James Joice’s themes and narrative technique in Dubliners, Ulisses and Eveline

james Joice's summary, narrative technique and workss, Dubliners, Eveline, Ulisses
James Joice’s picture


James Joice was born in Dublin in 1882 into a middle-class Catholic Family. He studied modern languages in Dublin and at the age of 22 he moved to Paris, where was published Ulisses and Trieste, where he finished 2 novels: Dubliners and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.

All his works are set in Dublin, but his relationship with his country was complex, infact on one hand he rejected everything that was Irish, on the other hand he considered Dublin as the navel of the world.

In 1940, when France was occupied by Germans, he moved together with his Family in Zurich, where he died in 1941.


Dubliners is a collection of 15 short stories divided in 4 categories (childhood, adolescence, maturity and public life), where Joice describes the phisical and spiritual “paralysis” of Dubliners, who are ssuffocated by social conventions.

The most important element in all these novels is EPIPHANY, which indicates the moment of awareness in the characters’ life. For example in EVELINE, it can be seen in the sound of the street organ that makes her take the final decision in his life.

In Dubliners Joice combines the Realism of streets, pubs, and characters with the Symbolism of common objects which acquire a supreme function.


This novel is set in Dublin and the action takes place in one sigle day. It’s an epic story with the features of drama (Interior monologues, use of dialogues and narrator’s disappearance and extreme reduction of time and space).

This novel is divided into 3 parts and follows the structure of Odissey:

  1. TELEMACHIA talks about Stephen Dedalus (Telemachus, Joice’s alter ego), which is in search of a father figure.

  1. ODYSSEY is about Leopold Bloom (Ulysses), an anti-hero advertising agent, who meets Telemachus and takes him home.

  1. NOSTOS or HOMECOMING talks about Molly (Penelope), who is not faithful to her husband.

There are many paarallelisms between Joice’s Ulysses and Homer’s Odyssey: for example 24 hours correnspond to 24 books of Odyssey. Joice’s purpose was to point out the dacay of contemporary society in comparison to the mythical past described by Homer.


Analysis – The story is divided into 2 sections:

  1. Eveline’s consideration of her life;

  2. Eveline’s moral falure and impossibility to go away.

Section 1 talks about Evelin’s life. She is at home, sitting by the window and looking outside. The old room conveys a sense of excusion and death, while the wold outside makes her remember about her childhood and her father, a violent ucontrolled man.

She is planning to move to Buenos Aires with her boyfriend Frank, who represents for Eveline a way of escape and salvation.

Eveline is forced to choose whether remaining at home with her family or moving to Buenos Aires and explore a new life. Evelin is divided between the love for her family and country and the love for her boyfriend and the rejection for the monotony of her life. Her indecision reaches its climax when she hears the sound of a street organ, which reminded her of the night when her mother died and she promised her to keep the family united.

In section 2 Eveline is paralized on the quayside and she is unable to get on board the ship.

Her relationship with Frank becomes superficial because she has no courage to take the risk of a new life and she gets aware that her love for her family and place is more important.


The story is told by a third person narrator, but everything is seen through Eveline’s point of view, where we can see there free indirect speech technique.

Most of the story takes place in Eveline’s mind, but events are not arranged in chronological order and therer is no distinction between past, present and future.

The access to Eveline’s consciousness is provided by Joice throug epiphany, which indicates the moment when a simple object makes a person aware of his condition.

The sound of a street organ is the epiphany of the story, because it is just this sound that conditions Eveline’s final decision to remain with her family.


The main theme is that of phisical and spiritual paralysis, which makes Eveline accept her condition, instead of taking courage to explore a new life.

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