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Study Questions for James Joyce's The
epiphany, stream of consciousness, symbolism
Lecture or Handouts:
Identify the following characters and
Gabriel Conroy, Freddy Malins, Gretta Conroy, Lily, Mary
Jane Morkan, Julia Morkan, Kate Morkan, Ms. Molly Ivors,
Mr. Browne, Mr D'Arcy, Michael Furey, snow falling in a churchyard, a horse-cart circling the statue of an English king
- Why has Lily nearly been run off her feet? What
social event is keeping her so busy?
- Who hosts this Christmas party each year?
- We hear the location is on Usher's Island. What are
the connotations of the word "Usher" and how does it
connect to the title and themes of the work?
- Why are the Morkan sisters worried about Freddy Malins?
i.e., in, what condition are they afraid he will show
- What does the Anglo-Irish term "screwed" refer to,
unlike in American English?
- What social gaffe or embarassing topic does Gabriel
accidentally bring up while talking with Lily while joking
with her about her love-life?
- Why does Gabriel claim he is giving Lily some money?
What do you suppose his real motivation is for passing
off the coin to her?
- Why is Gabriel worried about quoting lines from Robert
Browning in his Christmas speech?
- When Mr Browne drinks some whiskey before the youngsters,
what joking explanation does he give for his indulgence
in the liquor?
- What dance are couples dancing in the parlor room?
- Mr Bartell D'Arcy is skilled at singing what
musical part, the baritone, the tenor, the soprano,
- When Miss Ivors shows up, what is fixed in the front
of her collar? Why is she wearing such a device?
- What does Miss Ivors mean when she says, "I have a
crow to pluck with you" to Gabriel? What is the American
English equivalent of this phrase?
- What is the complaint Miss Ivors has about Gabriel?
Why is she angry with Gabriel?
- What is the insult intended when she says, "I didn't
think you were a West Briton."
- Where does Miss Ivors invite Gabriel for the summer?
Why does she think Gretta in particular would like to
- Where does Gabriel prefer to vacation, and why does
he want to go there?
- What does Miss Ivors again whisper in Gabriel's ear
at the end of the dance?
- What is Gretta's reaction when she hears she and her
husband have been invited out to the western parts of
Ireland? What is Gabriel's reaction to her reaction?
- What is the ironic symbolism behind Aunt Julia singing
"Arrayed for the Bridal"?
- When Miss Ivors leaves the party early, how does she
say good-bye or good-night? What language is she using
her, and how is it a political statement that matches
- During dinner, the discussion begins to settle on monastic
practices, including the rumor that certain orders of
monks sleep in coffins. Why do they do this, accoridng
to Mary Jane? How does this connect with the themes and
title of this short story? Mr Browne seems confused by
all this. How is his religious background different from
most of the guests?
- How does Gabriel kick off his speech? What is his theme
- Explain the political symbolism about Patrick Morkan's
horse Johnny walking in endless circles around the statue
of King Billy (English King William).
Passages for Identification: Be able to explain who wrote
these passages, what work they come from, and briefly explain
their significance, context, or importance in the work.
He stood still in the gloom of the hall, trying to catch
the air that the voice was singing and gazing up at his
wife. There was grace and mystery in her attitude as if
she were a symbol of something. He asked himself what
is a woman standing on the stairs in the shadow, listening
to distant music, a symbol of. If he were a painter, he
would paint her in that attitude. . . . Distant
Music, he would call the picture if he were a painter.
So she had had that romance in her life:
a man had died for her sake. It hardly pained him now
a part he, her husband, had played in her life. He watched
her while she slept. . . His curious eyes rested long
upon her face and on her hair: and, as he thought of what
must have been then, in that time of her first girlish
beauty, a strange, friendly pity for her entered his
soul. He did not like to say even to himself that her face
no longer beautiful but he knew that it was no longer
the face for which Michael Furey had braved death.
Generous tears filled Gabriel's eyes. He had never felt
like that himself towards any woman but he knew that such
a feeling must be love. The tears gathered more thickly
in his eyes and in the partial darkness he imagined he
saw the form of a young man standing under a dripping tree.
Other forms were near. His soul had approached that region
where dwell the vast hosts of the dead.
Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over
Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central
plain, on the treeless hills, falling softly upon the Bog
of Allen, and farther westward, softly falling into the
dark mutinous Shannon waves. It was falling, too, upon
every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael
Furey lay buried. It lay thickly drifted on the crooked
crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate,
on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard
the snow falling faintly throug hthe universe and faintly
falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all
the living and the dead.