Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Review: 'Dubliners' by James Joyce

DublinersI have decided to use James Joyce's 'Dubliners' for my coursework for this term's Studying Literature module. I always thought Joyce could only be as difficult as 'Ulysses'. I read 'Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man' a couple of years ago and quite liked it, even if I can't really remember it. I was quite hesitant about picking up 'Dubliners' but I am so happy I did.
This work of art reflects life in Ireland at the turn of the last century, and by rejecting euphemism, reveals to the Irish their unromantic reality. Each of the 15 stories offers glimpses into the lives of ordinary Dubliners, and collectively they paint a portrait of a nation.
 There are 15 stories in this collection, all of which are set in Dublin. Joyce himself said that in these stories he wanted to explore the 'paralysis' that was Dublin. This is what my coursework will focus on as well, so if you have any thoughts on that subject don't hesitate to comment.

My favourite story was probably 'Eveline' in which the heroine, of the same name, awaits her elopement with her lover only to, in the end, be unable to. The 'paralysis' is probably the most obvious in this story, but it is also a beautiful story. It is very detailed and emotional and at the same time so short you can do nothing but admire Joyce for being able to create such a complex narrative in just a few pages. There are so many emotions out in the open and brimming below the surface that even in rereads I have discovered new things about it. The same thing, to an extent, counts for all other stories but it really stuck with me in this story.

What is quite interesting is the structure of the collection. They are divided into childhood, young adults, middle age and death. Although these themes, death and development, come up in all the stories, it is very clear that they are different categories. This means that as you read the stories you almost grow up and accept the paralysis that has spread throughout Dublin. You almost feel Joyce's claustrophobia as you read the street names and walk past the pubs and find nothing that is not Irish, not from Dublin. Even the characters that have seemed to escape have to return and seem caught in something else.

Overall I give the collection....


This collection of short stories is masterful. Joyce truly knows how to create with language. As you read, you feel like you are in Dublin, like you can feel the paralysis, and all of this is done through language and Joyce's intimate knowledge of Dublin. I recommend it to everyone, especially those who are scared of by the name James Joyce.

1 comment:

  1. Very well-written review! I've read parts of Dubliners though not yet the whole collection and from what I've read I agree with you! Eveline is also one of the stories that is still most present on my mind, but one of my favorite parts was the ending of The Dead with the 'snow falling faintly, faintly falling through the universe'. Joyce truly is a master at creating setting and atmosphere!
    I'm about halfway through Ulysses at the moment (for a colloquium) and really want to read Portrait of the Artist next because I really like Stephen Daedalus as a character.
    I think Joyce has this 'stigma' of sorts for being so difficult and serious etc and I think that's not really satisfied. Not every part of Ulysses is difficult, it's also fun at times and not all his writing is as avant-guarde as that one book. I think people should be less 'afraid' of reading him!