The Dubliners. By James Joyce
It’s the minor characters who take centre stage in Dublin at the turn of the 19th century in Joyce’s collection of partly related short stories. Related in that all the characters must pass each other in the street from time to time.
We have the boy concerned superficially about an ailing priest in The Sisters, and it could be the same boy infatuated by the sister of his friend in the embarrasing shopping expedition in Araby. The description of his changing emotions and inability to communicate his feelings with his inamorata.
Each story unpacks economic prose initially sounding quite innocent before a darker side begins to emerge making the stories both intriguing and believable in their sinister or darker tone.
In An Encounter two schoolboys play truant only to encounter a middle-aged man with a desire to talk to them about violent punishments. They realise he’s a bit pervy and slowly ease themselves away from him. It’s a classic meeting children have when they realise some adults are dodgy and best avoided.
Eveline is a young woman who despite a chance to escape a hard life by emigrating with a sailor she knows she will stay.
Two dodgy lads in Two Gallants look to encourage a young woman to steal from her boss. Again these are pathetic characters in everyday life but somehow we get to follow their plan as if they were important.” – Two con men, Lenehan and Corley, find a maid who is willing to steal from her employer.
There is the sadness of Maria who leaves her cake on a tram ahead of a party in Clay, Mr Duffy who regrets rebuffing his female friend after she appears to have committed suicide in A Painful Case and all the bunkum of a committee meeting in Ivy Day in the Committee Room. This one is so true to life.
The Dead is the longest story as it describes Gabriel Conroy’s epiphany as his wife confesses her past lover.
Harry Mottram
The Dubliners is available at Cheddar Library and all good book shops.
The Dead was adapted into a film by John Huston, written for the screen by his son Tony and starring his daughter Anjelica as Mrs. Conroy and is available on YouTube at time of writing.