Analysis Of The Novel Dubliners By James Joyce

1977 words - 8 pages

In response to his publisher's suggested revisions to Dubliners, James Joyce "elevated his rhetoric to the nearly Evangelical [and wrote]: 'I seriously believe that you will retard the course of civilization in Ireland by preventing the Irish people from having one good look in my nicely polished looking-glass'"1. A pivotal part of this "looking-glass" is Joyce's representation of Dublin, which functions akin to an external unconsciousness in that a series of unrelated characters experience similar problems by virtue of their common connection to the city. Furthermore, the characters absorb the city into their identities, creating a symbiotic relationship with it. This renders escape - or emigration - a bifurcation of one's identity, and thus, paralyses characters once a means of escape is revealed to them. Therefore, Joyce's Dubliners are inextricably bound to Dublin; and like microcosms of it, negotiate problems relevant to both themselves and the city. I intend to explore Joyce's Dublin, conscious of this city-character connection in the following areas: the incomplete identities of the city and its inhabitants; tradition, and colonial influences; the fragmentary structure of the city; and briefly, how "The Dead" unifies the fragmented Dublin as Gabriel gazes out at the "snow"(p.160)2.
Considering Dublin's symbiotic relationship with its people, we can resolve Seamus Deane's paradoxical summation of the city as necessarily being: "nowhere and everywhere, absence and presence"3, as Dublin pervades its characters' thoughts without becoming personified. The characters' paralysis and self-abnegation in the face of their desires is readily explained by an unbreakable link to Dublin; which evokes Friedrich Nietzsche in Beyond Good and Evil: "Ultimately, it is the desire, not the desired, that we love."4 We witness this rejection of the "desired" in favour of lingering in dreams throughout Dubliners, such as when the narrator in '"An Encounter" is perplexed by the 'josser's'(p.14) apparent onanism, despite the desire for otherness suggested by his 'Wild West'(p.9) fantasies. Aside from an obvious fear of harm, the narrator is discomforted because the experience estranges him from the familiar, and in his trepidation he seeks Mahony, who, like "dear, dirty Dublin"(p.52), he once considered abandoning: "I had always despised him a little"(p.15).
The narrator's timorous reaction to what resides beyond Dublin is a common motif in Dubliners. In his exchange with the josser (whose namesake evokes "tosser": slang for masturbation), he tests a new identity removed from the city, assuming a pseudonym and conversing with a stranger in a field outside the city(p.14). But the test frightens him, and he calls for the familiar Mahony despite his disdain for him. Although, many of the characters' fantasies flirt with departing Dublin, they all balk at their imagined departures in reality. "Eveline" harbours the most striking example of this: "She set her...

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