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Week 6 Dubliners/ As I Lay Dying:


February 23, 2009
Week 6: Dubliners

Hey, I realize we've been looking at Dubliners for quite a while now, so I'll give you some options:

1) Look at the last story of Dubliners, "The Dead," and try and look in detail at the theme of past and memory. If you need some direction, the speech that Gabriel gives at the dinner party is full of big ideas to explore.

2) Now might be a good time to write an entry outside of the book. For example, Joyce has said that he's trying to make a portrait of Dublin as he knew it in this book: how does the way he presents the city help to show us the history and culture of the time? How is this similar/different to the way we learn in a history course? Which is more interesting/accurate?

3) If you'd like, start reading the first few chapters of "As I Lay Dying" and respond to that. What are your first impressions?

4) As always, any other subject is fair game.

Comments

"As I Lay Dying" is a prime example of modernist writing. Modernists often write in “stream of consciousness” form. I never truly understood what that was until I read "As I Lay Dying." This novel is continually flowing from one character’s thoughts to the next. It is quite different than anything I have ever read in the past where you can only see into the mind of the protagonist. Though the story itself is slow-moving, I was never bored because of the sudden shifts in point of view. This constant changing was difficult to get used to; as soon as you get comfortable reading the mind of one character you abruptly transform into someone else. My favorite character to read was Vardaman, whose youth prevented him from fully understanding what has happened to his mother. His childish views on death made a complex, life-changing occurrence more simplistic. This gave some humor to a sad occasion.

I did have trouble understanding one part of this book: what exactly happened to Dewey Dell after she went to the second drugstore? I’m not sure I got the whole picture.

James Joyce did something I dont think I could ever think of where he tries to paint a portrait of a place with a book. I know teachers always say to paint a story with words and such but in the end, they are just words. I find it hard sometimes to have a picture in my head of what the setting for the reading is. When i read things, I like to have a clear picture of where everything is almost so that if i were to somehow magically get stuck in the book, I could easily navigate through the setting and live the new life i have never lived but already know. I watched a show when i was little a girl gets stuck in a dollhouse and becomes the doll as time passes (Are You Afraid of the Dark? series). This is kind of what i get reminded of where i learn the setting and people and cultural norms so well that i could escape if i wanted to. This is how the girl if freed from the tv show--her friend comes to save her and only because she knew the setting very well, she could figure out how to get out. When i read books i like to have this sort of feeling where i know the setting and everything pertinent to the setting including social norms and living standards and other things like that. Reading is an escape and the way James Joyce paints his portrait of dublin, i feel that if i go back in time to dublin, I would not feel like an outsider.

Although some of the stories in Dubliners I found to be quite boring, they all served their purpose to illustrate all of the different personalities of Dublin, along with the culture and the physical setting. The way Dublin is represented in Dubliners is much different than the way we learn about places in history class. A history class focuses on main events and prominent figures of an area. Dubliners hardly has any big events at all, and no one character is more important than the rest. I think that both ways of learning are lacking. The history class method is good because it can tell you exactly what happened in a place to make it the way that it is, but it doesn’t give you a feel of what daily life in a place is like. Dubliners at least give you a feel of the atmosphere in Dublin, and what would happen there on a regular day. Even though the way Dublin is portrayed in Dubliners is important to understand the culture, I think that the history class method would be more interesting and, in a sense, more accurate.

After reading the story in its entirety I have a great appreciation for some of the messages that Joyce was trying to portray about Dublin as a society in the early 1900s. Paralysis is obviously a prominent theme throughout the series of short stories, and it undoubtedly has many meanings. When talking about Dublin as a society, I think Joyce is clearly hinting that Catholicism is paralyzing the people, and that they are held back by traditional views and practices. Joyce is obviously not a big fan of religion as there are many negative undertones, most of which point to its paralysis on the people of Dublin. Another factor that I found interesting was the fact that Joyce views some societal tendencies as unimportant. For instance, having an affair would have been viewed and still could be viewed as completely immoral and wrong. However, Joyce clearly believes that the overriding theme of love and exploration is more important and that society should not have such a large impact on them. Another theme prevalent related to Dublin, was just the theme of how small towns work. News spread quickly throughout Dublin and Joyce showed this numerous times throughout the story.

