The reserved and contemplative boy who deals with the death of his friend, Father Flynn. The narrator avoids showing outward emotions to his family members, but he devotes his thoughts to the priest’s memory. Others in the story see the narrator’s relationship with the priest as inappropriate and exploitative, and the narrator himself seems unsure of what the priest meant to him.
The priest who dies in “The Sisters.” Father Flynn’s ambiguous presence in the story as a potential child molester initiates a book-long critique of religious leaders, consistently portraying them as incompetent.
The family friend in “The Sisters” who informs the narrator of Father Flynn’s death. Old Cotter voices concern about the priest’s intentions with the narrator, but he avoids making any direct statements.
The young boy who endures an awkward conversation with a perverted old man while skipping school. Bored with the drudgery of lessons, the narrator dreams of escape. When imaginary games fail to fulfill his yearning for adventure, he embarks on a real one with his friend Mahony by skipping school and spending the day in Dublin, only to encounter fear.
The narrator’s companion in “An Encounter.” When Mahony and the narrator rest in a field, a strange old man approaches them. At one point Mahony runs aw ay after a cat, leaving the narrator and the old man alone.
The amorous boy who devotes himself to his neighbor Mangan’s sister. Images and thoughts of the girl subsume the narrator’s days, but when he finally speaks to her it is brief and awkward. When Mangan’s sister tells the narrator about a bazaar called Araby, the narrator decides to go there and buy something for her. However, he arrives at the bazaar too late and buys nothing. The narrator illustrates the joys and frustrations of young love. His inability to pursue his desires angers him.
The love interest in “Araby.” Mangan’s sister mentions the Araby bazaar to the narrator, prompting him to travel there. She suggests the familiarity of Dublin, as well as the hope of love and the exotic appeal of new places.
The protagonist of the story that shares her name. Eveline makes a bold and exciting decision to elope to Argentina with her lover, Frank, but ultimately shrinks away from it, excluding herself from love. Her constant review of the pros and cons of her decision demonstrates her willingness to please everyone but herself, and her final resolve to stay in Dublin with her family casts her as a woman trapped in domestic and familiar duties and afraid to embrace the unpredictable.
"After the Race"
The upwardly mobile protagonist of “After the Race.” Infatuated with the prestige of his friends and giddy about his inclusion in such high-society circles, Jimmy conducts a life of facile whims and excessive expenditure.
One half of the pair of swindlers in “Two Gallants.” Lenehan exudes energy and exhaustion at once. He excitedly partakes in the exploits of his friend Corley but also laments the aimlessness of his hard living and lack of stability. Though he yearns to settle down, he remains fixed to Corley’s side as the stereotypical sidekick.
The scheming friend of Lenehan in “Two Gallants.” Corley’s bulky, assertive physical presence matches his grandiose bragging and incessant self-promotion. A police informant and skilled in taking advantage of women, Corley provides one of the most critical and unsympathetic portraits of betrayal in
"The Boarding House"
The proprietor and mother from “The Boarding House.” Separated from her husband and the owner of a business, Mrs. Mooney firmly governs her own life, as well as her daughter Polly’s. Her apparently successful plan to secure her daughter in a comfortable marriage makes her a morally ambiguous character. She demands equal treatment for men and women but also manipulates relationships to rid herself of her daughter.
The lover of Mrs. Mooney’s daughter Polly in “The Boarding House.” A successful clerk, Mr. Doran fears his affair with the unpolished daughter will tarnish his reputation and bemoans the restraints of marriage, but he resolves to marry her out of social necessity and fear.
"A Little Cloud"
Little Chandler’s old friend who visits Dublin in “A Little Cloud.” For Little Chandler, Gallaher represents all that is enticing and desirable: success in England, a writing career, foreign travel, and laid-back ease with women. His gruff manners and forthright behavior contrast with Little Chandler’s delicacy.
The unhappy and fastidious clerk who reunites with his friend Gallaher in “A Little Cloud.” Little Chandler’s physical attributes match his name—he is small, fragile, and delicately groomed. His tendency to suppress his poetic desires suggests that he also earns his title by living quietly and without passion. He fleetingly rebels against his domestic life after hearing about Gallaher’s exciting life, then shamefully re-embraces it.
Read an in-depth analysis of Little Chandler.
The burly and aggressive copy clerk and protagonist in “Counterparts.” With his wine-red face and fuming temper, Farrington moves through Dublin as a time bomb of rage. Farrington’s job dooms him to unthinkingly repeat his actions, and he transfers his frustrations from one experience to the next without discernment. His outlets in life are drinking and fighting, a physical engagement with the world that typifies his lack of care and thought. Farrington’s son is one victim of his rage.
