think added to the sort of confused detachment Maria feels. Maybe it’s just my inner control freak, but this really pissed me off. I wanted to know who was who and what was going on at all times. On of the possible pitfalls is that, at some point, I want to give Maria a good shake. She’s annoying and flighty and whenever she laughs her nose touches her chin. Kill me now.
The pacing of Duffy’s story really threw me for a loop. They’re just going along, happily wooing each other and then BAM! They break up, he moves on, train hits her, and the action slows way down again. The long reaction scene makes Mrs. Sinico’s death more of a blind side. Duffy’s going along his life and then, out of nowhere, while he’s reading his paper, he has to come to grips with what has happened. This mimics the readers response to the news.

In “A Little Cloud� there are two main characters, Little Chandler and Gallaher. At first they seem similar, but we soon see they are quite different, Little Chandler once thought the world of Gallaher, but at the bar, these feelings change. Like Ronnie said, the change in the character’s mood makes him want to change his life, but his attempts are sad and brief.
A difficulty in creating a character that doesn't or barely knows what is going on around them is that it can be difficult to not give away too much info to the reader, and it can be frustrating for both the reader and the writer. Joyce ensures that we won’t just see the world in the rose-colored-glassees-ified way Maria does, by not telling the story from her point of view. This works well because we see the world for what it really is, but we also get a view of someone who isn't comprehending the world around them for the hell-hole that it is.
Duffy's portrait is constructed by the fast pace of the story. The long reaction scene adds some depth to Duffy, not that he isn't already an interesting character, but we also see how he deals with sad or disheartening news.

From a technical standpoint the difficulties could arise from giving out too much information. As authors we are the creators of our worlds, all-powerful and infallible; however, as authors we choose to convey or stories in certain styles and voices. Joyce wanted to present his story through Maria, an ill-informed persona. Joyce runs the risk of disclosing to much information, breaking his system. Joyce ran the risk of losing his reader. If he would have made the story too obtuse, we as readers may set the book down out of frustration.

We learn of Duffy through his actions and theories; none more so telling as his line: (I’m paraphrasing) Men and Men can’t be friends because there can be no sex; Men and women can’t be friends because there must be Sex. By giving Duffy a long and involved reaction to the death Joyce forces us to reconsider Duffy. Is he a man aloof, driven by selfish interests, or is he a coward. Who lives by romantic isolationist ideals, because he is to scared to live in society or against it?

When I read "A Little Cloud" I saw Gallaher as what Little Chandler could have been. Little Chandler seems to be moping around, wishing he could go to London or Paris, write better poetry, submit what he has, etc. His friend Gallaher has made a little of himself in London and he's been in Paris, but when Little Chandler sees Gallaher, I think he realizes that even if he did leave Dublin things might not be any better. This definitely creates a greater feeling of being stuck, which tends to be a theme in Dubliners.
In "Clay" there were times in which I was very confused, wondering what was real and what wasn't. Maria seemed so content with how her life was, yet Joyce gave us the ability to see that her life was really quite terrible. I suppose it was frustrating as a reader to have a main character be totally out of tune with reality. I think Joyce was very effective in how he created this story because we were frustrated with Maria and the situation she was stuck in.
I agree with Ronnie, we learn about Duffy by "watching" him and listening to, like Kellen said, his theories. I think its a very effective way of adding depth to a character. Instead of describing him, how he feels about life, etc., we learn about him by seeing him moving through life and by seeing how he views things. Again, I agree with Kellen: When we see the long reaction to the death, it really makes us reconsider Duffy as a character.

