Lucan Road

Section of the 1883 ‘Geological Map of the Environs of Dublin’ by Lett’s, Sons, & Co. showing Lucan in the far west, Chapelizod near the center, and Dublin city in the east. From the online David Rumsey Map Collection. The Liffey runs west to east in the center, and below it can be seen the Lucan Road, running almost parallel to the river’s course. Click image for full map.

The Lucan Road, mentioned in “A Painful Case,” connects the western Dublin suburbs of Chapelizod and Lucan, incidentally the location of the 1883 Dublin-Lucan Steam Tramway terminus. Running along the south side of the Liffey, the road spans from Lucan in the west to Chapelizod in the east. (Joyce even hybridized the towns in Finnegans Wake as “Lucalizod.”) The road actually has many names along various stretches of its length, but Joyce preferred to use its utilitarian label in Dubliners. Like the Shelbourne Road, the Lucan Road identifies a route to a town. And because that town is west of Dublin, it implies an opposite directional movement to the Liffey running nearly parallel just above it. Its westward direction also implies an exit from the city and thus connotes escape, departure, or moving beyond a boundary. All of these are appropriate in the context of “A Painful Case,” especially at the reference’s particular placement in the story.

Mr. Duffy has just re-read the newspaper story describing the death of his once close but lately estranged friend Mrs. Sinico. His first reading had been over dinner in George’s Street, a location within the city proper. But it isn’t until he arrives at home after a vaguely difficult end to his interrupted meal that the reader learns the story that so bothered him was one about the death of his friend. It is only once he is safely out of the city that the news is conveyed to the reader, word-for-word no less, and even then the story is followed directly by connotations of even further outward movement:

“Mr Duffy raised his eyes from the paper and gazed out of his window on the cheerless evening landscape. The river lay quiet beside the empty distillery and from time to time a light appeared in some house on the Lucan road. What an end!” (115)

Because the name implies a movement toward the town of Lucan, which is even further west of the city center than Chapelizod, the reference to the road imbues the news of the death with further implications of departure or escape. The embedded news story implies that the death was an accident, but the narrative suggests the possibility that Mrs. Sinico’s death is a suicide. In either case, the centrifugal movement from center to something outside is reflected between death and departure.

The movement implied by a road labeled for its westward destination also anticipates the more expansive “journey westward” in “The Dead,” and, like that journey, is initiated by the main character’s reflection on a disturbingly influential dead figure (223). But whereas Gabriel has only just learned of Micahel Furey’s existence, Mr. Duffy had been uncomfortably familiar with Mrs Sinico while she was alive. His emotions are more confused and visceral (the rest of the paragraph contains words like “revolted,” “vulgar,” “degraded,” “squalid,” “miserable,” “malodorous,” etc.), requiring perhaps a more limited geo-emotional escape so that he may instead work to anchor himself. In fact, he seems to do just this when he ventures back out for a walk, and it isn’t until he gazes back toward the city that he is able to to feel sympathy for Mrs Sinico, albeit a sympathy born out of guilt and shame for his own hand in her demise. While the lights of the Lucan Road, toponymically pointing westward, only offer Duffy a kind of malformed epiphanic journey westward, the lights of Dublin, pulling him eastward, present him with feelings of loneliness  and guilt. In the end, “[h]e turned back the way he had come,” but listens still to the train in the east, which seems to be iterating the syllables of his friend’s name as it moves away.



Dorset Street

Dorset Street, facing north toward Drumcondra. Photograph, created between 1900 and 1939, is from the digitized Eason Photographic Collection at the National Library of Ireland.

Though it’s the second place referenced in “Two Gallants,” Dorset Street is the beginning of a long circuitous walking route that winds through the story. In the opening paragraphs we find Lenehan and Corley walking along Rutland Square on an August evening. Following a scrupulous description of Lenehan’s appearance and sampling of his conversation style, we learn that “[h]is tongue was tired for he had been talking all the afternoon in a public-house in Dorset Street” (50). Don Gifford’s commentary on the reference is simply that the men “would have had their choice of at least fourteen or fifteen pubs on the street in 1903” (55). Indeed both an 1892 and a 1909 Thom’s Directory list several wine, beer, and spirit merchants as well as victuallers that may have hosted the men. A few of these persisted over the seventeen-year span and no doubt others came and went in between. (And as soon as we can get a digital edition of Thom’s 1904, researchers will have access to more precise information no matter where they are based.)

Dorset Street, known prior to the nineteenth century as Drumcondra Lane, runs diagonally through the north side of the city fromDominick Street in the southwest to the Canal Bridge in the northeast.  Upper Dorset Street (which is actually the southern half of the stretch) was populated by a wider variety of public houses and is closer to Rutland Square than Lower Dorset, so we might speculate that the vicinity between Dominick and Hardwicke Lane is indeed where the men have spent the afternoon and where they start their trek south toward the city center. This would put them at the start of their journey in the vicinity of St. George’s church and Mrs. Moody’s boarding house, which is in Hardwicke Street, the setting of the story following “Two Gallants.” The return to the setting of the opening of “Two Gallants” in the beginning of “A Boarding House” takes the circuitous path of the previous story beyond that story’s frame and injects something else into the way we read the opening description of Mrs. Mooney.