Farrington’s boss in “Counterparts.” Exasperated by Farrington’s poor work, Mr. Alleyne yells at and insults Farrington until Farrington embarrasses him in front of the office staff. He serves mainly to exacerbate Farrington’s frustrations and fuel his anger.
The quiet and prim maid and protagonist from “Clay” who goes to visit Joe Donnelly, the man she nursed when he was a boy. Maria is precise and dedicated to detail. She moves through most of the narrative with content satisfaction and laughter. Her happiness, however, faces challenges in the smallest of events, and her disproportionate reactions to small troubles suggest a remote detachment from life.
The man Maria visits in “Clay.” Joe’s brief appearance in the story provides a backdrop for Maria’s own concerns. Like her, he worries about mundane details, but he also hides a deeper wound that the story does not articulate. Therefore, he serves as a sad figure of unhappiness.
"A Painful Case"
A solitary and obsessive man who eschews intimacy with Mrs. Sinico in “A Painful Case.” Disdainful of excess and tightly self-regulated, Mr. Duffy lives according to mundane routine, and when a relationship evolves beyond his comfort level, he squelches it. His remorse over Mrs. Sinico’s death makes him realize that his pursuit of order and control has led only to loneliness. He is one of the most tragic protagonists of
Mr. Duffy’s companion in “A Painful Case.” After being shunned by him, Mrs. Sinico becomes an alcoholic and dies when she is hit by a train. She once grasped Mr. Duffy’s hand and held it to her cheek, and this small, affectionate gesture led to the end of their relationship.
"Ivy Day in the Committee Room"
One of the political workers from “Ivy Day in the Committee Room.” Quiet and reserved, O’Connor paces the men’s conversation by tempering conflict and praise about the dead politician Parnell, but he shows little interest in his own political work.
Reads the poem about Parnell in “Ivy Day in the Committee Room.” Some of the men are hesitant about his presence in the room because Hynes is critical of the candidate for whom they work, but Hynes never wavers in his statements or views.
The equivocating political promoter from “Ivy Day in the Committee Room.” Henchy suspects everyone of betrayal. He suspects his boss of shirking the men out of beer and paychecks, and he suspects Hynes of informing the opposing candidate. However, he is the most equivocal figure in the story and constantly changes his own views to suit the context.
The commanding protagonist of “A Mother.” One of the four female protagonists in
The befuddled secretary who organizes the musical concerts in “A Mother.” Mr. Holohan is the subject of Mrs. Kearney’s abuse, and though he remains quiet throughout the story, he is the only character who resists and counters her critiques.
The out-of-luck businessman of “Grace.” After a nasty, drunken fall, Kernan joins his friends in an attempt to reform his life. He remains silent about his accident, never questioning the men who were his companions that night. His accepting attitude leads him to go along with his friends’ plan to attend a Catholic retreat, but he never makes an active decision.
Kernan’s friend in “Grace.” Power rescues Kernan after his accident and suggests the Catholic retreat. Mr. Power’s dedication to Kernan appears shallow despite his efforts to reform the man, as he is acutely aware of Kernan’s dwindling social status in comparison to his own burgeoning career.
The protagonist from “The Dead.” A university-educated teacher and writer, Gabriel struggles with simple social situations and conversations, and straightforward questions catch him off guard. He feels out of place due to his highbrow literary endeavors. His aunts, Julia and Kate Morkan, turn to him to perform the traditionally male activities of carving the goose and delivering a speech at their annual celebration. Gabriel represents a force of control in the story, but his wife Gretta’s fond and sad recollections of a former devoted lover make him realize he has little grasp on his life and that his marriage lacks true love.
Gabriel’s wife in “The Dead.” Gretta plays a relatively minor role for most of the story, until the conclusion where she is the focus of Gabriel’s thoughts and actions. She appears mournful and distant when a special song is sung at the party, and she later plunges into despair when she tells Gabriel the story of her childhood love, Michael Furey. Her pure intentions and loyalty to this boy unnerve Gabriel and generate his despairing thoughts about life and death.
The housemaid to the Morkan sisters who rebukes Gabriel in “The Dead.”
The nationalist woman who teases Gabriel during a dance in “The Dead.”
One of the aging sisters who throw an annual dance party in “The Dead.” Julia has a grey and sullen appearance that combines with her remote, wandering behavior to make her a figure sapped of life.
One of the aging sisters who throw an annual dance party in “The Dead.” Kate is vivacious but constantly worries about her sister, Julia, and the happiness of the guests.
Gretta Conroy’s childhood love in “The Dead” who died for her long ago.