on March 22, 2001
During a Simpsons, Maggie learned how to play "the blues," but, after doing so, didn't feel any better. That was when she learned that you play the blues, not to feel better, but to make everyone else feel as you do. The Dubliners was much the same way. It is a literary masterpiece the drags the reader into the darkest depths of Dublin society. James Joyce is not expecting sympathy or charity, he only wishes to show or express to the reader that part of society that few people have actually seen or experienced. Through a series of short stories showing different aspects of Dublin life, Joyce is able to open to the reader the way of life among the Dubliners. There is a carrying theme throughout of depression, hopelessness, and wasted time and life. Whether they are children, couples, or aged men, we are brought face to face with lost hopes and dreams, and above all, embitterment. What truly grabs the reader is a feeling of "stuckness." There seems to be no way out of their current situations, and although they try, in the end, nothing has changed. It could almost be considered a moral paralysis, an inability to act outside of tradition. Many characters are caught in a current that, though they fight, carries them mercilessly through events against their wishes. Another theme that goes in hand with the previous is one of escapism. Alcohol, dreams, fancies, all seem to make up a large portion of Dubliner society. As part of the hopelessness sinks into people, they search for ways to forget about their current situation. Alcohol, of course, plays an important role in this escapism. As life overwhelms people, they seek to forget about their problems, if only for a while, in the bottom of a bottle. It is interesting to see how the moral paralysis leads to action, in this case drinking, but not to an action that is productive. On the contrary, drinking actually worsens their original condition in a way that renders it almost impossible for them to create change in lives that deperately need changing. Society today is not much different than Dublin. Everyday we see the same reactions, if not so dramatic, as people find themselves trapped and seek to escape. Drinking is still a problem with many, although that is not the only way that escapism is expressed. Whether in the form of "road rage" or pornography, men and women alike find themselves striking out, acting, but in a negative way. Men, tired with their jobs, go home to beat their wives. Students, after years of ridicule, return to school one day with a loaded weapon and a need to "act." The Dubliners could be one of the greatest social commentaries to be written since "The Tale of Two Cities" by Charles Dickens. Joyce masterfully shows the reader the dark recesses of society and brings them to light, only to open him up to a part of our existing society to which he was previously unaware. It calls for serious reflection and thought as we are forced to come to grips with a reality we have hitherto ignored.
on March 21, 2001
The Dubliners is a collection of short stories which open the windows into the lives of the citizens of Dublin in the beginning of the twentieth century. The stories are depressing as well as uplifting. It just depends on the conclusions the reader draws from the open endings of the stories. The opportunity to finish the stories myself was actually one of the features I liked most about the entire book, but especially about the last and longest story-the Dead. The Dead sums up all the concerns and issues raised time and time again throughout the Dubliners - religion, alcohol addiction, immorality, and political instability of Ireland. In my opinion, The Dead is the key to the entire book. For me, the last sentence of The Dead as well as of the entire book, " His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow was falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead," was as much of a mystery as of a hint. It really got me thinking, because there so many ways to take it. First, did Gabriel die or not? Was just Joyce describing the last moments of Gabriel's life or was he describing the first moments of Gabriel's new life? I have always been an optimist, so many might consider my opinion biased, but I personally think that the sentence marks new beginning and new life for Gabriel. Of course, I have to admit that Gabriel had a good reason to commit suicide after realizing that his beloved wife had been in love with her dead lover for all this time, but, honestly, I do not see Gabriel as a hopeless man who would simply give up his life and future. I see him more as a man who was taught a hard lesson and learned it well. I see him more as a man whose eyes were open. I see new Gabriel as man who wants to do and not only talk about doing. Then there is the description of snow falling which is another important clue/mystery the Dead gives the reader to help him to figure out for himself if the book is truly uplifting or depressing. I personally the snow is a pointer that the ending is truly an optimistic one and that somewhere there is brighter future for everybody . Why do I think that? It is the gentle way the snow is described. It covers the world and all its problem like a white blanket. It makes everything seem so pure and clean. I cannot help thinking that Joyce used snow on purpose to help the reader draw such conclusion. But, I am sure that many other readers came to just an opposite conclusion that the snow represents a deep and abiding human truth: the essential loneliness of the soul. But that is just right because the diversity of the conclusions is the beauty of the book.
