Saturday, 19 May 2012



To defend his work harshly attacked for his bitterness and his inconvenient realism, Joyce asserted that for their “spiritual liberation” the Irish needed to gaze in his “nicely polished looking-glass”, Joyce suggests that by seeing themselves so faithfully represented the Irish would come to a moment of “anagnorisis” or self-recognition, a recognition which would be “the first step” out of “hemiplegia” or unilateral paralysis in which they currently existed.

What’sthe matter with you is that you’re afraid  to live. You and people like you. This city  is suffering from hemiplegia of the will” Joyce remembered to his brother Stanislaus. According to him, by reading his Dubliners , Dubliners would recognize their paralysis, that recognition would stimulate movement, “ a first step toward freedom, toward civilization.

Joyce’s aim in Dubliners seems that of the satirist whose purpose in writing is to expose vice or folly to the end of correction. The common feature among the 15 stories is that the protagonists do not react to their paralysis or when they try to escape it they fail; they all fail.


Joyce’s artistic project was always insistently “truthful”, but it was also always persistently “linguistic”. Of course, the medium of every essayst, novelist, poet, short-story writer is language. But Joyce’s writings are not only linguistic artefacts, they engage in the interrogation of the full implications of that fact . What can language and, by extension, art do, and what can it not do?

Though Joyce was only 22 when he wrote the fist Dubliners story and only 25 when he completed “The Dead” ( the 15th short story in the collection), his writing already displays a profound understanding of the complex relationship between faithfully representing material reality (truth, fact, history, specifically in the context of Ireland the paralysis and sterility of political, cultural and spiritual life) and exploiting the potential fecundity of meaning characteristic of, between the literal and symbolic or rhetorical , between life and literature.

In Dubliners, Joyce gives us multiple distinctive individuals who collectively stand as representative; they are at once real and symbolic.


img330EVELINE. Torn between two extreme options—unhappy domesticity or a dramatic escape to Argentina for marriage—Eveline has no possibility of a moderately content life. Her dilemma does not illustrate indecisiveness but rather the lack of options for someone in her position. On the docks, when she must make a choice once and for all, Eveline remembers her promise to her mother to keep the family together. So close to escape, Eveline revises her view of her life at home, remembering the small kindnesses: her father’s caring for her when she was sick, a family picnic before her mother died. These memories overshadow the reality of her abusive father and deadening job, and her sudden certainty comes as an epiphany—she must remain with what is familiar. When faced with the clear choice between happiness and unhappiness, Eveline chooses unhappiness, which frightens her less than her intense emotions for Frank. Eveline’s nagging sense of family duty stems from her fear of love and an unknown life abroad, and her decision to stay in Dublin renders her as just another figure in the crowd of Dubliners watching lovers and friends depart the city.

Eveline holds an important place in the overall narrative of Dubliners. Her story is the first in the collection that uses third-person narration, the first in the collection to focus on a female protagonist, and the only one in the collection that takes a character’s name as the title. Eveline is also the first central adult character. For all of these reasons, she marks a crucial transition in the collection: Eveline in many ways is just another Dubliner, but she also broadens the perspective of Dubliners. Her story, rather than being limited by the first-person narration of earlier stories, suggests something about the hardships and limitations of women in early twentieth-century Dublin in general. Eveline’s tortured decision about her life also sets a tone of restraint and fear that resonates in many of the later stories. Other female characters in Dubliners explore different harsh conditions of life in Dublin, but Eveline, in facing and rejecting a life-altering decision, remains the most tragic.

FRANK. Throughout Dubliners Joyce depends on his readers knowing things that the narrative itself will not make explicit. So, for example, when in Eveline we are told that Frank has told Eveline “stories of the terrible Patagonians”, he expects us to know that Frank is literally telling her stories since the Patagonians, giantic inhabitants of the Tierra del Fuego, were a myth dismissed as such well before Frank’s time. recognizing this tale as just that, we might well begin  to question other things that he has told Eveline, just as his name may come to seem perfectly inapt: how frank is Frank? We cannot be certain, however much we suspect him of duplicity. The story won’t tell us more.Dubliners - book cover

We follow the story from Eveline’s point of view and it is told us in Eveline’s diction and idiom, saturated with well-worn clichés of romance fiction: “How  well she remembered the first time she had seen him… He was  standing at the gate, his peaked cap pushed back on his head and his hair tumbled forward over a face of bronze”; “Escape! She must escape! Frank would save her. He would give her life”; Frank would take her in his arms, fold her in his arms. He would save her”. Indeed, the story we are told comes straightly from the pages of such fiction: the sailor who loves this lass will sweep her away from dreary Dublin and brutal father to exotic Buenos Aires when they will be married. How plausible is that? The story is focalized through through Eveline herself: we see what she sees and cannot see what she does not see or avoids seeing or does not understand, unless we risk … interpretation.


