A Snow-Covered Dublin:
“The Dubliners” by James Joyce
The “Dubliners” is a story of 20th century Dublin, Ireland. Through the short stories, James Joyce shows the struggles that the Dubliners face, starting from “The Sisters” where a boy learns of the death of Reverend James Flynn, to “Eveline” where she tries to run away with a man she loves, all the way to the end of the last story, “The Dead,” where snow falls to cover both the living and the dead.
In “Eveline,” Eveline makes the decision to run away with her lover, Frank, whom her father does not approve of. Frank decides that the answer is for Eveline and him to run away to Buenos Aires. The boat is ready, and all she and Frank have to do is get on it. However, the inner turmoil within Eveline grows, and while she understands that “…she wanted to live,” and that “[s]he had a right to happiness” (23) she is still filled with terror. At the same time, she tells herself that “Frank would save her,” and that “[h]e would give her life, perhaps love, too” (23). And while the moment has come for her to make her escape, she cannot decide. In the end, she watches as her lover yells her name while being led away from her by the boat. As she watches Frank, who is desperately calling out her name, there is no recognition in her eyes. Even though it is unfortunate Eveline was unable to make an escape, at the same time, I wonder if her life would have been any better if she had succeeded in running away with Frank. Who would not have felt the same as Eveline? The struggles, fears and doubts that Evelin’s story shows is a story that many women can relate to.
In the end, the stories come to a close as the narrator describes how the whole of Ireland is covered by snow. I thought it was interesting that Joyce titled this last story “The Dead,” while hinting that this snow could represent a cycle of the lives of people in Dublin. As Gabriel falls asleep next to his wife whom he no longer knows, he reflects on what he sees:
Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland…It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. 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. (152)
My first question is, does the snow mean that everyone is cleansed, no matter what they have done, or been through, and that they can start a new beginning? Is everyone forgiven for their wrongs and their mistakes? My second question is, does the snow suggest renewal? The snow does more than just connect the dead and the living of Dublin, Ireland. It also connects the stories of Dubliners to the stories of readers’ and their worlds. The everyday struggles, fears, frustrations and regrets felt in the stories of “Dubliners” are important elements that still continue to make up our world today. Through the characters in “Dubliners,” I can easily see the faces of the people around me.
In “Dubliners,” Joyce captures the people of Dublin, Ireland, at their most intimate levels, revealing so much about their lives in a short amount of time. Even though it is a work of fiction, it still teaches readers about 20th century Dublin and its people. It also lets readers know that people will always struggle in their everyday world, no matter who they are and where they are, and that the world will go on the way it does. And surprisingly, the struggles that people deal with in “Dubliners” are similar to the struggles people face today. By sharing the stories of Dubliners, Joyce allows readers to understand not only the lives of its characters, their thoughts, and actions, but also allows readers to question what has changed from 20th century society to today’s society.
Joyce, James. Dubliners. New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1991. Print.