on March 21, 2001
THE GOOD: The Dubliners shows James Joyce's talent as a writer. The people of Dublin and their life come to life with Joyce's choice of words. Their lives and stories, though simple, have deep meaning behind them and show Joyce's outlook on life in Dublin, Ireland. I enjoyed the way Joyce constructs his sentences and his subtle imagery. My favorite story was Counterparts. Although it's a rather sad tale, I felt drawn to this story emotionally. I felt sorry for both the Farrington and his son whom he beats. This story reflects the general theme of the book: Average people struggling to progress in a tough Dublin life. Something Joyce does really well is he blends these characters from different stories together in this theme- from the political campaigners standing around the fire, to the pleasant Maria who keeps living in the past. THE BAD: Unless you are familiar with Irish culture and idioms, reading will be slow and confusing. I found myself stopping constantly to look up words in a dictionary. It's apparent that The Dubliners is a commentary on life in Dublin, but I found it difficult to connect with him. I struggled to get through this book and never got into a good flow THE BAD: Unless you are familiar with Irish culture and idioms, reading will be slow and confusing. I found myself stopping constantly to look up words in a dictionary. It's apparent that The Dubliners is a commentary on life in Dublin, but I found it difficult to connect with him. I struggled to get through this book and never got into a good flow with it. THE UGLY: I was hoping for at least one story where there is a nice, happy ending. Yes I know that happy stories don't reflect real life in Dublin, but come on, I got bored reading all these stories about people who never did anything with their lives. (Of they may of not of had a choice.) The last story, The Dead, had me fooled for a minute. Everything seemed to be going well at the party, but then it ends in sadness like most of the other stories. The most dynamic characters were dead. The living ones were always referring to them and things that they did while they were alive. Maybe I'm not cultured enough, but this book had no impact on my life. I was hoping for something a little more THE VERDICT: If you're looking for a well-written book with no surprises, then this book will suit you well. I'll give credit to Joyce for his writing ability, but I'll stick to the sports page while I'm in the bathroom.
on March 13, 2001
This isn't a book that you can sit down and fluff through on a plane ride. We were assigned to read this book for my intensive college writing class. I can't say that I was thrilled with the choice. This novel takes time, intelligence and consideration. Something that many books don't ask from the reader any more. The product is worth the price, though. The first few stories were hard for me to get through. This book was a different animal than what I'm used to. Most stories grab you and pull you into the story. This book is more like the different kid in high school, harder to get to know, not what you expect, but completely worth the effort. By the time that I got to "The Dead" I found myself wishing that each chapter was a novel itself. The characters don't beg you to get to know them. They are there, interesting, quirky and inviting in their own way. This novel is literature. I am amazed that the writer was merely twenty-two years old when he penned this. Even though each chapter is a different story, the characters are more than just flat players in a short story. Somehow he manages to give each life and dimension that takes other writers hundreds of pages to accomplish. They are also remarkably thought provoking. I found myself pondering on the man in "An Encounter" long after I had finished with that story. Maybe it was the time, but the characters seem far less complicated than the ones in novels I've read lately. They simply are what they are. They don't obsess over how many Snickers they've eaten that day, whether they'll fit into that dress at the end of the day, or how their parents put them into therapy. It was refreshing to read something so devoid of all the garbage that pervades literature today. I hated Scarlet Letter the first time I read that classic, too. It came to mind as I read the Dubliners because both require something of the reader. I had to read the Scarlet Letter three times before I felt like I really began to get it. That was also the point that I began to understand why it's a classic. Thankfully at twenty-one I have a better apprecaition for literature than I did at sixteen, but I think the same things hold true. The classics don't grab the reader and beat them over the head the with the message. They wait patiently for the reader to get the message out on his own accord. If I were to ever venture into the world of writing professionally, I would hope that I could craft stories that are half as intricate, intelligent, and often times humorous as James. Since time is money, I suggest investing some of each into a copy of the Dubliners. It is definately worth it.
Let me begin by making it clear that I am reviewing the abridged audio cassette version read by Mr. Gerard McSorley. Americans will know him best for his portrayal of Michael in the original Broadway production of Dancing at Laghnasa. For fans of Dubliners, the main disappointment will come in the absence of "The Dead" from this subset of the stories. Of the stories in this collection, "The Boarding House," "Eveline," and "Araby" will be the longest remembered. These stories of everyday life in Dublin focus on the moral lives of its citizens, as they deal with their poverty, urges, and loves.
