To what extent can Joyce's The Dead be regarded as an example of modernist fiction? Discuss with reference to its form/structure and thematic concerns.
In this essay I shall attempt to show to what extent Joyce's The Dead can be regarded as an example of modernist fiction, and shall discuss this with reference to its form/structure and thematic concerns.
When Joyce began writing The Dead in 1906 and 1907, planning its storyline in Rome where he was then staying, he intended it to be the last in a succession of short stories he had compiled (15 in all) entitled Dubliners. However, the difference there was to be between this and the preceding stories was that, whereas the others tended to underline only the negative aspects of his homeland, Ireland, this would include some positive aspects as well.
By the time Joyce had begun to write The Dead, his attitude towards Dublin, the central city in Ireland, had softened slightly in that he had begun to realize that, in fact, it was unique in its ability to extend warmth and hospitality to those who chose to visit. This quality, he felt, could be found nowhere else in the other modern nations of Europe. These sentiments did not, however, distract him from the central theme running through all fifteen stories in the collection: the theme of paralysis.
This theme of paralysis was what Joyce saw as "failed religion, spiritual paralysis, letter without spirit, ritual without efficacy generally attributed to Irish Catholicism" (Lodge, 1977:129). This same theme he also applied to the overwhelming sense of Irish nationalism that prevailed in Dublin, as he felt that this, too, held the country back from true modernity. As Emer Nolan tells us, in his book James Joyce:.
"transnational modernity [was] still struggling to be born" in Ireland.
(Nolan, 1995:xii). .
This was due mainly to the debilitating and restrictive influence of British colonialism.