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Dubliners | Study Guide

James Joyce

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Dubliners | 10 Things You Didn't Know


James Joyce's collection of short stories Dubliners, published in 1914, features an assortment of characters living in Ireland and addresses the themes of personal, religious, and national identity. The collection is notable for showcasing Joyce's concept of epiphany, in which characters have dramatic realizations regarding themselves or their places in the world. Critics have praised the individual stories, such as "Araby," "Grace," and "The Dead," and the variety of protagonists portray Joyce's view of Ireland as home to numerous perspectives, traditions, and attitudes. Despite the lengthy series of trials that Joyce endured in order to get the collection published, Dubliners has been hailed as a masterpiece of 20th-century literature.

1. The manuscript of Dubliners was burned after Joyce's argument with a printer.

Joyce's manuscript was accepted by Maunsel and Company publishers, but they required many alterations to approve it. Joyce decided, in turn, to forgo the offer and have Dubliners published elsewhere. When he went to get the draft back from the printers, they refused, stating that they would still be liable for the printing costs. The printer informed Joyce that the pages of the manuscript would not be returned, and instead, they were burned.

2. A publisher agreed to print Dubliners—but only if Joyce omitted one of the stories.

Grant Richards, another publisher who showed interest in the manuscript, said he would only accept the collection if the story "Two Gallants" was left out. Joyce refused and defended the story, stating, "To omit the story from the book would really be disastrous. It is one of the most important stories in the book. I would rather sacrifice five of the other stories (which I could name) than this one."

3. Dubliners was heavily influenced by the rise of Irish nationalism.

Responding to years of rule by England, Irish nationalism became a powerful movement in the early 20th century. Joyce wrote Dubliners to show Irish characters combining Irish tradition with modern thought. Discussing his own views about nationalism, Joyce stated:

If the Irish programme did not insist on the Irish language I suppose I could call myself a nationalist. As it is, I am content to recognize myself an exile: and, prophetically, a repudiated one.

4. Many characters from Dubliners also appear in Joyce's novel Ulysses.

Joyce featured characters from nearly all of his stories in Dubliners in his subsequent novel, Ulysses. Examples of characters that reappear include Lenehan from "Two Gallants," Bob Doran from "The Boarding House," Tom Kernan from "Grace," and Gabriel Conroy from "The Dead." Kate Morkan, also from "The Dead," is identified as the godmother of Stephen Dedalus, a major character in both Ulysses and A Portrait of the Artists as a Young Man.

5. "The Dead" is often considered a novella because of its length.

At 15,952 words, "The Dead" is the longest and last story in Dubliners. This has led some scholars to study it as a novella in its own right, as opposed to another story in the collection. Scholars also note that by including it as the last story in the volume and making it longer than the others Joyce wanted to stress the importance of "The Dead" in relation to his body of work as a whole.

6. Scholars have compared "Araby" to medieval romantic literature.

"Araby" features an unnamed boy seeking a gift for a girl he loves at an Eastern-themed bazaar in Dublin. Critics have compared the boy to a medieval knight obeying the codes of chivalry to win the heart of his beloved—a narrative present in medieval romances including the Arthurian legends. Medieval scholar Jerome Mandel notes that "Araby" was "structured with rigorous precision upon a paradigm of medieval romance."

7. The stories in Dubliners feature progressively older characters.

Joyce often wrote coming-of-age narratives, such as his novel A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Although the characters in each story of Dubliners are different, the stories focus on older characters as they progress. "The Sisters," "An Encounter," and "Araby," the first three stories in the volume, feature child protagonists, while the last story, "The Dead," is told from the perspective of a disillusioned adult.

8. Joyce parodied other writing styles in Dubliners.

Some of the stories in Dubliners feature alternative writing styles that Joyce included to allow the narrative form to fit the topic. In "A Painful Case" Joyce writes a section in the style of a newspaper reporter, while in "Grace" he includes a section written as a sermon.

9. Joyce created a language of the devil called "Bellysbabble."

"Bellysbabble" was Joyce's comedic take on the devil's name, Beelzebub. Joyce used the imaginary language, which he made up as he wrote, in scenes featuring the unholy. He created the language while composing the short story "The Cat and the Devil," which he wrote for his grandson in 1936.

10. Like Shakespeare, James Joyce was a coiner of words.

The word quark, which means "subatomic particle," originated in Finnegans Wake, published in 1939: "Three quarks for Muster Mark!" Nobel Prize-winning physicist Murray Gell-Mann proposed the current use of the word, claiming that Joyce's word matched a sound already in Gell-Mann's head.

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