Written in 1986 as the introduction to a Dolmen Press edition of ‘Dubliners’ illustrated by Louis le Brocquy, but never used, this brilliant essay, recently found among the papers of the author, who died in 1993, appears here for the first time
From the “Irish Times” through Open Culture (© The Anthony Burgess Foundation; and with thanks to Taylor Galleries, Dublin)
This highly unified volume of short stories was mostly written in 1905, although it did not achieve publication until 1914. Since that year it has not been out of print in either the British Isles or the United States (though it has not always been easy to find in Dublin bookstores), and, apart from its intrinsic merits, it has to be regarded as a passport not only to Ulysses but also to Finnegans Wake. It presents the subsidiary cast of characters that are the small craft in the wake of Leopold Bloom’s odyssey; one of these characters, Martin Cunningham, appears in the dream fabric of Joyce’s last great book.
This new edition of Dubliners is not intended to satisfy a mere reading need. An important book sometimes requires the glory of embellishment through fine type, fine binding and fine illustrations. Such embellishment is a halo over its merit.
Whether Joyce would appreciate the adjunction of illustration is an open question. He, as a typical Dubliner, was brought up on music rather than pictures, and he did not wish his readers to see too much. His Dublin, both here and in the two bigger books, to say nothing of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, is a city of sounds more than of appearances.
That Joyce was dim of sight and eventually approached blindness has nothing to do with his indifference to the visible world: Aldous Huxley’s eyes were as bad, yet his books are full of the pleasure of looking at pictures. Joyce was a musician and a wordman, and Ulysses, an encyclopaedia of human achievement as well as a novel, ignores the visual arts because of a temperamental lacuna. That he was not indifferent to the newest of the visual arts – the cinema – is grotesquely attested by his failed attempt to establish the first film shows in Dublin and by his dream of seeing George Arliss in the role of Bloom in a Goldwyn-projected movie of Ulysses.
But he might have murmured at the prospect of illustrated versions of his books, as words in a book were a sufficient medium for conveying the nature of the world. I think, nevertheless, he would be pleased with this present edition of Dubliners: the technique of its distinguished illustrator is as subtle as his own, and there is no thrusting of gross pictorial realisations between the words and their readers.
Let us look briefly at the genesis of Dubliners. It is the first major production of Joyce’s lifelong exile from Ireland, and it expresses something of the motivation of that exile. In 1904, when he carried himself and the innocent Nora Barnacle to Trieste, Joyce felt that there was no room for his idiosyncratic artistic ambitions in a country that was scared of beauty and truth and had a crippled notion of goodness.
A kind of renaissance was proceeding in Ireland, but it was too parochial for Joyce’s taste. There was talk of the forthcoming liberation from the British yoke, there was much learning of Erse, there was a literary movement that owed more to vague myth than to stern reality. The Celtic twilight, which in Finnegans WakeJoyce mocked as the “cultic toilette”, produced poetry and prose crepuscular in their anaemic images and arthritic rhythms.
Joyce admired Yeats, the major apostle of the movement, but he admired few others. His own literary god was Henrik Ibsen, whose Dano-Norwegian he learned in preference to Irish, but Ibsen was obscene, or ibscene, to the littérateurs of Dublin. The Irish Catholics, according to Joyce, had even forfeited the intellectual rigor of their own church in order to accept the sanctimonious repressiveness of hedge priests trained at Maynooth.
He wrote, while still no more than a student at University College, a Swiftian or Hudibrastic poem attacking the bloodless spirit of renascent Ireland. He called itThe Holy Office.
So distantly I turn to view
The shamblings of that motley crew,
Those souls that hate the strength that mine has,
Steeled in the school of old Aquinas.
Where they have crouched and crawled and prayed
I stand, the self-doomed, unafraid,
Unfellowed, friendless and alone,
Indifferent as the herring-bone,
Firm as the mountain-ridges where
I flash my antlers on the air.
These are bold words, but they are as yet unbacked by achievement. Yeats said of the young Joyce that he had never met such arrogance unjustified by attainment. Joyce had produced the minor lyrics of Chamber Music, but he was not yet ready for Ulysses, although he must have felt its gigantic embryo stirring within him.