In “A Little Cloud� the two main characters are counterpoints. Little Chandler is timid, polite, and full of dreams. Gallaher is outspoken, obnoxious and full of experience. They are old friends who haven’t seen each other in a while and they both seem to want to impress the other. When you first start reading the story, you don’t know much about Little Chandler except that he has many aspirations and you sort of hope he fulfills them. At the end you learn that Little Chandler has a wife and child and is stuck in his depressed life and will probably never get to see the world or write a great poem. I agree that the scenes start out very long and then become very short. Sort of gives you the trapped feeling Little Chandler experiences.
I had some trouble understanding “Clay�. There were many parts of the story I didn’t catch on to which would have made the story better, but I did get the sense Maria’s life wasn’t as happy as she thought it was. I thought Joyce did a good job of creating the effect that her life sucks but she doesn’t know it.
I thought “A Painful Case� was really good. Joyce made Duffy seem so distant from the world. He has an affair and it ends and it doesn’t really seem to affect him. When he learns that his former lover dies, we see the human in him. I agree with Michael. This definitely adds depth to Duffy. He has a really big reaction to the news, which caught me off guard.

I can't add much to what's already been said about the structure of "A Little Cloud," as i see it pretty much the same way. I thought the characters were intersting, because it felt like Joyce was deliberately flawing them. It was ahrd to really like either of them. Little Chandler was so apathetic, so trapped. I felt bad for him, sure, but he also drove me crazy. Gallaher was definitely a jerk, or to use the technical term, a douchebag, but I actually think I sympathised more with him. I felt like he was trapped a litte bit too. According to my endnotes, he was using lots of highbrow slang to try to impress his old friend, which made me think maybe his life was not so great, if he needs so much to showoof to Little Chandler.

A difficulty in using a limited narrator, like Maria, is the confusion it can create in the readers. Because Maria doesn't completely see her world, we can't either. Overall, I didn't see that as a flaw in the story, though. I felt like I was Maria, seeing her world her way. It kept me connected to her, and prevented me from getting frustrated with her. Joyce does a nice job of giving us hints about what is really happening through specific details without any kind of judgement. I really saw this at the end, where we know that everyone around Maria is upset because she picked the clay, but Maria herself is pretty clueless. I think, unlike most people, this was my favorite.

I thought the timeline for "A Painful Case" was interesting, because it seems to skip over long stretches with not much detail, and then focus in on one particular moment. For me, it helped prioritize the events. At first, it seemed like the affair was going to be the big thing, but then we actually spend much more time looking at how Duffy deals with Mrs. Sinico's death, and their affair basically becomes a context for him to look at how he's lived his life. If the reaction had been given less space, it would have been confusing to have the focus shift so much, from the affair to Duffy's musings. But because we see so much more detail in the last section, the transition feels much more natural.

I realized how James Joyce really likes to portray his characters through the way they look. For example, for Little Chandler, he was described as a 'refined' sort of man with 'half-moons' of nails and 'childish white teeth.' I kind of got this thought of a kid who's inexperienced in the world and too afraid to try things (hence, his shyness and inability to read a poem even to his wife). As for Gallaher, what he seemed a little unpolished to me. Joyce describes him and it sort of gives this interesting air after you read it all (at first, Gallaher seems like a boring man). Then the stories come and there's this sudden contrast between the two characters in "A Little Cloud" -- a natural contrast that is, and they don't mesh together at all. Why is Little Chandler meeting an old friend for in the first place? Couldn't he have tried to read a poem to his wife in this time...rather than get disheartened by a pompous man who has an orange tie?

Maria seems like a very optimistic woman. Even though she's unaware of most of the things that surround her (and why other things happen, etc), I sort of envy her for being so optimistic...however, after discussion the other day, I got this sort of impression that she might have a mental disability or something of the sort. I mean, considering the fact that she wasn't really sure what the clay meant...oh well, I'll still take her as optimistic rather than disabled. Anyway, how Joyce creates this character is interesting. He shows us that Maria isn't aware of things by showing us her point of view. Taking a look through it, it's very closed...in my opinion. We only know what Maria thinks...but what she thinks hints us at what's really going on. For example, when Mrs. Donnelly was talking to one of the girls about the clay, etc. We don't get it directly. We have to interpret it ourself and read it closely. Now, that's the pitfall though. Not everyone's going to read it closely and some people might misunderstand the whole concept.

In "A Painful Case," I think the weight at the end of the story is asking the reader to forgive (or laugh at) Duffy for being so inconsiderate in the beginning. It's a closing that satisfies the reader either way, to understand that 'hey, he's actually human and needs human contact!' It actually ends up as a good closing (as compared to his other stories where you have to interpret the ending a bit deeper). This one gives you a closing that tells you what's happened and gives you a sort of feeling that Duffy probably won't do much to change his loneliness. He will skulk around in his house..."free from pictures."

