Research Seminar on James Joyce’s ‘Dubliners’

  • Kimberly Salako

For my research seminar, I choose James Joyce’s ‘DUBLINERS’. This work is basically 15 short stories put together. It was first published in 1914 by Grant Richards LTD, London. However the copy I read was the e-book version that was created and published online by Global Grey in 2003.Unlike his other works, Dubliners works on a plot based aspect. This work of Joyce is different from his others as those appear to be for a more sophisticated reader and difficult to comprehend at times. When I read this work, I found it easy to understand as it was mainly simple and direct. However, there are parts of this works that tend to need more effort than the last. This was one of Joyce’s earlier works; hence it appeared to have more of a story-telling base to it. I found this fascinating as compared to his other works, Dubliners is relatively immature, and however, this seemed to have hit a wider spread of people. Joyce’s first publication was an essay on Ibsen’s play When We Dead Awaken that had appeared in Fortnightly Review during the 1900’s.

When I had read it, I found it interesting as I was able to see Dublin from Joyce’s point of view. It was evident that he had a certain amount of hatred for the Catholic Church. He felt that they were responsible for the backwardness of his country as they began recruiting smart and intellectual men for the priesthood instead of allowing them to become scientists and doctors to help their nation. Many had believed that book was set during the ‘Potato Famine’ period in the 1840’s. Due to this an Irish independence movement was formed. Yet, this movement failed when their own countryman betrayed them. This defeat is evident in the Dubliners. From first story there is obvious evident that England was treacherous in the opinion of Joyce or his characters.

Excluding all the good, Joyce’s Dubliners caused a lot of controversy due to the material in the stories. The most of the works contained unattractive human behaviour like drunkenness, child and spousal abuse, gambling, prostitution, petty thievery, blackmail, and suicide. The use throughout of the names of Dublin streets and parks — and especially shops, pubs, and railway companies was seen as scandalous too as most of the time, the names were changed. In fact, this caused a delay in the publication of the book by years, as potential publishers and printers feared lawsuits by those businesses mentioned by name. Disrespectful dialogue about the king of England. When I read on the struggles that Joyce faced while trying to publish this book, it all led up to one story that started it all. ’Two Gallants’ was one of the first stories which he sent in but was considered to be full of ‘obscenities’. As at that time, English law stated that a printer was just as guilty of any charges of obscenity as the writer of the book, this added to the long wait while it all got corrected.
Out of all the stories, ‘The Dead’ was considered to be the longest as also the richest and emotion – affecting story. This was said to be one of his works that brought out his writing skills that was later seen in his other works. The story reiterates the great themes of Dubliners. Gabriel’s marriage is clearly suffering from paralysis, the condition nearly all the characters in the collection seem to suffer from. This accounts for his excitement at story’s end when he believes that Gretta’s passion relates to him and them, as their marriage has decayed badly over the years. In this story, paralysis is represented as usual by the colours yellow and brown, but Joyce also employs the symbolism of snow and ice; after all, if something is frozen, it is motionless — paralyzed. Thus, as in many Dubliners stories before it, “The Dead” connects paralysis with the English. To summarize, Gabriel suffers from paralysis, at least partly because of his admiration for and attraction to things English. Another amazing story was ‘Eveline’. Eveline’s story shows that there a difficulties of holding onto the past when facing the future. Hers is the first portrait of a female in Dubliners, and it reflects the conflicting pull many women in early twentieth-century Dublin felt between a domestic life rooted in the past and the possibility of a new married life abroad. The story does not suggest that Eveline placidly returns home and continues her life, but shows her transformation into an automaton that lacks expression.

In short, I choose to do this as unlike any other book, there is a certain voice of biasness present in the book. Even though the characters are different in each story, one can note that it is definitely Joyce speaking through them. Another reason would be because there is evidently a conflict between England, The Catholic Church and Ireland. This adds further interest to the work as when it came to the church during that time, it was obvious that the church expected all to follow them and form of rebellion was immediately crushed under the name of Christ. It makes one wonder how far they had gone and what more they were willing to do, until Dublin got its independence. Then, of course, there is that first story that depicts a woman’s life and role during that period. It showed how a woman was expected to live. There was definitely a show of class system in all the stories and how this included the women also.


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