What Joyce recognised was the quality in himself that could, when he was free of Ireland’s trammels, produce great art. This quality had something of the Satanic in it, expressible as Lucifer’s non serviam, prepared to accept the solitude that is the ultimate damnation in order that a new secular Summa might emerge. There is no anomaly in a Satanic artist’s expressing a debt to St Thomas Aquinas, creator, after Dante, of the most stupendous intellectual monument of the Middle Ages. And behind the Summa Theologica lay the achievement of Aristotle, the pagan beast whom the Islamic philosophers had tamed to their use but St Thomas captured to the service of a Christian metaphysic. As his poem continues it is Aristotle whom Joyce invokes:
But all these men of whom I speak
Make me the sewer of their clique.
That they may dream their dreamy dreams
I carry off their filthy streams,
For I can do those things for them
Through which I lost my diadem,
Those things for which Grandmother Church
Left me severely in the lurch.
Thus I relieve their timid arses,
Perform my office of Katharsis.
The office of purgation, of making art a kind of sewer for the draining off of man’s baser elements, was not what the church would call holy, but even the church ought to recognise the spirit of martyrdom in a man who would lose his soul to save others. But the church in Ireland meant chiefly the Maynooth priests who had denounced the “dead king” Parnell from their pulpits and preferred Ireland to be unfree if it could be moral, morality meaning mostly fear of sex and yet the occasional overcoming of that fear in order to people God’s kingdom.
As for secular Ireland, it was all prettiness and fancy and devotionalism, which could have no place in the austerity and self-dedication of Joyce’s creed. This creed entailed exile, and exile meant more than removing himself physically from the Irish scene. He would have to deny all Ireland’s aspirations and, in a sense, cease to be an Irishman. But Joyce remained Irish, all too Irish, and the Ireland he denounced was the only material he had for his art. In Trieste, in 1905, he began his obsessed recording of the reality of the country he had abandoned and, more particularly, of the capital city that had brought him to birth.
Dubliners was intended to perform the holy office of purgation: it was intended to be so exact a rendering of the life of Dublin that its citizens, appalled at the paralysis of thought and feeling in their city, would be purged of their faults and see in a work of art a machine for effecting a sort of spiritual regeneration. That makes the work a little too didactic, perhaps, and there was no author less didactic than Joyce. He makes no judgment; he merely demonstrates.
As a purge Dubliners seems fairly mild to us now, chiefly because it is the first in a pharmacopoeia of cathartics to which we have developed a tolerance. To its eponyms it seemed strong enough; it was not to be administered by the printers and publishers of Dublin, nor even of London or New York; its little saga of rejections, bowdlerisations and burnings looks forward to the epic struggle ofUlysses (itself originally conceived as a story for Dubliners) to reach the light and irritate its readers.
Grant Richards in London, to whom it was first sent, both would and would not publish it. In 1909 Joyce gave it to Maunsel & Co in Dublin. In 1910 Maunsel & Co grew frightened of it and postponed publication. In 1912 the type was broken up by the printer, and Joyce, in a broadside called Gas from a Burner, had the printer say:
. . . I draw the line at that bloody fellow
That was over here dressed in Austrian yellow,
Spouting Italian by the hour
To O’Leary Curtis and John Wyse Power,
And writing of Dublin, dirty and dear,
In a manner no blackamoor printer could bear.
Shite and onions! Do you think I’ll print
The name of the Wellington Monument,
Sydney Parade and Sandymount tram,
Downes’s cakeshop and Williams’s jam?
. . . Who was it said: Resist not evil?
I’ll burn that book, so help me devil.
I’ll sing a psalm as I watch it burn
And the ashes I’ll keep in a one-handled urn.
I’ll penance do with farts and groans,
Kneeling upon my marrowbones.
This very next Lent I will unbare
My penitent buttocks to the air
And sobbing beside my printing press
My awful sin I will confess . . .
But printing the name of the Wellington monument and Downes’s cake shop was, after all, the thin end of the wedge. Admit the realism of Dubliners and you must soon admit also graffiti on lavatory walls, the blaspheming of jarveys, and what goes on in the back bedrooms of Finn’s Hotel. No kind of truth is harmless: as TS Eliot said, humankind cannot bear very much reality.
And yet, first as last, Joyce did not merely wish to record the current of everyday Dublin life. If he had borrowed the doctrine of purgation from Aristotle’s Poeticshe had taken from the magisterial Aquinas the bones of a theory of aesthetics that, in the novel Stephen Hero and its reworking as A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, he fleshes out with a system of his own. And from the church itself he took the term epiphany, which stands for the feast of the visitation of the Magi but which he restored to its secular meaning of a “showing forth”. In Stephen Hero the term is defined:
By an epiphany he meant a sudden spiritual manifestation, whether in the vulgarity of speech or of gesture or in a memorable phase of the mind itself. He believed that it was for the man of letters to record these epiphanies with extreme care, seeing that they are themselves the most delicate and evanescent of moments.