I think all three of these stories seemed very rooted in “loneliness�; alone and wanting out, alone and wanting in, and supposedly alone by choice.

Little Chandler is using his encounter with his friend to tell us something more about himself. We find out what is happening from Little Chandler’s point of view – I kind of got the feeling he was in a mid-life crisis. At first I thought that maybe Little Chandler wanted to be more like Gallaher (and meeting him would kind of be a way of escaping reality for a brief while), but after their encounter, I think Little Chandler realized Gallaher’s life wouldn’t make him any happier.

I think the difficulties of creating a character who doesn’t know what is going on around her is that it often times puts the reader in the same position as the character. I thought Joyce did a pretty good job in keeping the readers aware of what was happening. I think Joyce was able to do this by telling the story as a close third person. Personally, I just felt bad for Maria throughout this whole story. Especially when she lost her cake! While I do think she was a little “out of tune� as Jozette said, I also think that many people simply didn’t understand her, or try to. Maybe not realizing her life was so terrible was a good thing?

I think “A Painful Case� was my favorite of these three stories. I liked the ways in which Joyce revealed the personality of this character, Mr. Duffy. While I agree with the people that have said this was not the easiest character to like, I couldn’t help but feel for him, an in turn, like him. It was obviously very hard for Mr. Duffy to open up to other people, and having done so (with a woman who dies unexpectedly) I think Mr. Duffy felt as though the reason his feelings were shared “for nothing� is that now, in order to feel as he did with her (and maybe even get some burdens off of his shoulders) he will have to re-surface his memories and feelings to someone new again. I’m sure he felt lost with the death of his friend because he learned so much about himself through her. Maybe at the end of this story Mr. Duffy doesn’t feel he knows himself anymore.

Creating a character who doesn't recognize what's going on around her is hard because the reader generally will look down on them. When you know so much and the character is oblivious it is hard to feel any empathy for them. Joyce manages it fairly well though so that the reader sympathizes and realizes the girl doesn't get it and you do. If you weren't James Joyce it would probably be hard though. I would say most of the time people wouldn't sympathize with a ignorant character.

I liked 'A Painful Case' the best. Maybe because I could understand what was happening for the most part. Duffy was set up really well and you just saw how rigid he was in his beliefs. The long reaction lets you get into his mind and feel what he is feeling. He is pretty much a jerk though in the end and I didn't like him. But you also got a sense of his isolation and sort of felt bad for him. I think it has so much death because he's just looking over his life due to the shock of death and it's really powerful when one has that experience.

Duffy's portrait in "A Painful Case" is constructed mostly by his reactions to specific events, most notably when he reads of Mrs. Sinico's death. He has a reaction of disgust and it is very selfish and detached. The long scene at the end continues to show his detachment, then finally what the realization of her death really meant for him. He still holds a selfish view towards it, since he considered only himself to be alone, but he is also swept over with a feeling of mourning at the realization that she is gone. It carries so much weight since in this moment Duffy could have potentially had an epiphany on his own character, but Joyce doesn't explore it any further, likely to achieve a reaction from the reader since it leaves things a little more open.

I think creating a character that is, more or less, oblivious to whats going on around him/her adds an interesting and kind of sad twist on things. To write in a style where the reader knows more than the main character while still having an adequate amount of insight and understanding for her is something that joyce has mastered. i think the pitfalls though, might be a lack of complete understanding that sometimes the reader needs.

i really found Duffy in "a painful case" a very interesting character. Because in class students were saying "i didnt like him because he got so angry etc etc." but i think this is what made him more real to me. the fact that he did get angry and joyce was aware of that real trait that someone experiences after a loved one dies. especially after suicide. it would have been a lot different had he not come out of the anger to a deeper understanding, but he did and i think thats the real beauty of it all.

