James Joyce was born in Dublin in 1882. He studied at University College in Dublin, where he graduated in modern languages in 1902. In June 1904 he fell in love with Nora Barnacle, a twenty-year-old girl who was working as a chambermaid in a hotel. In October they moved to Italy, settling in Trieste where Joyce began teaching English and made friends with Italo Svevo. The years in Trieste were difficult, filled with disappointment and financial problems and, although Dubliners (1914) and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916) had established him as a writer, they didn’t alleviate his financial difficulties but in 1917 he received the first of several anonymous donations which enabled him to continue writing Ulysses, which was published in Paris in 1922. Hitler’s advances in Europe caused Joyce to escape from France to neutral Switzerland, where he died in 1941.
Most of his works took place in Ireland, especially in Dublin, and he aimed to give a portrait of the common people’s life. The facts he worries about are seen from different points of view at the same time and are not introduced trough an omniscient narrator. His novels start in medias res with the analysis of a particular moment, the character is portrayed in an introspective way and time is perceived as subjective.
Joyce, influenced by the French authors Flaubert and Baudelaire, believed in the impersonality of the artist; he has to give the readers a true image of life. This is why the artist is isolated from the society and can’t give his personal point of view, for this reason he used different points of view and narrative techniques suitable to all the characters. His style goes from the use of the free direct speech to the interior monologue. So language broke down into a succession of words without punctuation or grammar connections (“stream of consciousness”).
Dubliners is a collection of 15 short stories about human situations. It is set in Dublin and is divided into 4 groups:
3. Middle years of the character
4. Social, political or religious affairs
The stories are linked together by the same structure, themes, symbols, and narrative techniques. In each story there is a realistic description and there are a lot of details as, according to Joyce, his task has to be make the reader aware of the usual aspects of life and to achieve it he employed the “epiphany” that is “the sudden spiritual manifestation” caused by an aspect or banal situation that leads the characters to the awareness of themselves and of the reality around them. Dubliners are paralyzed in their condition either because they are unable to understand it or because they are unable to react. Reaching this awareness marks the climax of the stories. However Joyce doesn’t want to be didactic, reason for which he is detached.
The stories are told from the prospective of a character, monologue in the form of the free direct speech or thought with a bit of mediation of the narrator. Various use of the language in order to suit all the characters’ needs.