There was no hope for him this time: it was the third stroke.
"No one would think he'd make such a beautiful corpse."
I had never spoken to her, except for a few casual words, and yet her name was like a summons to all my foolish blood.
But my body was like a harp and her words and gestures were like fingers running upon the wires.
Mr. Duffy lived a short distance from his body.
"A Painful Case"
His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.
Scholarly literary opinion is that James Joyce revolutionized the novel in the twentieth century by abandoning conventional narrative for stream of consciousness and.... more
A James Joyce story may seem a strange choice for famed director John Huston to adapt for the screen. Huston is best known for his great tough-guy American films, including.... more
COMMENTARY | MOVIES
Before he drowned in the stream
My copy of Dubliners is so old it has eight-five cents printed on the cover—though I can barely read the price, the book is so worn from use. Dubliners is a wonderful collection of stories you can go back to at different times in your life and appreciate on different levels each time.
They were written and published before Joyce got sidetracked by his experiments in stream-of-consciousness writing and linguistic gymnastics. It's also before he adopted his theme of poor-little-genius-me—he actually gets inside his characters (who are not himself thinly disguised yet) with great sensitivity. People and situations in Dublin are depicted quite naturalistically.
However the stories are not all third-person-objective as might be expected. Joyce shows quite a lyrical bent. The stories are full of poetic sentences like "The cold air stung us and we played till our bodies glowed".
The stories are also often inconclusive, sometimes hardly stories with narrative at all, but rather are built around still moments that each reveal in a sudden light an insight into the people or their situations in life. These moments of self-illumination are the nearly mystical "epiphanies", as he called them, that Joyce avidly sought and collected for his later writing.
Through the gradual accumulation of stories about the small, seemingly insignificant incidents in the lives of his Irish subjects, Joyce comes to people the broad social network of Dublin at that time. These characters reappear in peripheral roles in his later longer works, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and especially Ulysses.
My favourite story in this collection is "The Dead" which concludes the volume on a note of profound sadness when a good-hearted but conventional man discovers the wife he loves had once experienced a tragic passion in her life.
The description of him watching the snow fall as she sleeps is heartbreaking in its simplicity. I'd like to quote the entire last beautiful paragraph but it would not be as effective without the story leading up to it.
This story is sometimes treated as a novella, despite being a bit shy of the word count usually associated with the short novel form. Perhaps the depths and complexities in this seemingly simple story, with its revelation of the inexorable gulfs between people, fool readers into thinking it is longer. James Joyce at his naturalistic best.
"The Dead" was made into a moving film by director John Huston, the last work of his own life, which is appropriate on several levels.
COMMENTARY | MOVIES