Dubliners : Authoritative text, contexts, criticism

by James Joyce

Paper Book, 2006

Status

Available

Genres

Publication

New York : W.W. Norton, 2006.

Description

An award-winning reading of Joyce's fourteen accessible stories including 'The Dead'.

User reviews

LibraryThing member baswood
A slim volume of fifteen short stories make up James Joyce's first prose book published in 1914. They are easy to read apart from a few obscure Irish phrases and it soon becomes apparent that Joyce is writing with a realism and insight that must have seemed quite modern when they first appeared. They are slices of middle class life told in a simple fashion with no sudden plot twists or trickery and may at first seem rather inconsequential, however they are certainly not that and build up to "The Dead" one of the best short stories I have ever read. The book has an accumulative power with that final story bringing together many of the strands and themes that appear earlier in the shorter tales.

All the stories are beautifully crafted with characters that are sketched in with such a preciseness that the reader feels at home with them straight away. The reader is never surprised with the actions (or in many cases inactions) that they take; they are a product of their times and those times are superbly caught by the author. Catholic Ireland in the first decade of the twentieth century was smarting under English rule and while a Nationalist uprising was just around the corner the middle class characters that inhabit Joyce stories seem as wary of the Nationalist as they are of English rule and while the political situation does not dominate their lives it is in the background to many of the stories, however Joyce is interested in the way people behave within their own community and his insights into the human condition are just as relevant today.

Missed opportunities or a failure to follow a dream is a theme that predominates, but in many of the stories it would seem to me that the characters are better off not chasing that dream. The events in their lives lead many of them to an epiphany of some sort, it could be a crossroads, but the tragedy is that some of them only realise this after the opportunity has passed them by. There are no risks taken, characters are content to live the lives that they are born into, conventions are followed and you have to say that many of the choices made are inevitable and may even be the right choices.

In "An Encounter" an adventurous young lad is curious about a strange man, who the reader can see could be a paedophile. In "Eveline" a young domestic is given the chance to run away to Argentina with a man who she may love. In "Araby" a teenager is desperate to get to a local Bazaar to buy a present for a girl on whom he has a crush. In "A Painful Case" James Duffy a confirmed bachelor meets a married woman whose company he yearns for and whom he finds intellectually stimulating. Many of the stories touch on situations that many of us will have come across; if not in our own lives then in the lives of friends or acquaintances and we cannot help but be drawn into the consequences for the characters in Joyce's stories.

Once the reader is used to the idea that the stories seem to follow a natural course he can let the prose do it's work; which is to capture the milieu of middle class life, to enter into the thoughts and feelings in such a way that there in no feeling of intrusion. Joyce is a master of non manipulation; their is no preaching, no moral stance, people behave as they will with few surprises; it is left to the reader to appreciate what he has just read and to follow his own reaction to the events that take place. There are few writers that can tap into my thoughts and feelings the way that Joyce can in [Dubliners] and [A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man].

The first story "Sisters" starts with the death of an old priest about whom there may be something untoward and the effect on a young lad who has grown close to him. The last story "The Dead" continues the grand theme of the march towards death by invoking the dead in the actions and thoughts of a party of friends gathering for a Christmas celebration. This masterful story brings many of the other stories into focus with a symbol of a snowfall that appears to deaden the lives of Joyce's characters; some marvellous prose completes the story:

Generous tears filled Gabriel's eyes. He had never felt like that himself towards any woman, but he knew that such a feeling must be love. The tears gathered more thickly in his eyes and in the partial darkness he imagined he saw the form of a young man standing under a dripping tree. Other forms were near. His soul had approached that region where dwell the vast hosts of the dead. He was conscious of, but could not apprehend, their wayward flickering existence. His own identity was fading out into a grey impalpable world: the solid world itself, which these dead had one time reared and lived in, was dissolving and dwindling"