As I Lay Dying is one of the most interesting novels I’ve ever read. I like the narrative of the first part of the story, and I really agree with the writing style. The story is very engaging and interesting, with the characters varying in age and depth of thought. I enjoy the fact that the point of view switches all the time and really keeps you on your toes so to speak. The story itself seems like it’s going nowhere, but I like it because it is, as I said before, engaging to me. The switching of the characters adds to the mystery of the book because you only know what one person is thinking at a time. My favorite character is Vardaman, because when his mom dies, he relates it to things that he knows and is familiar with. It would be very hard to live without a mom and I am interested in seeing how he develops. Vardaman is the child that everyone wishes that they knew. Vardaman’s point in the story is comic relief, which he is very good at. The author wrote him in as a very influential source of laughter and he was effective throughout the first part of the story.

In my post last week, I complained that Dubliners—particularly the first half of the book—felt more like a geography or sociopolitical lesson than a novel. I felt that the book was so engrossed in the details and trivialities of that place and period in Ireland’s history that the stories were bogged down and the characters were difficult to relate to. With that said, however, I did gain a better appreciation of the book as I read through the later chapters, most notably ‘A Painful Case’ and ‘The Dead.’ Like we discussed last Friday, it helped to think of the city of Dublin as a character, instead of a distraction from the human characters. I enjoyed today’s group presentation on ‘The Two Gallants’, because it gave me a better understanding of what Joyce attempted to convey through his novel.

In the book “Dubliners,” Joyce represents history and culture of the people of Dublin but not in a text-book manner. He depicts the excessive use of Alcoholism in Irish life by introducing Mr. Farrington to us- he nearly lost everything he had because of his bad hobby. Then In the Boarding House, he describes Polly and her life style. In history, the boarding house is a fact and it has been used to domesticate women with urges or wrong doings. Later on in the story, the Mother, he draws a strong musical background for Dubliners which is historically true and he emphasizes on it again in the last story, the Dead. It’s definitely different than how we are used to study history in the class room; Joyce doesn’t include what’s happening globally or politically, he doesn’t speak of poverty, and he doesn’t have a time line for his writing which doesn’t really help. There are still some similarities between the way Joyce is writing his book and the way history is written. If we flip through the social part of history of Ireland we could easily justify Joyce’s interpretation of the time. For instance, in the beginning and through out the book he had a strong suggestion that Dubliners are religious people and they seek salvation through church every Sunday. I think that Joyce’s way of writing the history was more interesting that the actual history of Dubliners and Ireland, no matter how incomplete and imperfect it was.

James Joyce does a wonder job of painting a picture of Dublin, with the book Dubliners. I find it fascinating because I could not write anything of the magnitude of this book. Joyce presents the book in such a way that the history and culture is shown. Joyce shows the culture of Dublin at this time through the emotions of his characters and the feel of the city. A few examples of this are when Farrington can hardly work without a drink, how Chandler realizes that he really doesn’t like his life compared to that of Gallaher, and when Lenehan realizes that his life sucks. Farrington is an example of how the Irish really like to drink. Chandler is shows that not everyone has life great and how some deal with it. Lenehan is an example of how some were forced to get by. Joyce uses the characters emotions to show us how life was in Dublin during the course of this book.
The book helps people learn of the culture of Dublin while a history class would look at the bigger things that happened, like how and when the economy shifted for the better and when a big event happened. It is similar as well because it shows the history of the people and day to day life.

