Book: Dubliners

The first book I read to get ready for the trip was James Joyce’s Dubliners.

Dubliners, by James Joyce.

Now, I had definitely read this before. I read it once as a high schooler in my own AP English Literature class, and totally hated it. I believe I threw the copy across the room when I finished “The Dead.” (“It’s SO DEPRESSING!” was my explanation when my mom asked what on earth was wrong with me.) I read it again as a college undergraduate in a modern British literature class, and tolerated it. And then, for some unfathomable reason, I decided to torment my AP students with it. Probably because it’s a great work of literature, or the language is really challenging, or it’s the definitive example of the epiphany, or something like that. And in rereading it with my students – especially this year, with my stronger background knowledge of Irish history around the early 20th century – I loved it.

What’s to love about Dubliners? It’s a collection of short stories about the lives of people who live in Dublin, but it also reflects what it’s like to grow from childhood into adolescence into adulthood, and how difficult that growth can be. It’s pretty depressing, but it’s beautifully written. Joyce tried to throw you a bone in there, too – he always said that he wrote the final story, “The Dead,” as an uplifting coda to the stories. Whether or not it’s uplifting, you’ll have to decide for yourself. And you should, because even if you don’t read it in my class, or even if you don’t know a lot of Irish history, you can still get a lot from the stories. They’re written in a way that’s pretty easy to understand (especially compared to Joyce’s novels, like Ulysses or Finnegan’s Wake), and the way Joyce writes really is beautiful. You’ll be a better person for attempting some Joyce. Trust me.


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