Summary of "Grace" by James Joyce

by Michael Belcher Google
Many of Jame Joyce's stories take place in Dublin and elsewhere in Ireland.

Many of Jame Joyce's stories take place in Dublin and elsewhere in Ireland.

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"Grace" is a short story in James Joyce's "Dubliners," a collection first published in 1914. Consisting of 15 stories, "Dubliners" focuses on lives of people in Dublin, Ireland. Many characters in "Dubliners" reappear in Joyce's later masterpiece, "Ulysses." "Grace" focuses on Catholicism and its place in Irish culture.

The Accident

"Grace" begins with a drunken man falling down the stairs in a pub's lavatory. The man strikes his head and is knocked unconscious. Two men and the bartender carry him back to the main pub and lay him on the ground. A constable is called in case the man dies, and arrives with a man with medical training. The drunk is given brandy to revive him, and gives the name Tom Kernan to the contestable. Kernan is soon collected by a friend, Jack Power, and taken home. At home, Kernan's wife explains he has been drinking since Friday, and Power promises to make a new man of him.


Kernan remains in bed with a wounded tongue, but is visited by Power and some colleagues, Mr. Cunningham and Mr. M'Coy. The purpose of the visit, unknown to Kernan, is to talk about his religious convictions. Kernan was Protestant before converting to Catholicism before his marriage, had not been in a church for 20 years and is known to still make fun of the church. Kernan and the three guests talk about the fall and what caused it. Kernan admits he was very drunk, but the conversation turns to the ineffective policeman who was called to the scene.

Invitation to Mass

The group slyly brings up an upcoming spiritual retreat. The friends discuss the time and place of meeting, but not the event. Taking the bait, Kernan asks what is going on. The friends admit they are going to a Jesuit retreat for businessmen. The talk turns to religion as the group discusses the well-known priests they have heard speak in the past. As the talk turns to differences between Protestantism and Catholicism, the group is joined by Mr. Fogarty, a grocer acquaintance. The group discusses popes of their time before agreeing to go to the retreat. Kernan agrees to go on the condition that he will not light a candle, saying he does not agree with "that magic lantern business."

The Retreat

At the start of the retreat, Cunningham points out the many people in attendance. Seeing familiar faces makes Kernan more comfortable. As the retreat starts, Kernan follows the lead of the other men as Father Purdon begins a prayer. During the sermon, Purdon speaks to the businessmen in a businesslike way, calling himself their "spiritual accountant." He urges each of them to open "the books of his spiritual life, and see if they tallied accurately with conscience." The story ends with Purdon urging the listeners to be frank and honest with themselves about their spiritual lives.


  • "Dubliners"; "Grace"; Jame Joyce; 1914

About the Author

Michael Belcher has been a public relations professional since 2008 working for university groups and volunteer groups. He has a Bachelor of Science in journalism from Murray State University and is in Dublin, Ireland to finish a Master of Science in mass communications.

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