I think a primary difficulty of ''creating a character who doesn't know what's going on around her'' is making it clear to the reader that this is the case. If the reader saw Dublin through Maria's eyes, with Maria's thoughts, and with Maria's lack of observance, it would take a lot more interpretation to determine that Maria was oblivious to the bad that surrounds her. At the same time, the reader needs just enough knowledge about Maria's thought processes and beliefs to comprehend that she sees a different Dublin Halloween than we do. For me, at least, it felt like Joyce struck the balance here perfectly. I felt bad for Maria. I understood where she was coming from. I saw what she didn't see. At the same time, I felt like she might have it better than it's portrayed—bad job and bad family aside, seeing the world a little rose-tinted probably makes the day-to-day 10X more bearable. The exact word and form mechanics that Joyce used to strike this balance wouldn't be clear to me unless I did a little re-reading, however.

Chelsey, Ronnie, Alex, Tony, and probably some others all expressed that ''A Painful Case'' was their favorite of the three stories—and I have to add my name to the list, too. Joyce builds the picture of Duffy through, yes, his internal monologues, but also details about his line of work, the organization of his house, and his stand-still daily routine. From the moment that Duffy was established as a bank cashier, the details of his life seemed to be clear—he was going to be a stock character as boring as the bank he worked at. The ending scene and the shock to anger to sadness reaction of Duffy makes him more human to me. Caroline mentioned this too—anger after a loved one's death is a very real, very common ''stage'' in grieving. Then, Duffy's sorrow showed the reader that—despite his sterile and professional persona throughout the rest of the story—Duffy is as real as the rest of us.

I thought that there were essentially four scenes in this story. It moves from Little Chandler at work, to him going to see Gallaher, to the actual talk with Gallaher, and then finally to his wife and child. I thought that the scenes worked very well. You started with his boring life, and then you get Gallaher who is a personification of all of Little Chandler's dreams. Then you go back to Little Chandler's real life, and the feeling of being trapped by his wife and child. I think the major characters are Little Chandler obviously, and then his wife and Gallaher act as these two forces pulling at Little Chandler. On one hand he wants to write poetry and get out and travel, and on the other he has a wife and child and real life to deal with.

I agree with what most people say about "Clay" being a little confusing, but I think the narration really kind of works. You feal worse for Maria because she doesn't seem to realize how bad things are around her. We only get a hint her awareness in the song.

I agree that "A Painful Case" is a great story. I think that Duffy is constructed through physical description and his reaction to things. I just get the sense that he's a really lonely and frustrated with people and life kind of guy. He seems to have been let down a lot. He is given physical descriptions that at points also give a mental description. I like the description of his eyes being alert for a redeeming instinct in others but never finding it. I feel that the reaction in the end just sums up all his sadness and disappoinment with life. I think he didn't expect mrs. Sinico to let him down, but even she let him down by dying. It is a really sad story.

I thought of the structure as a before-during-after kind of encounter. There was him waiting and thinking of how life is and how his friend’s life is/was. This point seemed kind of idealized but still happy and hopeful. During, he seemed to push himself to meet the lifestyle of his friend, but he certainly enjoyed himself, enjoying the freedom that he felt. And after, it was like a snap back to reality seeing the weights and responsibilities he had in his actual life.

As for characters, I only saw two - the two men. The man’s wife was more of a tool, almost like a piece of setting. We never find much about her, and any thing we experience of her is only in passing.

For Clay, it is difficult to make a reader know of two different perspectives like that because it is hard to reveal certain things without doing so through the characters knowledge and reaction to their surroundings. Joyce purposely reveals certain things through comments that could be taken two ways, the darker of which implied to the reader, as well as adding in comments and reactions of other characters that Maria doesn’t see or here. It is a difficult thing to do because either you can create something that is not believable or a character that seems overly naïve, or some of the readers just may not understand if it is too subtle.

I think that there is a need to give more communication skills of the character, Little Chandler. It will help him overcome his shyness or gain him more confidence.

Communication between him and his wife is important. It will help in strengthening their relationship and avoid conflicts and/or misunderstandings.

my God, i figured you have been going to chip in with some decisive insight at the end there, not leave it with ‘we leave it to you to decide’.

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