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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Domenick Franecki eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Dubliners is modernist in both content and style. Its content relates to the spiritual deadness and emotional paralysis of its characters; these are common themes of modernist texts. For example, the story "The Dead" ends with snow blanketing Dublin, symbolizing the deadness of its people. The snow falls "upon all the living and the dead," connecting the living to the dead. The main character, Gabriel, is described as "living dead," as he is emotionally and spiritually disconnected. Spiritual deadness is a feature of modernism.

The stories in Dubliners feature modernist techniques, such as...

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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.