Ashamedly I've avoided reading any James Joyce for as long as is feasibly possible whilst studying for an English Lit degree. My time was up this week, and I had to cave in the form of The Dubliners in order to get ahead with some module reading. Admittedly the book made me feel like a rather inadequate student - I knew there must be some meaning behind this quandary of characters and situations, but had few ideas as to what. So, after doing a bit of research and rereading over notes I took whilst reading the book (yes, I'm that type of lit student, urgh), I've come up with some ideas about my take on this book.
For the majority of the novel I had no clue as to what was going on. I felt like I was wandering in circles around this semi-fictional Dublin and couldn't escape from the inane repetition of reading about the lives of various seemingly insignificant characters. I actually got rather annoyed at this and in this way missed the point - I wasn't confused because I didn't understand Joyce, I was confused because Joyce wanted me to be. If that makes sense. He purposefully made the life of the key protagonist of each chapter seem mundane and repetitive because he was trying to make his readers realise that that is the nature of Dublin society. Take, for example, Eveline. She could escape her tragic, boring life to go to Argentina with her love. Yet she doesn't. And why? Like most middle class women living in Dublin at the time she is stuck in a rut of routine, and cannot escape without casting off all familial, traditional and supposedly moral ties to her formal life.
All of the characters reside on the outskirts of middle class society, and in this way give a sort of overview of life in Dublin during this period. Thus, they don't really speak to the reader as individuals, but as a collective entity of different sub-sections of the middle class. We have the potentially violated young boy, the manipulative mother, the lover with lost hopes and the list goes on.
Now, as to whether I enjoyed it ... I can't say it's going to be in my top ten. or really anywhere near there to be honest. Although I appreciate the literary merit of the work as it was relatively important for the avant-garde movement, it wasn't something that I exactly lost the track of time with whilst reading. Saying that, it's Joyce, so it's obviously well written. It's also quite interesting because of the sheer range of lives that he provides perspective on.
Have you read it? What did you think?