Stephen Dedalus tells his friend Cranly (as, in A Portrait, he is to tell Lynch, more eloquently and at much greater length) that Aquinas’s three prerequisites for beauty are integrity, symmetry and radiance. The apprehending mind sees the integrity of wholeness of the beautiful object, first separating it from the rest of the universe, before examining the balance of its parts, those elements which make for the symmetry of its structure. As for the third stage, radiance (so Stephen translates Aquinas’s claritas) is a sort of quidditas or whatness shining out of the object: . . . finally, when the relation of the parts is exquisite, when the parts are adjusted to the special point, we recognise that it is that thing which it is. Its soul, its whatness, leaps to us from the vestment of its appearance. The soul of the commonest object, the structure of which is so adjusted, seems to us radiant. The object achieves its epiphany.
The term seems highly ironic when applied to the “showings forth” of Dubliners, but, after all, the original Epiphany must have seemed as ironic to the Magi – the saviour of mankind as a howling child in a filthy stable.
The glory and mystery of art can lie in the tension between subject matter and what is made out of it – the appearance and the reality. The view that subject matter in art should be in itself enlightening still persists, chiefly because a moral response comes more easily to most people than a genuine aesthetic transport.
When Grant Richards eventually got round to publishing Dubliners – as he did on June 15th, 1914: very nearly the 10th anniversary of the Bloomsday that had not yet been perpetuated in Ulysses – the public taste was for the didacticism, the pedestrian moral lessons of a less naturalistic fiction. In Dubliners the reader was not told what to think about the characters and their actions, which are mostly inactions. The creator stood behind his creations, invisible and inaudible, making no judgments. There was not, in fact, very much to judge. There were no great sins and no performances of great good. Out of drab ordinariness a purely aestheticquidditas was intended to leap out. The ephiphany was to contain the elements of catharsis.
All the stories in Dubliners are studies in paralysis or frustration. The total epiphany is of the nature of modern urban life: the submission to routines and the fear of breaking them; the emancipation that is sought but not sought hard enough; the attitudes of a seedy nobility that are punctured by the weakness of the flesh. The first story, The Sisters, presents the keyword in the very first paragraph:
Every night as I gazed up at the window I said softly to myself the word paralysis. It had always sounded strangely in my ears, like the word gnomon in the Euclid and the word simony in the Catechism. But now it sounded to me like the name of some maleficent and sinful being. It filled me with fear, and yet I longed to be nearer to it and to look upon its deadly work.
The narrator is a young boy. Behind the window Fr Flynn is dead. The boy learns from the sisters of the priest about his illness, the paralysis that began with his breaking of a chalice and the disordering of his mind. There is no action in the story, only the reminiscence of deranged action that led to the inaction of disease and subsequent death, but there is the emergence of the symbol of a broken, idle chalice that serves as an epiphany. The boy is learning of the shameful mysteries of the adult world both here and in the second story, An Encounter, where he meets a shabby man full of dreams of violence, the whipping of boys who have sweethearts.
In the third story, Araby, the unnamed boy himself approaches a region where frustration is possible, where a boy may have a sweetheart and be whipped by the world and where love’s bitter mystery is greeted with the awe and fear proper to the Eucharist.
I imagined that I bore my chalice safely through a throng of foes. Her name sprang to my lips at moments in strange prayers and praises which I myself did not understand.
We are to meet this symbolism again in Stephen Dedalus’s Villanelle of the Temptress – merely named in Stephen Hero, fully spelled out in A Portrait. InAraby, though, the loved one is no temptress but a girl at a convent school. She wants to go to the bazaar called Araby (this, like all the public events in Joyce, is historical: it was held in Dublin from May 14th to 19th, 1894, in aid of Jervis Street Hospital); unfortunately there is a retreat at the convent, and she has to be disappointed. The boy promises to go instead and bring her a present. It is the last night of Araby, he must get some money from his uncle, and his uncle comes home late and fuddled. When he arrives at the bazaar it is closing down and the lights are going out.
Gazing up into the darkness I saw myself as a creature driven and derided by vanity; and my eyes burned with anguish and anger.