After all the realism of the earlier stories Joyce's final lurch into the metaphysical world has the power of contrast that juxtaposes all that has gone before. A five star read.
… (more)
LibraryThing member Cariola
Are you afraid of James Joyce? Have you heard horror stories from folks who have tried to read Ulysses or Finnegan's Wake? Take a deep breath and pick up a copy of Dubliners--or better yet, listen as I did to a stunning audio version, in which fifteen stories are read by Irish actors and writers, including Frank and Malachy McCourt, Stephen Rea, Colm Meany, Fionnula Flannigan, Brendan Coyle, and Ciarin Hinds. Trust me, you won't have any of the difficulties here, in this early Joyce collection, that throw some readers off his work: no stream-of-conciousness narrative, no sentences that go on for twenty pages, no quirky dialect that you can't decipher. Just lovely, often very moving stories about ordinary people living in Dublin in the early 20th century. Two of the best known, "Araby" and "The Dead," you may even have read in a high school or college lit course, and both are tenderly rendered by the readers. Highly recommended!… (more)
LibraryThing member John
This is a brilliant collection of fifteen short stories through which Joyce limned the moral, social, political worlds of Dublin in the early 1900s. But it is more than that: Joyce explores the universalities of human nature and human relationships; the hopes, the fears, the desires, the accommodations, the lives wasted by “duty” and the pressure of conventions. Every character rings true, each one is drawn in his/her individuality. And as with the best of short stories, there are no final, neat resolutions, there are only the tendrils of the present weaving uncertain and unforeseeable futures.… (more)
LibraryThing member gbill
15 short stories which paint a picture of life in “dear, dirty Dublin” in the first decade of the 20th century. It’s a little uneven, with some of the stories too short or less interesting, yet is certainly worth reading. My favorites were “A Little Cloud”, in which a man comes to grips with his failed literary dreams and the idea that his baby son was now getting all of the attention from his wife, and the last story, “The Dead”, which has an awkward and insecure man pondering life and death, and just how little he knows about his wife’s past. That gives you a taste for the moments of self-realization, or ‘epiphanies’, the characters in these unflinchingly honest stories feel.… (more)
LibraryThing member maribs
A book filled with 12 short stories about people. The Irish people in Dublin in the late 1800's. You get a glimpse into the lives of the young, the old, the poor and the well-to-do. No one is exempt from Joyce's words. Each story, whether it be about a boy's day spent skipping school, or a young girl trying to choose whether or not to sail away to Buenos Aires with her beau, is beautifully written and rich with atmosphere. Each character comes alive on the page and is given just enough words to make you want to know more about them when it is time to move on to the next story.

I am so happy I picked up this book to read, finally, having purchased it back in March. It amazes me how simply language can be used perfectly to tell a story. I kept wondering to myself if these were actual people he knew or saw in the streets around him, making up stories about the men walking down the street, or the kids on the ferry during school hours, or the lady at the quay staring at a ship setting sail.
… (more)
LibraryThing member billmcn
I have feeling that you can monitor your progress through life by noticing which story in Dubliners you most strongly identify with. The fact that my favorite is "A Little Cloud" and has been since about 1990 or so I take as indication that I am still trapped in adolescence. All things in due time I guess.
LibraryThing member Cecrow
Reading this collection was the first step of my master plan to tackle Mount Ulysses. Dubliners is said to be Joyce's most accessible work in addition to his earliest, so it seemed like the logical place to start. The reading is easy, but I was no further than the end of the first story, "The Sisters", when I turned to Sparknotes.com to ensure I wasn't missing something. Joyce purposely outlines and hints but doesn't fill in the whole puzzle; nothing much seems to happen, and in a sense that's the point. There's only what's on the surface, the theme rather than the events: how death makes us feel paralyzed by its strangeness, its simultaneous presence and lack thereof.

In the subsequent stories he portrays other things besides death that unbalance us, leaving us faltering and disconnected: loss of innocence, exposure to illness or madness, first love, rebellion, intoxication, dull routine. Through these episodes we may gain insight that promises to guide us towards living our lives more fully, but insight alone is not enough. Positive change requires action but these characters are doomed to paralysis: they sentence themselves to understanding the truth of their chosen lot while doing nothing about it. Some stories hit painfully close to home, triggering my own regrets about opportunities I've passed on or the risks I didn't take.

