|James Joyce, courtesy of Wikipedia|
Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately), I did not retain any of my school notes on the stories in Dubliners, and it felt as if I were reading these stories for the first time, although I did feel an inkling of familiarity, and I did not think, thankfully, that these stories were too difficult to understand.
Dubliners, a collection of 15 short stories by James Joyce, was first published in 1914, when Irish nationalism was at its peak. I read several of the stories, in order (for the most part), starting with the opening story, The Sisters, which is a good introduction to this collection of stories, and to the work of James Joyce in a larger sense, in terms of the setting and the themes (Dublin, and religious issues, such as guilt). Apparently, many of the characters in Dubliners reappear later in small roles in his novel, Ulysses. The first few stories in Dubliners are narrated (in the first person) by young (child) protagonists, while subsequent stories focus on the lives of (progressively) older people, in accordance with James Joyce's tripartite division of development, from childhood to adolescence to maturity. His stories often feature epiphanies, moments when main characters experience self-understanding or illumination.
My comments are general, as I read many stories in this collection, including The Sisters, An Encounter, Araby, and Eveline. (I'll read more of the stories, including what has been called his best story, The Dead, which is also the last story in this collection.) I was relieved to learn that James Joyce wrote exclusively (or almost exclusively) about Dublin, Ireland. Since his work is focused on Dublin, I was able to remain in Dublin, rather than travel all over (there's a measure of comfort in going to a new place and staying there for a while).
|Map of Dublin inside of the book|
"For myself, I always write about Dublin, because if I can get to the heart of Dublin I can get to the heart of all the cities of the world. In the particular is contained the universal."
James Joyce's Irish experiences were essential to his writing and stories, which are set in Dublin. In addition to being the setting, Dublin is also a "character" in these stories, and there are numerous descriptions of the streets of Dublin (as in the third story, Araby, which begins with a description of quiet North Richmond Street).
Religion was a fixture in Dublin and is a strong theme in this collection of short fiction. In the first story, The Sisters, the narrator, a young boy, Jack, has just learned that his older friend, Father Flynn, has died of "paralysis". In the second story, An Encounter, two poor boys throw rocks at the narrator and his friend, Mahony, and mistake them for Protestants (the tension between Catholics and Protestants is alluded to throughout the stories in Dubliners). In the third story, Araby, the narrator, an unnamed boy, recalls the priest who died in the back drawing-room of the house before his family moved in. Religion is heavily featured in these stories, which depict Irish middle class life in the early years of the 20th century.
While reading, not surprisingly, I came across a few words to highlight for Wondrous Words Wednesday, a wonderful weekly wordie meme hosted by Kathy from BermudaOnion's Weblog. Each of these words is from the first story in the book, The Sisters, and two of the words are related to religion.
|Breviary, courtesy of Wikipedia|
"Whenever I'd bring in his soup to him there, I'd find him with his breviary fallen to the floor, lying back in his chair with his mouth open."
~The Sisters, James Joyce
The word can also refer to a collection of Christian orders of prayers and readings, from Anglican or Lutheran resources. It may be used to refer to an abridged version of any text or a brief summary of some subject, but is usually used to refer to the Catholic liturgical book.
2. simoniac: a person who practices simony, which is the buying or selling of church offices or powers.
"But then I remembered that it had died of paralysis and I felt that I too was smiling feebly as if to absolve the simoniac of his sin." ~The Sisters, James Joyce
This word stems from Simon Magus (Acts 8:18), who tried to buy the power of conferring the gifts of the Holy Spirit from the Apostles. Simony was said to have become widespread in Europe in the 10th –11th century, as promotions to the priesthood or episcopate were bestowed by monarchs and nobles, often in exchange for oaths of loyalty. More widely, it's any contract of this kind forbidden by divine or ecclesiastical law.
3. truculent: eager or quick to argue or fight; aggressively defiant; savage
"His face was very truculent, grey and massive, with black cavernous nostrils and circled by a scanty white fur."
~The Sisters, James Joyce
I'm glad I looked this word up because I thought it meant thin or transparent (referring to facial skin), or something of that nature. The sentence above is the boy's description of the priest who has just died, Father James Flynn.
Have you read Dubliners, or other works by James Joyce? As always, I welcome your comments.