Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Dubliners by James Joyce

GENRE: short stories/Irish fiction/realism

Comprising fifteen stories, Dubliners presents a community of mesmerizing, humorous, and haunting characters—a group portrait. The interactions among them form one long meditation on the human condition, culminating with “The Dead,” one of Joyce’s most graceful compositions centering around a character’s epiphany. A carefully woven tapestry of Dublin life at the turn of the last century, Dubliners realizes Joyce’s ambition to give his countrymen “one good look at themselves.”


This was a sporadic read for me, as I read one short story in the collection every few days, but this does not mean that I was avoiding the book because I did not like it. It’s just how I read collections of short stories and I must say that, although I am not a fan of Joyce in the slightest, I enjoyed his short stories. Having just watched several Irish movies, I really fell into this Irish atmosphere.

The collection includes fifteen short stories, all of them focusing on the Irish middle class of the early twentieth century, therefore on the ordinary Irish people during the time when Irish nationalism was growing strong, which is evident in the short stories. I read that with this collection, Joyce wanted to heighten the national awareness of the Irish and show them who they were. I think he succeeded well. (I do wonder, though, what was Joyce’s view on those who took nationalism and the battle for independence a bit too far and formed the IRA. It would be great to know this.)

The writing style is very realistic and simple and knowing Joyce’s style and way of writing, this means that he adapted his writing to the language of an ordinary middle-class Irishman/woman, which is great, very thoughtful and also easy to read, after all, as there are no complicated metaphors present, or any such linguistic devices. Dublin is at the centre of all stories and it is described in great detail and given much importance, perhaps because it is the capital of Ireland and on a symbolic level, I think Joyce might have focused on Dublin as the heart of Ireland – namely, the core of “Irishness” and who the Irish are, or were at the time.

This collection of short stories is not exactly extraordinary, but it is very good, very socially and nationalistically aware, and in the end, it is about ordinary people one can meet on the street, which brings the stories closer to the reader, as one can see themselves more easily in such every-day stories, I think. Just to give you an idea, in this collection you will find stories about a college student who tries to fit in with his wealthy friends, about a woman who does not leave with her sailor lover after all, as she is so duty-bound to her family, about a laundress who celebrates Halloween with her former foster child and his family, and so on.

I recommend this collection of short stories to those who like short stories, realism, and Ireland. You may not like Joyce’s Ulyses (I, personally, couldn't finish it), but Dubliners are something else. I had a good time reading these stories.

I read this book for the Ireland Reading Challenge 2010.



Blodeuedd said...

How do you compare it to A portrait of the...? Cos that one, boring

The Insouciant Sophisticate said...

I have such bad memories of this book; I had to read it for class with a teacher I loathed and I did a presentation with my (totally genius at English) best friend on a story. The result is that I hate Joyce and will never try Ulysses.

Maybe I would have liked it more if I had had a good teacher/picked it up on my own.

Irena @ This Miss Loves to Read said...

@Blodeuedd: To me, much better, much less rambling, philosophising etc. Just simple stories about ordinary people, really.

@Bookworm: I have hated a few books because of a teacher, so I totally understand this. Joyce IS very hard to like. I guess I was lucky with "Dubliners".

Shelley said...

This sounds so much more doable than Ulysses! I may have to try it out!