Review

Review | Dubliners by James Joyce (5/5)

We should be put on equal footing. But what makes us equal?

Good question, Joyce.
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Finally, we have reached the end of this long series of reviews. In many ways it was similar to reading the book itself. Long, drawn out, with a few highlights when it was a story I actually enjoyed.

A Mother

Mrs. Kearney is proud. So proud that she got married when people thought she was a flirt. So proud that she will do everything she can to make her daughter’s performance at the local concerts a success. So proud that she take her daughter away when she is denied payment.

There’s something to be said about Mrs. Kearney’s dedication. She spends a good portion of the story ensuring that the concerts are carried out…only to utterly ruin them for the sake of “her daughter’s payment.” I put that in quotations because I’m not entirely convinced that she even cares about the money.

This is about pride. How oppression drives us to be more proud than we ought to be. Mrs. Kearney points out that she wouldn’t be treated that way if she was a man. I also believe she would have responded that way if she wasn’t feeling repressed.

Recommendation: Read. A story about pride, oppression, and appearances, “A Mother” is an ironic read, but one I think many can easily relate to.

Grace

Mr. Kernan needs a change. After falling down a set of stairs drunk at a pub, he is taken home by Mr. Cunningham and his friends, who are determined to convert Kernan and save his soul.

“Grace” is meant to be a redemption story, the twist here being that the salvation seems more economical than religious. In fact, it’s deemed a “spiritual account” that the priest manages. We never really see Kernan’s full transformation, rather just the fall and the picking himself up.

I think it’s up to us to decide as to whether or not Kernan is truly saved. I personally think he’s converted in mind, but not soul.

Recommendation: Read. “Grace” is definitely an interesting story. Not the most engaging, I admit, but a perspective on what religion can do and how its meaning is twisted.

The Dead

Gabriel and his wife, Gretta, go to a Christmas party at his aunts’ house. There, Gabriel worries over his speech, and tries his best to interact with those around him. As the party goes on, he fails at almost every interaction except for his speech, and at the end of the night he walks back to the hotel with his wife. However, his wife will tell him a story that will distance them forever.

“The Dead” is the longest “short story” I have ever read. It does seem to drag at parts because each scene depicts the same thing: Gabriel feels like he is above everyone else in his company. This can be very simple as his failed interaction with the serving girl, Lily, to the subtlety his distaste for a trip to the countryside, to his baffled confrontation with Miss Ivors about his job for a London paper. His speech is a particularly clever example, because even though he receive raucous applause from his audience, Gabriel’s speech is very political, very impersonal.

But what makes “The Dead” stand out is the common denominator it sets. We will all die someday. We all have secrets. We are always, in some way, inadequate. I remember including a quote in one of my posts about the snow in Vancouver, and it immediately came to mind when I read this story:

The snow doesn’t give a soft white damn who it touches.
-e.e. cummings

Recommendation: Read. “The Dead” is the perfect end to an anthology like Dubliners. In a collection of stories about the misfortunes and failures of others, it reminds us how were are not exempt. The reason why Dubliners holds so much meaning is that we are full of hypocrisy and unrealized dreams and vice, and that’s what makes us equal.

Other Dubliners Reviews:
Part 1: The Sisters, An Encounter, Araby
Part 2: Eveline, After The Race, Two Gallants
Part 3: The Boarding House, A Little Cloud, Two Gallants
Part 4: Clay, A Painful Case, Ivy Day In the Committee Room

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2 thoughts on “Review | Dubliners by James Joyce (5/5)”

  1. Fantastic review! Dubliners is one of my favorites, but Portrait is still Joyce’s masterpiece. Check out my site for some amazing reviews and musings. Be sure to follow. Thanks!

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