Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on James Joyce's A Mother. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.
A Mother: Introduction
A Mother: Plot Summary
A Mother: Detailed Summary & Analysis
A Mother: Themes
A Mother: Quotes
A Mother: Characters
A Mother: Symbols
A Mother: Theme Wheel
Brief Biography of James Joyce
Historical Context of A Mother
Other Books Related to A Mother
- Full Title: A Mother
- When Written: 1905
- Where Written: Trieste, Italy; Pola, Croatia; and Zürich, Switzerland
- When Published: 1914
- Literary Period: Modernist
- Genre: Short Story
- Setting: Dublin, Ireland
- Climax: Mrs Kearney mocks Mr Holohan
- Protagonist/Antagonist: The third-person omniscient narrator most often provides the reader with insight into Mrs Kearney’s point of view, making her the protagonist of the story. But by fixating on making sure her daughter receives an eight-guinea payment for her performance at a series of concerts, she gets in her own way to the point that she crosses everyone and ruins her family’s reputation, making her the story’s antagonist, too.
- Point of View: Third-person omniscient
Extra Credit for A Mother
Joyce’s Musical Career: If James Joyce hadn’t found success as an author, he might have been an artiste like the concert performers in “A Mother”—the story is likely based on his own experiences singing in festivals and competitions. Joyce was an excellent tenor, played the piano and the guitar, and, like Mr Bell, the second tenor in “A Mother,” he competed at the Feis Ceoil (an Irish competitive classical music festival). Joyce won the first round of competition, but only ended up taking home a bronze medal—again, like Mr Bell—in the main event, likely because his poor eyesight made him bad at sight-singing. He is said to have thrown the medal into the River Liffey since he couldn’t sell or trade it for anything. But he kept the positive newspaper reviews of his performance in his pockets until they disintegrated.