Dubliners is a short-story cycle, but unlike other such cycles, Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio (1919), for instance, or Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories, its stories are not linked by recurring characters, but by theme and setting, two elements that are intimately related in this collection. Joyce’s initial intention, as he explained in a letter to the publisher Grant Richards, was to hold a mirror up to Dublin, to present as realistic a portrait of the city as possible by depicting Dubliners of various ages and from various walks of life. That portrait is, generally speaking, a disparaging one, but the negative tone is not consistently maintained throughout. By the time the volume concludes, with “The Dead” a story written slightly later than the others and which differs markedly from his earlier writing, a more sympathetic note is sounded, and we may glimpse there the far more generous vision that would characterize Joyce’s later comic masterpiece, Ulysses.

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