The seeming triviality of the frustration and the violence of the language that expresses it are, as it were, reconciled by the aesthetic force of the epiphany.
The rest of the frustration and metaphorical cases of paralysis belong to the adult world. The heroine of Eveline longs to escape from her drab Dublin life, and she has her chance. But, on the very point of embarking for Buenos Aires with the man who loves her, “all the seas of the world tumbled about her heart. He was drawing her into them: he would drown her.” Her heart says no; she sets “her white face to him, passive, like a helpless animal. Her eyes gave him no sign of love or farewell or recognition.”
Little Chandler, in A Little Cloud, remeets the great Ignatius Gallaher, who has made good in London journalism. (In Ulysses he has already become a Dublin newspaperman’s myth: he telegraphed details of the Phoenix Park murders to theNew York World, making a topographical diagram out of an advertisement in theFreeman’s Journal.) Little Chandler contrasts his own etiolated existence with the richness of Gallaher’s life – all whisky and advances from moneyed Jewesses. If only he could make his name with a little book of Celtic twilight poems, go to London, leave Dublin, his insipid wife, his howling child. But it is too late. The epiphany flowers in the rebukes of his wife for making the brat scream, while his cheeks are “suffused with shame” and “tears of remorse” start to his eyes. The cage is tight shut.
One need not be a negative and timid character, like Eveline or Little Chandler, to suffer from spiritual dry rot. Farrington, in Counterparts, is burly, red-faced, perpetually thirsty and, of course, chronically broke. Nobody in Dubliners ever has enough money. After the night in the “hot reeking public house” Farrington waits for the tram on O’Connell Bridge. “He cursed everything. He had done for himself in the office, pawned his watch, spent all his money, and he had not even got drunk.”
All that is left is to go home and beat his son Tom for letting the fire go out. Tom cries: “I’ll say a Hail Mary for you, pa, if you don’t beat me . . . I’ll say a Hail Mary.”
Father and son are true counterparts, both beaten, and they exhibit neatly the only two consolations for failure that Dublin offers: drink and religion. But where culture and money seem to offer fulfilment of a less tenuous kind, these are too quickly and shiftlessly squandered. Lenehan in Two Gallants carries his seedy scraps of learning around, as he does in Ulysses, in the service of a sports journal and the office of jester to whoever – like the boor Corley – has a few coins in his pocket.
Jimmy in After the Race seems to achieve the high life that shabby Dublin yearns after – drinking and gambling and song on board an American yacht in Kingstown Harbour, in the company of the cosmopolitan and cultivated – but he is a born loser and has a poor head for drink. “They were devils of fellows, but he wished they would stop: it was getting late.” The story ends with the words “Daybreak, gentlemen”, and we know that another Dublin day of remorse is beginning, full of self-reproach and breast-beating at the descent into folly. It is probably raining too.
High ideals are betrayed in Ivy Day in the Committee Room. It is Parnell’s anniversary, but the heroic future he seemed to hold out to Ireland has been forgotten. The old Parnellites are ready for compromise. Edward VII is coming.
Parnell is dead. Now, here’s the way I look at it. Here’s this chap come to the throne after his old mother keeping him out of it till the man was grey. He’s a man of the world, and he means well by us. He’s a jolly decent follow, if you ask me, and no damn nonsense about him. He just says to himself: “The old one never went to see these wild Irish. By Christ, I’ll go myself and see what they’re like.” And are we going to insult the man when he comes over here on a friendly visit?
A poem is recited called The Death of Parnell, in which the lost leader is presented as a betrayed Christ. There is applause, another cork pops, and Mr Crofton says that it is “a very fine piece of writing”. Parnell has joined a discarded pantheon, no legitimate Jesus but an icon. This is one of the stories that held back publication of the whole book. A libel on the Irish spirit, a too free bandying of the name of a living monarch, too much demotic blasphemy. This was the inevitable conclusion of printing (or rather not printing) the name of the Wellington monument.
With Grace, the penultimate story, the intoxicating wine of the Catholic father is decently watered for the children of this world, who, as Fr Purdon’s sermon affirms, are wiser in their generation than the children of light. The story begins with the fall of man – the literal fall of a particular man. Mr Kernan, a commercial traveller, falls down the stairs leading to a pub lavatory – drunk, naturally. He is one of the group of small bibulous clerks, employees of the Royal Irish Constabulary, workers in the office of the subsheriff or the city coroner, who are to be the chorus of Ulysses.