For anyone who wants to know James Joyce, there is no better place to start than with Dubliners. These stories are totally clear, and poetic in their treatment of the subjects although nominally written in prose. Joyce had yet to lay on his advanced techniques of stream-of-consciousness in the way that he eventually did in Ulysses. These stories are also more censored and proper, so you will not be jolted by the surface crudity of his later works. But these stories do primarily explore the mental conversations and processes that the characters employ with themselves.
Each story ends in a powerful mentally-experienced epiphany that tells you more about the character than the rest of the story combined. Think of these epiphanies as being the purest and strongest form of O. Henry's wonderful last minute twists in his short stories. I cannot give you an example from Dubliners without seriously compromising your enjoyment. The best epiphany in this collection though comes in "The Boarding House."
Stories about Irish people and Ireland greatly benefit from being read aloud with the proper accents. Mr. McSorley is an inspired choice for this audio cassette version. He is able to shift from character to character extremely easily, and can do English accents just as well as Irish ones.
As as result, I felt like I was sitting around a warm fire with some Irish whiskey in my hand leaning forward with anticipation as the beautiful stories unwound from the reel into my ears and echoed into my soul.
Of all the ways I have enjoyed Dubliners, this was the greatest pleasure for me. I do suggest that you also read all of the stories on your own afterward. They are very rewarding as they build on interrelated themes of love, commitment, family, honor, and death. Perhaps, if you are like me, you will also hear Mr. McSorley's lovely voice in your mind when you read the other stories, as well. James Joyce would have approved, I'm sure.
The better the short story, the more it benefits from being read aloud. I suggest that you try other audio cassette recordings of Dubliners as well. There is a new version out that is unabridged that I have not yet heard. But you can also do this with other writers, as well. Further, you will benefit from reading them aloud in your own voice. And, when appropriate, read them to your children. "Araby" and "The Race" would be superb choices from this collection.
Enjoy great stories in as many ways as you can!
on December 13, 2000
James Joyce had begun "Dubliners" in his early twenties. He wanted to satirize the problems of Irish culture. The book itself is an assemblage of smaller tales. They seem to involve drinking abuse, violence, money problems, and escapism.
My own professor, Dr. Richard Greene of the University of Toronto, had noted the prevalance of railing and fencing in the stories. There are, all over the place, imagery of rails and fences. Accordingly, says Greene, these imply constriction, entrapment. And, the characters are ones who want to 'escape' the difficulties of their lives. They want more money and a new place to live. In one story, "Eveline," the woman protagonist reflects on her abusive father. She wonders how things will change if she leaves to marry her boyfriend. Another story, "the encounter," has a pair of boys who retreat from school to an open field. They rely on their imagination, as the real world is to gross for them. Here, there are no physical restrictions. They have freedom. But they come across a perverted old man who reminds them again of the 'real world.' Also, the story "counterparts" deals with a father who loses his job and beats his son.
Now these stories are controversial. They are designed to shock us. They were meant to give the Irish "one good look at themselves " (Joyce). In due course, the book was denied publication for many years. The Irish resented the book.
The stories are easy to read. They have instances of humour, even. They have to do with the middle and lower classes of turn-of-the-century Ireland. We might call them 'labouring' classes. The reader will be interested to know how hard working people, who struglle, react to 'life.' Are the happy to be alive? Do they feel a sense of purpose? What is life to them? The existentialist, then, wants to know how the average working man tallies up 'life.'
I did not want to give the stories a full 5/5 because some of them were weaker than others. Some were boring, uneventful, and awkwardly narrated. Others, however, were emotional and blunt enough. Powerful relationships unfolded in only a few pages. They made me want to be there, in Ireland. After all, the tales convey a sense of culture.
The most famous of them, 'the Dead' involves a man who discovers that his wife may still be in love with a boy who died years ago. Of course, the story is of more than that, but I haven't the indecency to ruin things for you by telling anything more.
on July 20, 2000
Joyce's "Dubliners" is a collection of fifteen short stories that present snapshots of the lives of common people in Dublin around the beginning of the 20th Century. The stories are subtle commentaries about Irish attitudes towards nationalism, religion, morality, life, and death. Each explores a distinctive, dramatic theme, such as sexual perversion ("An Encounter"), infatuation ("Araby"), the frustration of personal unfulfillment ("A Little Cloud" and "Counterparts"), self-imposed loneliness ("A Painful Case"), hubris ("A Mother"), and Catholic/Protestant conflict ("Grace"). Overtones of Irish nationalism, remembrance, and piety permeate all the stories.
