Dubliners Questions and Answers
by James Joyce

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In what ways can Dubliners be defined as a modernist text? What characteristics of modernism can be found in James Joyce's Dubliners?

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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...

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James Joyce was one of the most important modernist writers, who not only wanted to express the effects of modernity in a textual form, but in all other aspects as well.

As far as the form is concerned, while we may not encounter a stream-of-consciousness style in Dubliners, different narrative points of view, the abundance of flashbacks and ability to get an insight into the mental world of protagonists, their thoughts, fears and dilemmas are some of the most important features that made Dubliners truly innovative at the time compared to the works before the collection.

In addition, modernist characters no longer consider political, social and religious institutions as reliable means to evaluate the meaning of life, and therefore turn within themselves to discover the answers. In each story in Dubliners, we can see the internal conflict characters experience which tells us that they no longer feel they can live by the traditional norms and beliefs that were imposed upon them by the culture and society.