Mr Power promises Mrs Kernan that he and his friends will regenerate her fallen husband. And so, without solemnity and even with a few harmless Catholic jokes, the story moves towards a businessman’s retreat, a renewal of baptismal vows, and a very reasonable sermon from Fr Purdon. He puts the Catholic cause to his congregation as a “pure matter of business”. Christ is a very understanding master. All we have to do is keep our spiritual books straight. “Well, I have looked into my accounts. I find this wrong and this wrong. But, with God’s grace, I will rectify this and this. I will set right my accounts.”
A rather mean but not unlovable city is spread before us. Its timidity and the hollowness of its gestures are recorded with economy and even a kind of muffled poetry. The language is not that of A Portrait, where the world is presented through the eyes, and especially the ears, of a young poet, nor is it the rich anthology of registers that is Ulysses; least of all does it approach the demented wordplay of Finnegans Wake. But the style is appropriate to its subject, as is always the way with Joyce. Although he seemed to censure that style by referring to its “scrupulous meanness”, he knew that this disparagement could be glossed in terms of literary economy. There is neither compassion nor censoriousness, but there is no shortage of humour. What is important is the fulfilment of the Joycean aesthetic – total objectivity, a refusal to chaperone the reader in a search for moral judgments, the substitution of the epiphany for the traditional device of plot.
There are still readers of Dubliners who, brought up on O Henry (or Roald Dahl), expect twists in the tail, narrative contrivance, a final paradoxical shock. What they are being given is what, with the rest of humankind, they cannot bear very much of.
The book begins, in The Sisters, with the image of a paralysed priest and a broken chalice; it might have ended, in Grace, with the sacrament of provincial mock piety. But it does not end there, though this seems to have been Joyce’s original intention. The longest and best story is an afterthought, one of the fruits of delayed publication. Had Grant Richards brought out Dubliners in 1906, The Dead would not have been in it. The book would still have been a considerably achievement, but it would have lacked the ennoblement of a larger vision than the streets of Dublin could provide. For in The Dead we are reminded that Ireland is bigger than Dublin. Life for Joyce may seem to lie in exile – “out there in Europe” – but it is really waiting coiled up in Ireland, ready to lunge from a wilder west than the boys of An Encounter read about in their halfpenny comics.
The Dead goes further in the employment of symbolism than any of the earlier stories. It dares more, both technically and metaphysically. And, although Joyce is not present, except as the invisible observer, in the third-person stories that follow the opening triad about the epiphanies of a boy, in The Dead his own experiences as a Dubliner who has become a cosmopolitan married to (or living with) an ingenuous Galway girl are the subject matter of the narrative. Joyce, like Shakespeare, is sufficiently convinced of his own originality to be able to steal from other writers. The name of his hero, Gabriel Conroy, is taken from an eponymous story by Bret Harte, as is the final image of the all-encompassing snow.
Gabriel Conroy is a sort of James Joyce, though plumper and more complacent. He is a literary man, a college teacher, contributor of a bookish column to the Dublin Daily Express. He is Europeanised, unsympathetic to Ireland’s patriotic aspirations, conscious that his own culture is deeper and wider than that which surrounds him in provincial Dublin. He has married a girl of inferior education – “country cute” was his mother’s description of her – but he does not despise her.
Gretta Conroy has the Galway strength of her prototype, Nora Barnacle; she is beautiful, Gabriel is a possessive husband. On New Year’s Eve they go to the annual party given by Gabriel’s aunts – Miss Kate and Miss Julia – and, as their house is some way out of the city, they have booked a hotel room for the night.
It is a convivial evening in the Irish manner, full of song, quadrilles, bottled beer and food. As Gabriel and Gretta go to their hotel room in the early hours, a wave of desire comes over him: the possessive wants to possess. But Gretta is distracted. Towards the close of the party the tenor Bartell D’Arcy sang a song called The Lass of Aughrim, and she is thinking about the song. A young boy she once knew in Galway used to sing it. His name was Michael Furey, and he was “in the gas-works”. He died young. Gabriel carelessly asks whether he died of consumption, but Gretta replies, “I think he died for me.”
