Dubliners : Is it possible to escape from your roots?

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James Joyce was one of the main authors who projected the suffering and doom of his own home town, Ireland. He wrote extensively and in all his works, directly or indirectly, he addressed one issue, the immense want to escape from the dilapidated city and the inability to do so. Dubliners is an anthology of 15 short stories, which was first published in 1914. In gives us a realistic pen picture of the middle class life in and around Dublin during the former years of 20th century. That was the period when Irish nationalism was at its zenith, and a search for national identity and the very motive of life was raging. The stories in Dubliners have a common theme of Epiphany. A moment when the character experiences self-understanding or enlightenment.

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The initial stories have child protagonists. Like in “The Sisters”, “An Encounter” and “Araby” which deals with children placing their blind faith upon a certain person or perspective of life and then being delusional about the situation in the course of time. It deals with the emotional turmoil that the innocent minds of children have to go through at such a tender age. As the book proceeds it deals with the life and worlds of young people. “Eveline is about a young woman who contemplates her desire to flee Ireland with a sailor. “After the Race” deals with a college student trying to fit in somewhere he doesn’t belong to. “Two Gallants” show the ungratefulness of a servant to her mistress. Gradually we see the protagonists becoming middle aged people. In “The Boarding House” we have a mother who coaxes her daughter into marrying her lodger. “A Little Cloud” is a controversial story which deals with a man who reflects upon his own unfulfilled literary dreams whereas the other person undergoes a sudden realization about how his child had taken his place as the epicenter of his wife’s affections. “Counterparts” and “Clay” both have their subject matter as complicated relationships between parents and their respective children. The last couple of stories deal with old age, reformation, hopelessness and loneliness of the people stuck in the labyrinth of Ireland. Wanting to escape but not escaping their mother land. “A Painful Case” deals with a person having a painful realization. “Ivy Day in Committee Room” and “A Mother” deals with the immense urge to achieve something and the regret it causes when it remains unrequited. “Grace” deals with reformation of an alcoholic person through religion. The last story, as you can tell, is very aptly called the “The Dead”. This story is about 15-16,000 words long and can be easily classified into a novella. It is about a person who ponders upon the nature of life and death in an epiphanic moment.

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James Joyce is known for his simple language and the smooth fluid flow of thought. He was one of the first authors to write in a stream of consciousness technique. Although his stories were detailed and intricate, they were not didactic. Joyce dealt with the lives of ordinary dubliners and the crisis they had to face. He gave us the plot but not the conclusion. He gave us the instances and allowed us to find our own inferences. He did not impose his views on anyone. He did not tell his readers what to think, he just gave them something to think about. Most of his stories have an indefinite ending, something which retains their charm. This was a pleasant shift from the morally upright novels of Charles Dickens. Joyce more than often allowed his narrative voice to gravitate towards the voice of a character in his text. Although he rarely wrote in first person, in many of his stories he has used descriptions from the characters point of view. This is indicative of a sort of a blending of narrative with textual situations.

The collection as a whole, shows the journey of one’s life. Beginning with childhood, progressing in age and then ultimately culminating in what seems the end of the path traversed – “The Dead”. Joyce gave intricate details of the life and places in Dublin. The geographic descriptions are so vivid that anyone with prior knowledge of that area would be able to able to relate to them. The multiple perspectives presented throughout the collection serves as a mirror of the kind of people living in Dublin at that time. The detached but highly perceptive narrative voice gives us an objective view of the entire scenario. The stories are not individualistic in their nature. A character from one story mentions the name of a character from another story and often the place and setting described in one of the stories often appears in other stories. These subtle connections portrays a kind of shared experience and formulates a painting of Dublin that Joyce would return to again and again in all of his works.