Essay by jenniferinbdsm February 2004

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Dubliners by James Joyce is a collection of short stories that revolve around the everyday lives of men, women and children in the Irish capital of Dublin. The short stories are generally unhappy tales that form a chronicle of lost innocence, missed opportunities, and paralysis which is always depicted as moral and physical paralysis. Joyce said that in Dubliners his intention was "to write a chapter in the moral history of my country and I chose Dublin for the scene because that city seemed to me the centre of paralysis".(11, james joyce and the common readr) The 15 stories which make up the collection are studies on the decay of lower middle-class urban life and the paralysis to which Joyce refers is both intellectual and moral. The characters who appear in the stories lead uneventful and frustrated lives, described through carefully chosen details. The fact that there is very little action in the stories points to the paralysis and monotony of life in a modern city.

Joyce conveys this powerlessness through stasis because not much moves in Dublin. This feeling of stasis is closely connected to a feeling that Dublin is a kind of prison. At times, the paralysis is literal, for example, Father Flynn in "The Sisters." followed by frustrated schoolboys trapped by Dublin's tedium in "An Encounter," These stories of childhood are followed by Eveline, the story of a young woman crushed by the stifling conditions that entrap her at home. "The Dead" marks the spreading-out of paralysis at every level, underlined also by the imagery of the snow enveloping all of Ireland. Most of the characters in the short stories are is some way imprisoned, and the entrapment is often caused by a combination of circumstances like poverty, social pressure and family situations. The chief theme which...