I am about 50 pages into “As I Lay Dying.” My first impressions are scattered. In “Dubliners,” the book revolved around short stories about different individuals living in Dublin. It seemed to me, that the setting, time period, and culture played a very important role in “Dubliners.” “As I Lay Dying” on the other hand, in the first 50 pages, I have not read anything about geographic location or time period. It seems that both subjects are supposed to be decided within the context of writing. For example, horse and carriage are mentioned many times as well as the use of roads. This tells me that it was most likely during the mid to late 19th century when roads where gravel roads were being periodically implemented throughout the United States for better travel. Agro type farming is also mentioned in the beginning as well. This leads to the conclusion that the setting is in the vast plains of the Midwestern states. The one aspect that I do like about “As I Lay Dying” compared to “Dubliners” is the minds of the characters, which are being written through first person interpretation rather than third person. This style seems to leave the reader with the mental struggle of the characters

In the first stage of reading the book Dubliners I did not understand that it was supposed to be a series of stories that never necessarily cross or come together but independently create the city of Dublin. After we began to discuss this in lecture and discussion I realized the book clearly makes more sense this way. Not everyone in a city comes in contact with each other so why should the people in a book about a city have any sort of cohesiveness to each other. I enjoyed the short stories but felt that when I was just finishing the introduction of characters and some sort of a story line had began to develop the story would abruptly end. Joyce depicted a history of Dublin that contained stereotypical story lines of Ireland and some events that I personally would not think of when someone mentions Dublin. The stories Joyce told were at times static,but that is how life is sometimes. Everyday is not always an exciting story that has some incredible revelation about the meaning of life.

James Joyce has written short stories about the people who lived in Dublin. In the short stories he showed life styles and characters of the Dubliners. That way he expressed the culture, religion, history of Dublin in the early 1900s. The stories were quite boring for me at the first but after a while some became interesting. The stories helped me understand how the people were living in that period of Dublin. This way of telling the history was quite different from how we learned in history courses. In history classes we learned the facts directly, like what year what happened, what kind of religion they had, and etc. And we had to imagine our self how would that period would have been and how would have the people live in that time. But the book Dubliners was kind of opposite way to learn the history. By reading the stories of the people living in that time we had to find out and guess the culture of that time and what was going on that time of days. The history courses would be more accurate but the way James Joyce showed in Dubliners is more interesting and more better to picture how they actually lived in that period.

I enjoyed Joyce’s style of writing. I like that he writes it simplicity. It reminded me of “The Road.” Joyce makes the point of each story very clear and straightforward. The storied were not so interesting though. I did not like the story line at all. The stories were so boring. They were just about normal people with normal lives. The only ones that caught my eye at all were “Painful Case” and “The Dead.” Both these stories were appealing in the sense that they relate to tragic life stories. People lose loved ones of whom they never got to say goodbye or tell them how they really felt. I loved the action of “Painful Case.” The loved lady dyes because of a drunken booze run which ends in her being squashed by a train. I felt bad for the guy because he feels it’s his fault. In the end, he was just doing what he thought was best for the both of them. “The Dead” was a great story because the man almost questions the woman at the end. He wonders if she loved the other man more than she loves him. He actually thinks about going out into the snow and doing the same thing just to see if the woman feels the same way. I think when one loses a loved on, they will always be reminded of that person. Overall, I think that Joyce did a great job of portraying the lives of the people in Dublin. The book was boring, but it was a real book full of real stories.

Joyce's "Dubliners" is an amazing piece of writing, for the simple fact that it paints such a complete picture of Irish society in that time. Because of these stories, we see not only the places these people inhabited, but how they shaped their culture around them. Instead of just hearing about how few rights women had in that time, we get to read about "Eveline," in which a woman has only a life of servitude and abuse to choose from, or an unknown life in a country she knows nothing about, with a man she hardly knows.

We also get to see how the people of that time existed in contradictions much of the time. Though the importance placed on family is clear, many of the stories describe massive strains on these relationships--a man beats his son, a husband and wife barely get along. Alcoholism is rampant, despite the fact that hard work is so valued. Though Joyce's main purpose is to highlight paralysis, the picture he paints of this past society is just as important.

What is the setting(time) for this novel?

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