The complex of emotions that now takes possession of Gabriel’s soul requires more than the technique of realistic fiction for its expression. The Joyce we meet now is not the young chronicler of the earlier Dublin lives. We are in the presence of the author of Ulysses. As Gabriel analyses his tepid little soul, we see that his name and that of his long-dead rival have taken on a terrible significance: Gabriel the mild angel, Michael the passionate one; that dead boy, possessed of an insupportable love, was rightly called Furey.
Gabriel becomes aware of the world of the dead, into which the living pass. That world goes on with its own life, and its purpose is to qualify, literally to haunt, the world of those not yet gone. The living and the dead coexist and have strange traffic with each other. And there is a sense in which that, dead, Furey is more alive, through the passion that killed him, than the living Gabriel Conroy with his scraps of European culture and his intellectual superiority.
Meanwhile, in the all too tangible world of Dublin, the snow is coming down. More, it is, perhaps impossibly, “general all over Ireland”, and it serves Joyce’s symbolic intent more than a concern with meteorological plausibility. For “the snow is falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead”.
It is real snow, but it is also a metaphysical substance that unites humanity in time, not space. Space becomes itself a symbol. When Gabriel thinks of setting out on his “journey westward” he is to take not a train but a time machine. The west is where passion took place and a boy died for love: the graveyard where Michael Furey lies buried is, in a sense, a place of life.
The Dead is magic, whereas the preceding stories are merely literature. Still, they are remarkable literature, although habituation to the technique Joyce helped to found prevents us from seeing just how remarkable they are.
Dubliners differs from the later books in not proclaiming its originality through panache and, we may perhaps justly say, oddness. The originality consists in taking away rather than adding – the art of adding, of building on to a simple enough structure deeper and deeper incrustations of richness, being the characteristic quality of Finnegans Wake.
In Dubliners Joyce had to deromanticise fictional prose, stripping off the coloured veneers that were so much Victorian decor. He naturally tended to richness, but richness was not wanted in this study of a drab modern city that should flash out its epiphanies from the commonplace. Where cliche occurs, cliche is intended, for most of the inhabitants of Joyce’s city live in cliches.
Where a stale bit of romanticism appears – as in Two Gallants: “His harp, too, heedless that her coverings had fallen about her knees, seemed weary alike of the eyes of strangers and of her master’s hands” – that too is in keeping with the cheap Irish dream of past glory: the harp stands, both mythically and heraldically, for Ireland.
As for the management of humour, this is quiet, deadpan, a world away from the heavy-footed japing that passed for literary comedy in the fiction of Joyce’s youth. The sharp ear for verbal nuance, remarkable in Ulysses, is already fully trained inDubliners. Joyce’s books are about human society, and most social speech is, to use the term of the anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski, phatic. It concerns itself less with conveying information, intention or need than with establishing and maintaining human contact – so much comforting noise in the dark.
Irish urban speech is probably the most phatic of the English-speaking world. It is all colour and rhythm, the very voice of charming apathy and shiftlessness, a deadly trap for the author who is concerned with strong plot and dramatic action, for the creation of Irish characters within the structure of a plot must lead to either the destruction of the plot or the falsifying of those who enact it. When we see O’Casey’s Juno and the Paycock we feel somehow frustrated when action has to occur. The play’s strength lies in what the characters say, and what they say does not take us towards a final curtain. Joxer and the Paycock, like Finnegans Wakeitself, are destined to go round and round in a profitless circle, lamenting the “chassis” of the world but never doing anything about it, asking “What is the stars?” without troubling to find out. A “darling question” like that does not presuppose any possible answer. And so with Joyce’s Dubliners, whose totem is Johnny the horse in Gabriel Conroy’s story.
And everything went on beautifully until Johnny came in sight of King Billy’s statue, and whether he fell in love with the horse King Billy sits on or whether he thought he was back again in the mill, anyway he began to walk round the statue. Round and round he went.
The exactly caught speech of the harnessed citizens is the true voice of paralysis. Realising how essential are its tones to Joyce’s art, we begin to understand his need for finding action outside, for his garrulous pub crawlers will not generate it for him. Action has to come from an exterior myth, like that of the Odyssey, or, as inFinnegans Wake, a circular theory of history that suggests, even if it does not fulfil, an image of a purposive movement.
Meanwhile we have in this early book a young Joyce still awaiting the revelation of a means of creating massive art but, in the minor form of the short story, already both a pioneer and a master. The Dublin of today is no longer the Dublin ofDubliners, but a past Dublin, and all the modern cities of which it is an emblem, is perfectly conveyed, radiant in its paralysis.