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What makes the beginnings of the short stories in Dubliners so exciting?

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sershwhelan7 | Student, Undergraduate | eNoter

Posted January 14, 2011 at 10:09 PM via web

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What makes the beginnings of the short stories in Dubliners so exciting?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted January 15, 2011 at 7:39 PM (Answer #1)

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James Joyce, as befitting a master of his talent, uses a number of different techniques to start each of his excellent short stories in this volume. However, examining closely the beginning of each story reveals the way in which his narration serves to place us directly in the action by either creating a memorable scene or giving us insight into the thoughts of a character.

Let us consider how Joyce creates a setting in the first paragraph of "Araby." Before we are introduced to any of the characters, Joyce creates a forbidding, gloomy setting that speaks a lot of the way that the characters in this story are variously trapped and restricted:

North Richmond Street, being blind, was a quiet street except at the hour when the Christian Brothers' School set the boys free. An uninhabited house of two storeys stood at the blind end, detached from its neighbours in a square ground. The other houses of the street, conscious of decent lives within them, gazed at one another with brown imperturbable faces.

Note the personification of the houses with their "faces" that add to this sense of confinement and gloom. This helps set the scene for the boy's flight of the imagination as he embarks on his quest to Araby to buy a token for his "true love."

In "The Dead," the story does something similar but by focusing on a single character's thoughts and feelings rather than developing the setting. We are presented with the thoughts of Lily as she rushes around greeting people to the party that is being hosted by her employers:

Lily, the caretaker's daughter, was literally run off her feet. Hardly had she brought one gentleman into the little pantry behind the office on the ground floor and helped him off with his overcoat than the wheezy hall-door bell clanged again and she had to scamper along the bare hallway to let in another guest. It was well for her she had not to attend to the ladies also.

Consider here how this insight into the mind of Lily helps convey the excitement and busyness and rushing around that is involved in hosting a big party and thus raises our anticipation at what is to happen during this party whilst allowing us to see it from the perspective of a servant.

Therefore the majority of the stories attempt to "hook" the reader through a very clear evocation of setting or a great insight into character that serves to introduce us to the story.

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