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Dubliners is considered a champion among books written in the English language. James Joyce's characterization of not only the people in the stories, but of Dublin itself, demonstrates his great ability as an author. Dubliners is not a book with a normal story line, a plot, and a definite climax and resolution. Instead, it is more of a setting, an atmosphere, an "epiphany" as Joyce called it. To understand the book, it is recommendable to focus on Irish history, and more specifically, Charles Stewart Parnell. He is a figure alluded to in this and other books by Joyce. He has been referred to as the "uncrowned king of Ireland."
The series of short stories included in Dubliners depict a broken morale in and around the city of Dublin. The early 1900's marked a time of disheartened spirits not only in Dublin but all of Ireland. England still clutched Ireland under it's own control.. The citizens were bitter and dismayed.
It wasn't until 1922 that Ireland freed itself from England. Up until that time, Ireland was occupied and ruled from Britain. The occupation had begun hundreds of years before, but from the end of the 18th century, a distinct Irish nationalism began to evolve. From 1801 onwards, Ireland had no Parliament of it's own. It was ruled by the Parliament in Britain which consisted of the House of Commons and House of Lords.
Meanwhile, in the 1840's, a small group formed out of the Young Ireland movement. The leader, Thomas Davis, expressed a concept of nationality embracing all who lived in Ireland regardless of creed or origin. A small insurrection in 1848 failed, but their ideas influenced the coming generations.
This small nationalism was illustrated in the stories "Evelyn" and "A Painful Case." In the latter, Mr. James Duffy, despite his dislike of the "modern an pretentious" Dublin, decides to stay at least in the suburbs and commute back and forth to his house. Also in the story of "Eveline", we see her refusing to leave with her fiancé because of her ties to her home and her city. She couldn't leave; she couldn't abandon it. The small or perhaps hidden pride in the city of Dublin displayed itself in subtle methods throughout the book.
After the potato famine in Ireland, a group was founded in 1858 known as the Irish Republican Brotherhood. Also known as the Fenians, they formed a secret society which rejected constitutional attempts to gain independence. Due to their somewhat forceful ways, the English courts in Ireland were kept busy with their Fenian prisoners. Their defense lawyer, Issac Butt, though not completely in accordance with the Fenian definition for independence, coined a new term referred to as "Home Rule." Out of this sparked the formation of the "Home Rule League."
Charles Stewart Parnell was a squire of Avondale, County Wicklow during this time. A reference to this is found in the story, "Ivy Day in the Committee Room." Mr. O'Connor, himself a man into Irish politics, is found "sitting by the fire in the Committee Room in Wicklow Street with Jack, the old caretaker." Mr. O'Connor is working on a campaign to elect his representative, Mr. Tierney. This is precisely what Parnell was doing in his time; trying to get elected to Parliament. He was defeated twice.
Despite this, Parnell stepped over his opposition, namely the lawyer Issac Butt, and was elected president of the Home Rule Federation. He held a limited belief of the efficiency of parliamentarianism. Without a well organized public opinion in Ireland, Parnell felt his power in Parliament would be slight. He publicly stated that association with the House of Commons would destroy the integrity of any Irish Party.
This caught the attention of the Fenians. Parnell, in sharing the same goal as the Fenians, took advantage of any opportunity that presented itself which gave him a chance to show his admiration of them. He managed to get support from them, and through this alliance, he was a step closer to his goal of uniting Irishmen from all over the world against England.
Joyce captured this nationalism exquisitely in "Ivy Day in the Committee Room." In a conversation between the gentlemen inside the room, the topic arises of the King of England coming to visit Ireland. Mr. Henchy advises the group to welcome the King in order to build capital for the city of Dublin:
The citizens of Dublin will benefit by it....It's capital
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Protestant Irish nationalists, Irish Republican Brotherhood, Ivy Day in the Committee Room, Charles Stewart Parnell, Fenian, Isaac Butt, Dubliners, Irish Parliamentary Party, A Painful Case, Ivy Day, Dublin, Home Rule League, uncrowned king of ireland, irish nationalism, james duffy, time ireland, city of dublin, painful case, thomas davis, irish history, eveline, james joyce, house of lords, insurrection, hundreds of years, house of commons, 18th century, characterization, creed, evelyn, climax, dislike
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