The stories are neither depressing nor uplifting, but rather open-ended in their denouement; no conflicts are resolved and no moral conclusions are reached. Joyce depicts the characters and scenes so sympathetically that the reader understands clearly why the dejected boy in "Araby" leaves the bazaar feeling like "a creature driven and derided by vanity" and the events that drive Farrington to beat his young son at the end of "Counterparts." And why, in "The Dead," Gabriel, after giving a dinner speech in which he makes respectful reference to the dead, feels his dignity knocked down a notch when his wife reveals to him the tragic fate of her past love.
After nearly a century, "Dubliners" remains one of the best crystallizations of humanity bestowed upon the world.
on April 7, 2000
I can't add much to what the other reviewers have said about the stories. Dubliners is the place to start if you want to read Joyce. If he had written only this (which he did by age 26!) he'd still be the greatest writer of the 20th century in my opinion.
One reviewer had a gentle criticism of the first line of The Dead. Since I think the story might be the most perfect thing ever written, I'll try to defend it. This is an early example of Joyce waving his stylistic wand - something he would do with ever increasing gusto throughout his later work. "Lily, the caretaker's daughter, was literally run off her feet." The line, while probably not factually accurate, is written in a style that fits the character and the action. The "voice" of the first paragraph might be called Lilly-esque - hurried, flushed, hyperbolic - just as the voice in the last paragraph is Gabriel-esque - sophisticated, poetic, melancholy. Read the story carefully and you'll see (or maybe hear is the better word) these shifts in tone throughout.
Joyce's literary breakthrough was in fusing form and content, style and substance. The Dead is the best early example of this breakthrough.
Some critics have said that Joyce was a fine writer but he didn't have much to say. I disagree. I think he had a lot to say, and I think he said it brilliantly - he just didn't say it in a way we're used to hearing. I think he said more in the 2300 or so words in Araby than most writers, even very good writers, could ever hope to.
on December 26, 1999
Having grown up in a small town much like Joyce's Dublin, this book has a special significance for me. I've seen so many people from my town graduating from high school without really understanding that there is an entire world outside the place they grew up and lacking the ambition to go explore it. I fear many of them will spend their lives "getting by" in a job they hate, raising children who will inevitably do the same thing. Joyce's "Dubliners" depicts this cycle with as much complexity and compassion as any author I've read.
In an age where the most publicized fiction tends to be simple-minded and genre-bound, it's refreshing to come across a writer with Joyce's complexity. "Dubliners" is so rich in its intellectual and symbolic atmosphere that many readers may be put off by the overall weight of the prose. The writing is so thick with metaphorical contexts that the literal content of the story occasionally becomes obscured, which can be frustrating for those not used to reading Joyce. Yet, while difficult, "Dubliners" is far from impossible to decipher, and although these stories function well as a whole, they are also more or less self-contained, which makes "Dubliners" easier to get through than Joyce's other works(it's a lot easier to take on a ten page short story than a 600+ page novel like "Ulysses" or "Finnegan's Wake"). For readers who are new to Joyce, this would be a good place to start.
A final note: since this book is old enough to be considered a "classic," there are a plethora of editions available from various publishers. I own the Vintage edition (ISBN: 0679739904). Not only is it a quality printing (not that cheap newspaper ink that rubs off on your fingers), it also contains about a hundred pages of criticism at the end that help shed light on Joyce's often illusive themes. Normally I shun forewards and afterwards (I like to think I've read enough to discover a story's theme on my own), but in the case of Joyce I found that a push in right direction can mean the difference between enjoyment and frustration.
on November 7, 1999
Dubliners is a collection of short stories ranging through chidhood, adolescence and adulthood ending with three public life stories and the grand finale "The Dead" Critics have associated many of the stories to Joyce's personal life as he to became dissillusioned with his home city of Dublin. In each story we find a struggle for escapement from each character with the ever burdening features of alcohol and religion amongst other things trapping the protaganists from breaking out of the Dublin mould. Hopes are often dashed such as those of Eveline and Duffy. Joyce intelligently creates an interplay of senses towards the end of each story which creates an epiphany and a defining moment in the life of each character. Throughout the book the characthers start in the middle of nowhere and end up in the middle of nowhere. The text starts with the phrase: "There was no hope for him this time", which symbolises the book perfectly with paralysis being a continuing theme throughout the text ending in the final component: "The Dead". Overall this is a fascinating insite into how Joyce viewed his birth place. Joyce himself can be viewed in many of the characters including Duffy who found love with Sinico in: "A Painful Case" and felt awkward at her death as he had let her go. A thoroughly enjoyable book where nothing actually happens!