This collection has more unity than just its theme: there is also the locale of the title with which the theme is closely associated. These tales are meant to describe the plight of Dubliners and the Irish in general as a downtrodden lot. Some of the stories such as "Two Gallants" speak to this more directly than others through symbolism and mood. I still find them universally applicable. There's also a subtle aging in how the stories are ordered, the first being that of a child, up to the last about man who has been married for several years. Every age must contend with the same choice placed before them, to live or merely to exist. It isn't impossible to make the right choice, only improbable because our greatest obstacle is ourselves.
… (more)
LibraryThing member cdeuker
Joyce's other books are difficult (Portrait of an Artist) to impossible (Finnegans Wake). This one reminds me of Chekhov. Closely observed lives. . . no sentimentality, no phony psychology. I found it wonderful and wish that Joyce hadn't become such a pedant. Had he used his incredible talent to write more books people actually read, the world of literature would be the better. Instead he chose to write pedantic books for pedants.… (more)
LibraryThing member RandyMetcalfe
Quite apart from the perfection of “The Dead,” death permeates the stories, vignettes, character sketches and emotional revues of Dubliners. A death is announced in the first sentence of the first story, “Sisters.” Whether in the foreground or mentioned in passing, deaths are just part of life for those who live in Dublin. When death gets title billing in that final story, it is hardly surprisingly to find Joyce reaching some kind of summative view on the matter with the snow now general across all of Ireland.

This time reading Dubliners, I was struck by the “The Sisters,” “An Encounter,” and, as ever, “Araby.” But also “The Boarding House,” and “A Mother.” Yet standing apart from all of them is “The Dead.” It is so much more complete, so much more complex, so much more human and humane, and sadder. It truly is the culmination.

Highly recommended, every time you read it.
… (more)
LibraryThing member edgeworth
I have a list of major authors whom I’ve never read in a Notepad file: Dickens, Faulkner, Carver, Woolf, etc. This stems from being a young reader in the 21st century, looking back across history at the overwhelming weight of the human canon. My theory is that while there are far too many great books in the world for anybody to read in one lifetime, you should try to read at least one book from all the major authors, to sample their style and see if they take your fancy or not, to discover whether you want to pursue their works further. James Joyce is on that list, and since there is not a chance in hell I’m ever going to read Ulysses, I thought it appropriate to read his short story anthology Dubliners.

I’m not going to try to talk my way around it: I hated this book. It was extremely tedious. Rarely did any of the fifteen stories gathered within capture my attention in any way; more often than not, I found myself distracted and daydreaming, and had to keep snapping my focus back to the page. I finished the book yesterday and can properly summarise exactly zero of the stories for you. I can tell you virtually nothing about the plots they contain, let alone the thematic weight they are supposed to carry. This is not to say that they are bad or useless or pointless; merely that whatever literary heft they have was lost on this reader. Dubliners, just so we’re clear, is not written in the same deliberately confusing modernist stream-of-consciousness style that Ulysses and Finnegan’s Wake are. It’s a perfectly normal, ordinary style of writing. It’s just very, very boring.

