First published in 1914, Dubliners is James Joyce’s collection of fifteen short stories which depict life in the Irish middle class.
A key theme throughout the collection is the social paralysis present in Ireland that Joyce believed stifled cultural progression. This social paralysis came at a time of rising Irish nationalism which is reflected in the work.
Modernist texts aim to capture and illustrate the nature of the individual compared with overwhelming social and cultural trends in a naturalistic way. Joyce juxtaposes the downtrodden Dubliners with the British citizens. He realistically portrays the hatred the Irish felt toward the British. Characters throughout the collection are described as being emotionally and spiritually dead, which reinforces the effect on the individual.
Aside from the subject matter, the work is also modernist in its form. Modernist texts deconstruct the traditional five-stage story structure of exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution. Many of the individual stories completely disregard this structure in their lack of clear resolutions. Also, Joyce employs an interesting technique with regard to the connection between the stories. Many of the early stories are narrated by children, while the later stories are narrated by progressively older people. This structure mirrors how a humans ages from childhood to adulthood.