Joyce's first great portrait of Dublin life came with Dubliners, a collection of 15 short stories. It is a penetrating depiction of the stagnation and paralysis of the Irish middle class life in and around Dublin, presented in four stages: childhood, adolescence, maturity and public life. Characters accept their condition because they are not aware of it. All Dubliners are spiritually weak people, they are slaves of their familiar, moral, cultural, religious and political life. The hearth of the whole collection is the revelation of the paralysis to its victims, and the failure to find a way out of it. The peculiar technique used is the epiphany, coined by Joyce himself: it is a sudden revelation of a strong reality caused by a trivial gesture, an external object or a banal situation. According to his task to reproduce the deep and hidden meaning of the life, the epiphany represents the key of the story itself. Each story is told from the prospective of a character and so the interior monologue is widely used: it is the presentation of protagonist's thoughts without any interfering agency. Thanks to it, readers acquire direct knowledge of who was speaking. Linguistic register is varied: it suits the age, the social class and the role of the characters Structure: Joyce wanted his stories to have a symmetrical organisation as well as a principle of thematic development, so that could form a chapter in the “moral history” of the country. The last story “the dead”, which is also the longest, forms as a sort of coda to the whole collection. The title is revealing joyce's intention to extend the fate of namelessness of the characters to all inhabitants of the city. The merging of different voices creates an orchestral effects and the combination of stories acts as the group portrait of a whole community. So it is not only a series of sketches of Dublin but also a book about humans fate, in which the microcosm described is a model of all human life. With the word “epicleti”, which comes from the catholic mass, joyce is declaring his intention to transform ordinary sevents, daily gestures, into something different and more meaningful, as thought those seemingly insignificant details acquired a symbolic value, trascending their immediate meaning. Moreover, by using the word “paralysis” joyce reveals that the main subject of his stories will be the immobility of a city, which was, at the time,”britains's neglected little sister”, a colony which had increasing lost its influence and was dailing to achieve independence.
Style= Joyce started that dubliners is written in a “style of scrupulous meanness” which expresses the author's intention of achieving an effect of verisimilitude. However, such instances of documentary realism are coupled with the use of numerous symbols, which makes joyce's style unique and complicates the apparent simplicity of the stories. Moreover, these stories are only seemingly conventional because in order to render the complexity of human experiences joyce uses the free indirect style. However, joyce's most discussed stylistic innovation is the “epiphanic method”. The author describes “epiphanies” as “a sudden spiritual manifestation,whether in the vulgarity of speech or of gesture or in a memorable phase of the mind itself. The word itself means “showing” indicates that, thought seemingly insignificant words or moves, characters reach moments of intense perception. These emotional peaks turn into revelation of states which would have otherwise remained hidden to the characters.
Themes= joyce made the stagnation of this city and its inhabitants the dominant theme of the collection. The paralysis takes different forms; it can be physical,moral,emotional or psychological. It manifests itself as corruption,lack of ambition or frustation. Characters seem generally unable to live their lives to the full, incapable of seeing the opportunities life places in front of them. There are recurring images (motifs) which testify to the 'disease' of paralysis affecting the city as whole. In addition,relationships between men and women are portrayed as difficult if not ineffective or ,worse,corrupted. Images of failed masculinity are frequent,as are examples of betrayals. Society seems to have a disabling effect on dubliners as a whole,while emigration is often seen as the only possibilty to find a better life. All these images contribute to creating the ' special odour of corruption' than the author detected floating over Dublin at the turn of the century.