I’m not a stupid or crass reader. I have read, enjoyed, appreciated and even loved the works of Herman Melville, Ernest Hemingway, J.M. Coetzee and Peter Carey, to name a few. But I hated Dubliners, and if that makes me a philistine then so be it.
… (more)
LibraryThing member dono421846
Like so many others, I read this collection in hopes of gathering momentum to attack Ulysses. I do think I acquired a better sense of his style, which is full portraiture of ordinary events. Little happens that qualifies as dramatic, yet the reader is still pulled along through the narratives. It is difficult to imagine why Joyce had such challenges getting this book published. But I suppose any group can blush at such an unromantic and truthful account of its members. Onward, I suppose, to Portrait.… (more)
LibraryThing member laytonwoman3rd
I began reading my lovely new Folio edition right out of the wrapper, and at first I couldn't quite see what the point of it all was. The first few stories, despite the clear brilliance of the writing---characters fully drawn in a couple sentences, images so sharp the smells of theriverthepubthesickroom come off the page--seemed to be all middle. The end of a story felt like the end of a chapter and I looked to pick up the scrap of thread that surely must be found in the pages to follow, but it never appeared. As so often happens with collections of short fiction, I connected with some of the pieces and not so much (or not at all) with others. I skipped one entirely after two paragraphs (that almost always happens too). But, and this will be no surprise to anyone who has read ANYTHING by Joyce (because it will have been "The Dead", 9 times out of 10), the final selection, "The Dead" just dropped me on my keister. It's perfectly made; the words are all Right-- there's never a lightning bolt when a lightning bug is what's wanted. It begins, it proceeds, it ends--in fact it ends with a paragraph so exquisite that, had I a drop of Irish blood in me, I would have been wailing. As it was, a tear was enough. My beloved cadre of 30-something current and former English professors (@lycomayflower, @geatland and others) have sung the praises of this story in my hearing over the last 10 years or so, and they don't exaggerate.
Review written in August 2014
… (more)
LibraryThing member Vinjii
Dubliners was my attempt to get into Joyce's work. I'd like to read Ulysses one day, but so far I haven't quite dared to tackle it. This is a collection of short stories that I hoped would gently introduce me to Joyce's writing. The stories are easy to understand and I enjoyed the prose. I'm definitely keeping his other work on my tbr list and would recommend Dubliners to anyone who wants a taste of James Joyce.… (more)
LibraryThing member sloopjonb
The rating is for 'The Dead', the only story I have so far read, which was an incredible piece of writing. If only Joyce had carried on this vein, and not vanished up his own fundament, the show-off.
LibraryThing member Turambar
There is so very much which can be said about the power of Joyce's early style and the fact that it's equally present in the very shortest story of the collection, "Evaline," and the longest, most novelistic story, "The Dead." But many people have already said whatever I could say. Instead I will merely offer up the following; Dubliners taught me what a short story has the potential to be.… (more)
LibraryThing member chichikov
One of my favorite things about these stories is the Olympian view of mankind. Joyce makes no moral judgements. He gets up close and dispassionately lays out some of the most shameful behavior with the same detail he describes food, drink and clothing.
Deeper reading is rewarded. The Sisters closely read transports the reader to the temples of ancient Egypt. And invites reflections on the varying position of religion in society through history.… (more)
LibraryThing member fuzzy_patters
Dubliners is a collection of short stories about the Irish middle class. Each story is about a different person or group of people, and they are not really connected to each other in theme until you get to the last two pages of the book. At that point, you come to realize Joyce's purpose in writing this collection, and it all comes together for you.

This is one of those books that I could not put down, had a profound affect on me emotionally at times, and yet, I doubt there is any one moment or character that will stick with me. In a way, that's the genius of it in that it perfectly captures the prosaic life of the middle class. In the end, one begins to lament the meaninglessness of his own life and the fact that most of our lives are not really worth telling stories about. Joyce celebrates this commonality in a moving way by telling it to us straight with little flourish, which would serve to make it maudlin. Come to think of it, I guess this book might just stick with me a little longer than I thought.
… (more)
LibraryThing member Jujunna
I'm currently re-reading this book (the Norton edition) for perhaps the 8th time (or maybe more), in preparation for teaching it this fall semester. The wonderful thing about these short, pithy stories is that you CAN re-read them many times and get something more from them with every re-reading.

At first glance, they're pretty depressing, realistic portraits of life in turn-of-the-century Dublin. But a closer reading reveals rich underpinnings of symbol, allusion, even allegorical contexts. And the reader who persists, getting through all the stories to the last one, "The Dead," will be rewarded with a final vision of Irish hospitality and celebration, closing with a sense of equanimity (though not everyone reads the final passage this hopefully).

