illustrated portrait of Irish author James Joyce

James Joyce

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Joyce's characters live very much in their minds rather than in their actions. What do you think about this narrative style? Do you feel it gives the character greater depth? Do you understand the characters more easily, or do you prefer an action-packed narrative, where characters are revealed by what they do rather than by what they are thinking? Choose some examples from your own reading to discuss your opinion of the interior monologue.

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Every person answering this question will have a different perspective on the efficacy of Joyce’s narrative style. It’s important to consider whether Joyce’s characters come to life and whether you believe in them as real human beings. Joyce takes us directly inside characters’ minds so that we may understand their...

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Every person answering this question will have a different perspective on the efficacy of Joyce’s narrative style. It’s important to consider whether Joyce’s characters come to life and whether you believe in them as real human beings. Joyce takes us directly inside characters’ minds so that we may understand their thought process in making decisions—or rather, not making decisions.

In Dubliners, for instance, we see Eveline, who is eager to escape the confines of her difficult life. She dreams of being a married woman, a title which she believes comes with respect from others. She longs to escape the drabness of her life with an alcoholic father, a mediocre job in a store, and the responsibility of caring for the family and household. Although she wants freedom, she cannot leave with Frank when the time comes.

Only because we are privy to her thoughts can the readers surmise the reasons why Eveline refuses to go, even though she and Frank had planned a new life. She is held back by convention. Eveline feels obligated to stay and sacrifice herself. Her mother’s dying wish was for her to keep the family together, religion teaches her to endure, and she feels guilty thinking of her future. In addition, her private thoughts indicate that she does not really love Frank. She likes Frank and she likes the idea of being married, but she never once says she loves him. She does, however, muse that he will save her in allowing her to “escape!”

Joyce’s narrative style allows the readers to become Eveline, and we experience her thoughts first-hand so that we may better analyze and attempt to understand why she does what she does. Had Joyce emphasized Eveline’s actions instead of her thoughts, readers would be left with many questions about why she cannot follow through.

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