OWL Magazine Korea

“Dubliners” by James Joyce

James Joyce is regarded as a novelist and poet who represents 20th-century Ireland. He is considered a titan of English literature, and he is evaluated as one of the most influential and important writers in the world.

In particular, his work “Ulysses” is known to be dense and complex to the extent that there’s a joke that more people have written papers about the book than have actually read it.

“James Joyce: Epitome of Carefulness”

James Joyce is also regarded as the epitome of carefulness. Although he didn’t produce many works, it is said that he poured his heart into writing each sentence. An anecdote about James Joyce appears in Stephen King’s book “On Writing,” as follows:

“One day, Joyce’s friend visited him and found Joyce agonizing with his head in his hands. The friend asked what was wrong. ‘I wrote seven words today,’ Joyce replied. ‘Isn’t that satisfactory?’ the friend asked. However, Joyce replied, ‘But I don’t know how to arrange the words.'”

In this way, despite not producing many works, he is praised for the meticulous attention he paid to each word.

“Reflecting the Dark Era of Ireland, Dubliners”

James Joyce’s “Dubliners” is a work set in Ireland. Dublin, the capital of Ireland, serves as the backdrop for fictional characters representing the people living in Ireland at the time. Through the novel, Joyce reexamines their lives, effectively portraying the social and cultural elements of the era.

Regarding this work, James Joyce himself has referred to it as a “Nicely Polished Looking Glass,” reflecting the era of Ireland at the time.

The novel sometimes portrays the lives of Irish people explicitly and critically.

“Everyday Dublin Through the Eyes of Various Protagonists”

The work is composed of several small pieces, each featuring different protagonists and situations. Through the stories of various protagonists who could have lived in Dublin at the time, the novel reexamines the era of Dublin.

The work contains 14 pieces, arranged in a frame-like structure.

  1. The Sisters
  2. An Encounter
  3. Araby
  4. Eveline
  5. After the Race
  6. Two Gallants
  7. The Boarding House
  8. A Little Cloud
  9. Counterparts
  10. Clay
  11. A Painful Case
  12. Ivy Day in the Committee Room
  13. Grace
  14. The Dead

Both the first piece, “The Sisters,” and the last piece, “The Dead,” discuss “death.” However, after reading the last piece, “The Dead,” the judgment of what constitutes death becomes ambiguous.

Whether “The Dead” refers to the story of dead people or is a metaphorical expression implying that all the characters in the story are living lives akin to the dead is left ambiguous, evoking a bittersweet emotion.

In this sense, through the portrayal of fictional characters who could have lived in the past Ireland, reflecting the melancholic Ireland of the time, James Joyce might have referred to his work as a “Nicely Polished Looking Glass.”

”James Joyce: Moments of Epiphany“

While discussing James Joyce’s works, one cannot overlook the concept of “epiphanies.” Epiphanies can be summarized as “sudden realizations.” Rather than gradually understanding something, it refers to the phenomenon of unexpectedly and momentarily realizing the truth.

Epiphanies also appear in the Bible. It recounts the story of the “wise men” who directly witnessed “the birth of Jesus” between Matthew 2:1-12. This moment is arguably the most dramatic moment in Christian history, as the wise men already knew about the Messiah’s birth through prophecy.

However, they were not aware of the exact time and place. Upon seeing a star shining in the east, they followed its guiding light and were eventually led to the birthplace of Jesus. This moment of facing Jesus’s birth is referred to as “epiphanies” in English.

In James Joyce’s works, such moments of epiphany frequently occur, notably in the final scene of “Araby,” where the boy realizes something abruptly.

Among James Joyce’s enigmatic works, “Dubliners” is relatively less perplexing. Although the overall mood may leave one feeling melancholic after reading the book, it can be considered a masterpiece for its indirect portrayal of Ireland’s past, different from the present.