Joyce never fails to disappoint.
… (more)
LibraryThing member trinityM82
Excellent collection - favorites include "The Boarding House" about a strong woman trying to marry off her beautiful daughter before she picks some ne'rdowell who wouldn't be able to support her - it's brilliant because the mother is manipulative but you don't really see any true maliciousness in her actions - something so hard to do.… (more)
LibraryThing member Salmondaze
What can be said of James Joyce, the son of John Joyce, that hasn’t been said already? He was the partially blind bard of Ireland and at the same time the only heir apparent to Shakespeare himself, whose four works of prose fiction are each masterpieces, and whose “apocrypha” (by which I mean his work outside of prose fiction, including verse poetry, drama, and an early version of Portrait called Stephen Hero), if not of the high standards set otherwise, holds literary merit and esteem in its own right.
Dubliners, Joyce’s first masterpiece and only collection of short stories, carries in its pages all of the self-assured sophistication and willingness to break rules Joyce was famous for, but a much lesser degree of the “obscurity” he would pioneer in his next books and take to its fullest extent and conclusion in the dream freakout of Finnegans Wake, which would famously be called obscure by Ezra Pound, who wrote The Cantos . Dubliners is one of the greatest collections of short stories in the English language, if not the greatest collection. Centering around Joyce’s idea of the epiphany, or moments of great reflection, introspection, or realization, each story centers on the moment when a given character’s true self is brought out. It may be somewhat hard to understand and slow going at first, but once you catch on to what Joyce is doing – I caught on about half way through – then you will be hooked.
“Two Sisters”, the first story, starts the collection on a dour note. A boy in mourning over his mentor, a priest named Flynn, isn’t sure how to deal with the ramifications of his first brush with mortality. Spiritually connected with the last story, “The Dead”, this story with its abrupt ending (mid conversation) shows that Joyce is not about to hold your hand through this collection. You’re going to have to dig in and find the purpose of the story yourself- there is no moral help, no conventional use of plot, and no tropes, allegories, or indicators.
And that’s just the tone of the stories as they go through. The narrator doesn’t help you with anything and the characters are left to voice themselves and moralize on their own. To give you a little more information, “An Encounter” is about two boys’ acquaintance with an old lecherous pervert, “Two Gallants” details a couple of con men who find a maid willing to steal from her employer, “A Painful Case” is the realization of a man who rebuffs a woman that he has condemned her to a life of loneliness and isolation. These are the types of stories you can expect to find within the world of Dubliners.
These are all great stories and each has its own unique, individual flavor, but the crowning jewel of the set would have to be “The Dead.” At around 15,000 words, some would consider this to be a novella, but its themes and materials are actually inextricable from the rest of the collection. It really is the consummation of all of the other stories, an intensification of what is happening throughout the rest of the book. It also breaks the most rules. First off, the story tricks the reader by starting out with a focus on one of the minor characters in the story. In fact, not only is the focus on the door maid Lily, but even her thoughts are exposed right from the beginning sentence which starts, “Lily, the caretaker’s daughter, was literally run off her feet.” Since the story takes place in a sophisticated upper-crust party, it was obviously not the case that she was literally run off her feet. The narrator was simply using the kind of words she herself would have used to describe her situation, and so a kind of deep penetration into her thoughts was achieved.
This is, of course, strange and unusual, because Lily is not the main character of the story, as I have stated. She is merely a side character. The main characters of the story are a husband and wife named Gabriel and Gretta Conroy. But this isn’t the only act of trickery the author participates in. Even the setting is illusory as events shift from the party to the place Mr. and Mrs. Conroy are staying at with little or no connection between the two on first glance. Close reading is rewarded, though, as the connection becomes apparent on the second or third read of this amazing short story. Unfortunately, it is impossible to discuss all of the aspects of the works of Joyce in a relatively small space for readability, but hopefully my evaluation can serve as a roadmap and a help to you on your travels through this complex, rewarding book.
Keep note that this is the first Joyce book to be written and as such should be the first Joyce book you read if you should ever decide to take an endeavor through Joyce’s world. I can imagine plenty of people trying to start with Ulysses and just getting lost. It’s important to pick up the ideas of what James Joyce is doing early on as he builds on these and adds to them as he progresses.
… (more)
LibraryThing member RBeffa
James Joyce is one of those classic authors on my "to-do" list. One of many who I should have read or only read lightly. Others include Joseph Conrad and William Faulkner. There is a rather large lot of them. Even some like Thomas Hardy and Hemingway who I liked a lot in my younger days is under-read by me. So finally some Joyce. Some thoughts:

