Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Joyce once affirmed that he wrote Dubliners “for the most part in a style of scrupulous meanness.” The style of “Grace” certainly fits that description, as it has no poetic flourishes, no elaborate descriptions, and no heavy use of symbolism or other literary devices. Its style is simple, flat, and direct. Conversations are re-created to express the repetitive, rambling nature of real dialogue, and Joyce deliberately lends a banality to them that underscores their “ordinary” nature. This presentation of the commonplace, often through deliberately flat and purposefully prosaic writing, was Joyce’s deliberate approach throughout Dubliners. He intended to have the moment of realization, the famous Joycean “epiphany,” emerge from this deliberate flatness through irony and indirection. “Grace” is an outstanding example of that strategy successfully at work.

Nevertheless, the style of “Grace” reveals meanings beyond what is on the page. The prevalent technique is irony: Words and situations carry double meanings, allowing the reader to translate a subtext that is different and even hostile to the story supposedly being told. This irony begins with the title itself, for there is little actual “grace” displayed here, of either the spiritual or the moral sort. Kernan displays few of the social graces, and neither the retreat nor its sermon seems to have gifted him with spiritual grace. In fact, the title underscores...

(The entire section is 561 words.)