Consciousness and death in James Joyce's Dubliners

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Virginia Tech


The purpose of this thesis is to establish the fact that a single protagonist exists in James Joyce's Dubliners, that Joyce masks the enduring Dubliner-consciousness under the guises of various protagonists, and that this consciousness develops and matures within the many lives Joyce traces in his book. Indeed, many critics have examined Dubliners and have presented a great deal of evidence that points to structural unities in the book by exploring Joyce's use of allegory, allusion, foreshadowing, imagery, and symbol. But none has stated, nor does any appear ready to find, a single protagonist in Dubliners. Consequently, the ultimate conclusion of a successful study in this area would be that Joyce's first major work tends to be a novel rather than a short-story collection.

My major point of departure is the Joyce letters, to establish unequivocally Joyce's intent and purpose in writing Dubliners. I furnish additional external evidence pertinent to the publication history of the book, as well as biographical elements that directly influenced the writing and publication of Dubliners, from Ellmann's biography of Joyce. But an important examination of this nature cannot ignore the internal evidence the book itself affords, Consequently, I deal with Joyce's arrangement of each Dubliners segment, categorize groups of these segments under the four phases of Dublin-life Joyce structured his work around, identify and trace the developing protagonist through the life-to-death pattern Joyce set for him, and delineate units of Dubliners as transitions between the stages of a Dubliner's life. This process demonstrates that Joyce set the Dubliner on a circular road of life and that the Dubliner follows such a circular path because of his circular and moribund mental process.

This book, then, concerns structural unities in Dubliners. It offers at once a critical reading of Joyce's work and an attempt to uncover those traits of specific characters, as they comprise what can be termed a Dubliner-consciousness. Chapter I is an introduction and deals with the overall design and publication history of Dubliners; Chapter II offers a discussion of Childhood as the first major unit of the book; Chapter III, a consideration of Joyce's notions of Adolescence; Chapter IV, a study of Maturity; and Chapter V, a reading of the Dubliner's Public Life. Chapter VI is a consideration of ''The Dead" in particular as an epilogue to Joyce's volume and a reconsideration of Dubliners in general as, as it were, "A Book of the Dead."



Joyce, James