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Dubliners

James Joyce
Main Ideas

Key Facts

Main Ideas Key Facts

full title Dubliners

author  James Joyce

type of work  Collection of short stories

genre  Realist fiction; urban literature

language   English (with some Irish and Hiberno-English sayings)

time and place written  Early 1900s, Ireland and Italy

date of first publication 1914

publisher  Grant Richards

narrator The first three stories are narrated by the main character of each story, which in all three cases is a young, unnamed boy. The rest of the stories are narrated by an anonymous third person who pays close attention to circumstantial detail though in a detached manner.

point of view The first three stories, told from the first person, focus on the thoughts and observations of the narrators. In the stories told from the third person, the narrators detail objective information and present characters as they would appear to an outsider, but also present thoughts and actions from the protagonists’ points of view, giving the reader a sense of what the characters are feeling.

tone Though told mainly by an anonymous narrator, the stories of Dubliners form a self-conscious examination of Joyce’s native city in Ireland. Because the narrator maintains a neutral and distant presence, detecting Joyce’s attitude toward his characters is not always easy. The abundance of details about the grim realities of the city and the focus on hardships, however, create a tragic tone and offer a subtle critique.

tense  Past tense

setting (time)  Early 1900s

setting (place)  Dublin

major conflict Various figures struggle with the challenges of complicated relationships and life in Dublin.

themes The prison of routine; the desire for escape; the intersection of life and death

motifs  Paralysis; epiphany; betrayal; religion

symbols  Windows; dusk and nighttime; food

foreshadowing The death of Father Flynn in “The Sisters” announces the focus on death in later stories like “The Dead”; story titles hint at events in the stories