Screenshot of the Mapping Dubliners Google Earth map showing the parallel Dorset and Hardwicke Streets.

The stories share an approximate opening setting, but they also share a similarity of character relationships and motivations. Corley, like Mrs. Mooney, is an opportunist. And Lenehan, like Polly, is a willing participant in the other’s scheme. Completing the parallel trinities are Corley’s female companion and Bob Doran, both of whom are caught, not without some fault of their own, in the self-serving designs of the opposite sex. While this comparison could be drawn without a map, the added geospatial element introduces a kind of metaphoric utility to the movement in both stories. While the young men travel great distances, Corley by tram and Lenehan by foot, to achieve their goal, Mrs. Mooney only leaves her house to “catch short twelve in Marlborough Street” before she completes her task. In effect, Mrs. Mooney’s path, both social and geographic, is much more direct, while Lenehan and Corley’s is much more elaborate. The two young men must divide up so that Corley can get close enough to his girl to gain her trust and thus her charity. Meanwhile Lenehan must wander rather aimlessly, tracing circles through the city as he ponders his position in life.

The contrast could be a gender commentary by Joyce, but that commentary is a complex one. Is Mrs. Mooney more shrewd than Corley or more manipulative? Is Corley more willing to go out of his way for what he wants than Mrs. Mooney, or is he simply lacking the ability to apply his skills in more efficient ways? Mrs. Mooney is “sure she would win” while Corley “know[s] the way to get around [his target].” Both have confidence in their proficiency at manipulation, and both are ultimately successful. Mrs. Mooney just seems able to “pull it off” with less ambulatory effort.


“The First Map of the Strait of Magellan, 1520” from The Journal of Magellan’s Voyage. Available at the World Digital Library at

Although the reference in “Eveline” is to a people rather than a place, like the title of Dubliners, “Patagonians” elicits an identity fused to geography and thus presents us a geographic reference. The term appears amid a list of places as we learn about Frank’s travels to exotic lands:

He had tales of distant countries. He had started as a deck boy at a pound a month on a ship of the Allan Line going out to Canada. He told her the names of the ships he had been on and the names of the different services. He had sailed through the Straits of Magellan and he told her stories of the terrible Patagonians. He had fallen on his feet in Buenos Ayres, he said, and had come over to the old country just for a holiday.

The Patagonians he refers to would have been native inhabitants of the area of Patagonia in South America. The region name first appears on a map which was included in Antonio Pigafetta’s chronicle of Ferdinand Magellan’s 1520 expedition through the Straits of MagellanThe Journal of Magellan’s Voyage describes the native inhabitants of this land, spanning parts of the southern regions of Chile and Argentina, as Patagonians. In fact, if Dubliners are named after their locale, then Patagonia is named after its people.

Accounts differ as to the origin of the label “Patagonian.” It was initially thought that the name derived from a word meaning “big feet,” but more substantial research suggests that Magellan first applied the name Patagão as a derivation of Patagón, the name of a character in a text he was likely to have read. In the story Primaleon of Greece, Patagón is a giant from Paphlagonia, an area located at the top of present-day Turkey. After terrorizing  a “remote island” he is slain by Primaleon, the hero of the chivalry tale. Miguel Armando Doura outlines the rationale for this interpretation of the name in his 2011 article “Acerca del Topónimo Patagonia, una Nueva Hipótesis de Sugnésis.” (Incidentally, Stephen Mitchell explains that Paphlagonia may have also been the birthplace of Homer.)

Map Anatolia ancient regions
“Regional map of Asia Minor in the 2nd Century BC” from Wikimedia Commons.


The etymology of the name is also discussed in Bruce Chatwin’s 1977 travelogue In Patagonia.

Whether or not readers see the etymology of this place name as significant to the story of “Eveline,” what is certain is that Joyce’s reference to the “terrible Patagonians” imbues Frank with a kind of adventurous and exotic mythos. But if Frank is a modern Magellan, that makes him as much a colonizer as an explorer, and those implications are important to how we view Frank in the story and how we view the notion of emigration in “Eveline” and Dubliners as a whole. Like in all of Joyce’s work, the tension between movement and paralysis is very much tied to the politics of deciding between staying in Ireland to wrest it away from its colonizers or escaping its yoke and starting fresh in a progressive place offering more opportunity. But in typical Joycean fashion the latter option folds back in on itself, threatening to make the emigrant another colonizer, thus perpetuating the very circumstances that necessitate the escape. It is no wonder that Eveline is frozen as she tries to decide whether or not to accompany Frank into a new life. Could she sail to Buenos Ayres and perpetuate the history of the European “explorer” in the Americas? Even if the question doesn’t cross her mind, it’s one worth considering as one of Joyce’s politically infused toponymical clues.