The Dubliners is a collection of 15 stories set in Dublin Ireland. Together they can be seen as a novel. The first story was published in 1904. The last in 1907. Some of these stories were apparently quite controversial at the the time. I read a little background material before tackling this. Doing so made me wonder if I could really appreciate this a century after they were written. I was ready for bleak. Stories I've read set in Ireland such as McCourt's [Angela's Ashes] have more than convinced me of the overwhelming crushing poverty and sadness for endless decades.

Bleak is what I got, but not overwhelming; more just like a great melancholy laying over many stories. Some are frankly depressing, almost enought to make one cry. These are small snapshots of moments in ordinary people's lives. I thought most of them were quite good. The writing is beautiful. As for my trepidations of not being able to fully appreciate these in their time, I think it was a little true. I wasn't quite sure what was going on at times and with the dialogue between characters. Other stories were 100% understandable. Someone with a depth of knowledge of the times and Irish history would probably get more from these stories, but I had no major problems other than being unfamiliar with a word here and there and some sensibilities. The stories really grew into something bigger than the pieces and my appreciation got ever larger. Very fine stuff here. I'm glad to have finally tackled Joyce. He is without a doubt a storyteller. Quite a good read.
… (more)
LibraryThing member Romonko
James Joyce's collection of short stories were written one hundred years ago, but when you read them they seem relevant and important today. These stories collectively offer a revealing glimpse into life in Ireland at the dawn of the First World War. James Joyce has an uncanny talent in portraying lives lived and loves won and lost. It's almost as if you are secretly watching these people from a window. You get a first hand view as these characters live their lives and interact with their friends and family. The stories are about different people, but the place is always Dublin. Joyce has portrayed Dubliners as they really were at this point in time. The descriptions are beautifully written, the characters are real and life-like, and the beautiful language connects it all. I had read "Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man" awhile ago, and was impressed then with Joyce's writing skills. But that was a novel and even though it was beautifully written, I was aware that he had the whole length of the novel to flesh out his characters. In these short stories the story and the characters are perfectly fleshed out in the space of the few pages for each of the fifteen stories. I couldn't really pick a favourite among them as each was an incredible masterpiece in its own right. A remarkable achievement and one that very few authors can achieve. In his time Joyce was known as a revolutionary author. His form, structure, language and creativity continue to influence writers today. I couldn't help but wonder how much top-rated authors like Alice Munro were influenced by Mr. Joyce's work. I definitely need to read a few more of this author's books. "Finnegan's Wake" and "Ulysses" are calling me.… (more)
LibraryThing member ysar
I can't explain why I love this book so much, but I found it incredible. Perhaps it was the simple tales about average people or the glimpses into the oddities of everyday life. In any case, the collection of quick stories is thoroughly entertaining and should be on everyone's must-read list
LibraryThing member revchrishemyock
Captivating and charming in a way in which Ulysses fails to be. Characters utterly believable.
LibraryThing member Bat
This book was my 'A' level set book and I enjoyed it as narrative without understanding much of its significance. I got Bolt's preface to Joyce, as a prelude to another attempt at 'Ulysses' and re-read it. It's deep and experimental, but a good read at the same time. A great insight into Dublin just before WW1 and humanity in general, take what you want, it's here.… (more)

Language

Barcode

10929
Page: 0.3506 seconds