"Perhaps the greatest short story collection in the English language, James Joyce's 'Dubliners' is both a vivid and unflinching portrait of 'dear, dirty Dublin' at the turn of the twentieth century and a moral history of a nation and a people whose 'golden age' has passed. His richly drawn characters-- at once intensely Irish and utterly universal-- may forever haunt the reader. In mesmerizing writing that evokes rich imagery, Joyce delves into the heart of the city of his birth, capturing the cadences of Dubliners' speech in remarkably realistic portrayals of their inner lives. This magnificent collection of fifteen stories reveals Joyce at his most accessible and perhaps his most profound."
This book has led to many an interesting discussion in my Irish and Scottish Literature class. I really don't care for the short story format, but after reading through Dubliners (and especially after discussing it), I think I can say I'm a James Joyce fan.
This is going to be a mildly difficult review because I can't really touch on any of the characters... we'll see how well I can do!
First of all, Joyce's writing style is very interesting. He switches between points of view effortlessly through most of the stories, shedding light on different aspects of the various stories and making the reader question what they just read (as in, think critically about his writing, not stop and wonder what the heck this guy is talking about).
Something that is really very interesting is how Joyce focuses on those people who are generally ignored. A young boy who looks up to a dead priest; a woman who falls in love, but not really; three sisters who will never marry... the downtrodden, the underdogs are what make up these stories. My theory is that by not having very popular characters like Katniss Everdeen or Harry Potter, we will feel empathy for these characters on a different level. The characters are a focal point in each story, but they are closer to the average reader's level as far as social status, if not lower down. You want these characters to succeed, but someone, nothing seems to work out for any of them.
This book is a celebration of Irish culture. For me, it's very interesting because I haven't been exposed to the Irish culture even in a minor way... except maybe St. Patrick's day, but I'm not sure if that is an event that really counts... but any way, it's nice to get a feel of what Irish culture is like. I had no idea how important the Catholic faith was for a lot of Ireland. I didn't realize that (at least in the early nineteen-hundreds) poverty was a huge problem. Maybe I figured that before, but this book brings this to light and makes it click.
What was really frustrating about each of the stories were the endings. The stories go along quite nicely: it's set up (usually because the story starts somewhere in the middle; like a dream), the characters are introduced to us, bad things continue to happen, those bad things get worse (usually), but then the story ends. Often we're left hanging on a bad or disappointing note. There's very little resolution to any of the stories. But since it bothers me so much that the stories are unresolved, it must be a good sign that the stories are pretty good.
Overall, 'Dubliners' is a good read if you are looking to enjoy a collection of short stories or are looking to indulge in Irish culture. I look forward to reading more James Joyce in the future.
I give 'Dubliners':