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Reading Dubliners Parabolically

From: James Joyce Quarterly
Volume 47, Number 2, Winter 2010
pp. 213-229 | 10.1353/jjq.2011.0002



There are clues in "Aeolus" in Ulysses and Finnegans Wake I.vi indicating that Dubliners can be read not simply as a collection of stories but as a set of parables. Viewed in this way, Dubliners serves as a meditation on moral questions avoiding didacticism and instead reconnecting readers with ancient forms of ethical inquiry that are participatory and dialogic. Close readings of "Clay," "Araby," and "A Little Cloud," aided by contemporary parable scholarship, demonstrate how the stories of Dubliners resituate moral authority in a dialogic and open-ended exchange between storyteller and audience. The essay also examines Joyce's relationship to the Catholic Church by highlighting his use of the Bible as a resource for aesthetic forms and rhetorical modes.