Dust, Eveline’s immobility at the window at the beginning of the story, her helpless stillness in the end= paralysis

The voyage to Buenos Aires= escape

Epiphanies = the Italian song, the siren of the ship


Joyce plays with Bergson’s idea of Time: we re-live through Eveline’s  flow of thoughts most of her young life (internal time) but only few hours have actually passed (external, historical time)



6106_1The story centres on Gabriel Conroy on the night of the Morkan sisters' annual dance and dinner in the first week of January, 1904, perhaps the Feast of the Epiphany (January 6). Typical of the stories in Dubliners, "The Dead" develops toward a moment of painful self-awareness; Joyce described this as an epiphany. The narrative generally concentrates on Gabriel's insecurities, his social awkwardness, and the defensive way he copes with his discomfort. The story culminates at the point when Gabriel discovers that, through years of marriage, there was much he never knew of his wife's past.

Upon arriving at the party with his wife, Gabriel makes an unfunny joke about the maid's marriage prospects, after which he fidgets, adjusts his clothing, and offers her money as a holiday present. Not long after that, he gets flustered again when his wife pokes fun at him over a conversation they had earlier, in which he had suggested buying a pair of galoshes for the bad weather. With such episodes, Gabriel is depicted as particularly pathetic. Similarly, Gabriel is unsure about quoting a poem from the poet Robert Browning when he is giving his dinner address, as he is afraid to be seen as pretentious. But at the same time, Gabriel considers himself above the others when he considers that the audience would not understand the words he uses.

Later in the evening, when giving the traditional holiday toast in front of the guests, Gabriel overcompensates for some of his earlier statements to his evening dancing partner Miss Ivors, who is an Irish nationalist. His talk relies heavily on conventions, and he praises the virtues of the Irish people and idealizes the past in a way that feels contrived and disingenuous (especially considering what the past will mean to him once he hears his wife's story).

When preparing to leave the party, Gabriel sees his wife, Gretta, on the stairs, absorbed in thought. He stares at her for a moment before he recognizes her as his wife. He then imagines her as the model in a painting called "Distant Music". Her distracted, wistful mood arouses sexual interest in him. He tries indirectly to confront her about it after the party in the hotel room he has reserved for them, but he finds her unresponsive. Trying to make ironic, half-suggestive comments to his wife, Gabriel learns that she was feeling nostalgic after having heard Mr. D'Arcy singing The Lass of Aughrim at the party.

huston3Upon being pressed further, Gretta tells Gabriel that the song had reminded her of the time when she was a young girl in Galway, when she had been in love with a young boy named Michael Furey. At the time, Gretta was being kept at her grandmother's home before she was to be sent off to a convent in Dublin. Michael, being terribly sick, was ordered to remain bedridden and was unable to see her. Despite being sick, when it came time for her to leave Galway, Michael travelled through the rain to Gretta's window, and although he got to speak with her again, he ended up dying within the week.

The remainder of the text delves into Gabriel's thoughts after he hears this story, exploring his shifting views on himself, his wife, the past, on the living and the dead. It is ambiguous whether the epiphany is just an artistic and emotional moment or whether Gabriel will ever manage to escape his smallness and insecurity

GABRIEL CONROY. Gabriel is the last protagonist of Dubliners, and he embodies many of the traits introduced and explored in characters from earlier stories, including short temper, acute class consciousness, social awkwardness, and frustrated love. Gabriel has many faces. To his aging aunts, he is a loving family man, bringing his cheerful presence to the party and performing typically masculine duties such as carving the goose. With other female characters, such as Miss Ivors, Lily the housemaid, and his wife, Gretta, he is less able to forge a connection, and his attempts often become awkward, and even offensive. With Miss Ivors, he stumbles defensively through a conversation about his plans to go on a cycling tour, and he offends Lily when he teases her about having a boyfriend. Gretta inspires fondness and tenderness in him, but he primarily feels mastery over her. Such qualities do not make Gabriel sympathetic, but rather make him an example of a man whose inner life struggles to keep pace with and adjust to the world around him. The Morkans’ party exposes Gabriel as a social performer. He carefully reviews his thoughts and words, and he flounders in situations where he cannot predict another person’s feelings. Gabriel’s unease with unbridled feeling is palpable, but he must face his discomfort throughout the story. He illustrates the tense intersection of social isolation and personal confrontation.

Gabriel has one moment of spontaneous, honest speech, rare in “The Dead” as well as in Dubliners as a whole. When he dances with Miss Ivors, she interrogates him about his plans to travel in countries other than Ireland and asks him why he won’t stay in Ireland and learn more about his own country. Instead of replying with niceties, Gabriel responds, “I’m sick of my own country, sick of it!” He is the sole character in Dubliners to voice his unhappiness with life in Ireland. While each story implicitly or explicitly connects the characters’ hardships to Dublin, Gabriel pronounces his sentiment clearly and without remorse. This purgative exclamation highlights the symbolism of Gabriel’s name, which he shares with the angel who informed Mary that she would be the mother of Christ in biblical history. Gabriel delivers his own message not only to Miss Ivors but also to himself and to the readers of “The Dead.” He is the unusual character in Dubliners who dwells on his own revelation without suppressing or rejecting it, and who can place himself in a greater perspective. In the final scene of the story, when he intensely contemplates the meaning of his life, Gabriel has a vision not only of his own tedious life but of his role as a human.

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