James Joyce was born in 1882 in Dublin. He attended Jesuit schools and subsequently the University College in Dublin. In 1902 he went to Paris to study medicine, but he begin to writing poems and to think out his aesthetic theories. Two years later he met Nora Barnacle with which will move and live to Trieste in 1905. Joyce worked as an English teacher at the Berlitz School of Language. Subsequently, at the outbreak of World War I, he and his family fled to Zurich in neutral Switzerland, where he died in 1941. The two principal works that we study are “A portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” and the short stories “Dubliners”.
A portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
“A portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” is Joyce’s semiautobiographical first novel published in 1916. He insert in this novel a manifesto of what he sees as the role of Modernist writer. Interesting importance is the technique adopted by the writer about the narrative. He frequent use the interior monologue, both direct and indirect, through which the narrator disappear to give full voice to the characters and their thoughts.
A constant of Joyce are the epiphanies that means revelation. For the writer is a common event in the life like a music, an object, a word, a gesture that evokes in the mind of the person, a experience buried in the memory, which in the past has aroused emotions and feelings. Te memories caused by this sudden revelation, emerged in a way absolutely realistic, proposing the same emotions at one time, like a very revelation. This moment is always accompanied by instant of intensity of narration that can be compared to Woolf’s idea of vision.
The Dubliners is a collection of 15 short stories published in 1914, in which are narrated the lives of ordinary people in Dublin, giving a realistic and evocative portrait of the same. The stories are divided in four phases of life: childhood, adolescence, maturity and public life. A significant theme present in all the stories is the feeling of paralysis, characterized by antiqued and limited culture. The characters, in fact, feel trapped by a oppressive moral code that inhibited the free expression. This feeling of paralysis was found by Joyce himself in the city of Dublin. The main characters of the linguistic style are the absence of a moralizing narrative voice, the description of characters’ inner thoughts and use of symbolism. Each story is told from the perspective of a particular character rather than through an omniscient narrator.
“The Dead” begin with an after-Christmas dinner party at the house of two old unmarried sister, who are the aunts of the protagonist, Gabriel Conroy that goes to the party with his wife Gretta. the house becomes a sort of microcosm of contemporary Ireland and its traditions, with each of the guests representing different generations, religious beliefs and political tendencies. The protagonist, after a speech, feels self-confident and decides to keep apart with his wife. But the latter begins to cry because at the end of the party she suddenly had a sad epiphany, emerged by an old Irish song that suddenly she remembered her first and perhaps only true love. Then Gretta falls asleep, Gabriel thinks how insignificance both his own life and of those around him.
Features and themes
“The Dead” has both realistic character, from the way it gives detailed descriptions of people and settings, and also symbolic character, for example the names of the protagonist significantly is also the name of the archangel who sound the trumpet at the Last Judgment. Other key aspect is the way the writer gives us a picture of the inner thoughts and feelings of the characters. The central scene is Gretta’s epiphany, because springs another epiphany, that of Gabriel, which, at the end, looking out the window at the all-covering snow, reflects on the ultimate insignificance of even the most intense moment of existence, which fade like all the rest into oblivion.