The modernist writer is engaged in a revolution against nineteenth-century style and content in fiction and Joyce's Dubliners is one of the landmarks of that struggle. But it is a subtle one, as the stories can be read on two mutually exclusive levels. First, as straight forward realistic tales about the everyday failures and disappointments of suffering children, humiliated women, and men who drink too much -- all of them crushed by what Joyce considers the monsters of the newborn twentieth century for a Dubliner: the Scylla of British political domination and the Charybdis of Roman Catholic spiritual and bodily tyranny. Second, as stories that, on a symbolic level, deal with universal human nature and transcend the particulars of life in Dublin at the turn of the century. His stories, according to Joyce, convert bread into art.
The brief story "Araby" can serve as an example of the dual realistic and symbolic nature of Joyce's stories. On the realistic level the story is simply about the feelings a young boy has for a neighborhood girl, and his despair when he goes to a fair with the intention of buying the girl a present and finds he is too late; as such, it is a tender and moving story, the kind of childhood disappointments many of us have experienced. However, subtly interwoven into the story, in ways that do not intrude upon the realistic level, are recurrent religious, political, and sexual images that can be read on a symbolic level and show the story to be a timeless one in which the boy has glorified his everyday experience into a medieval search for the Holy Grail, transformed his sexual attraction to the girl into a sacred (religious) one, and whose desires are frustrated by political (British) and religious (Catholic) forces beyond his recognition or awareness.
How Joyce feels about the people he writes about has been the subject of much analysis. Joyce himself wrote that he was writing with a "scrupulous meanness" and wrote of the "special odor of corruption which, I hope, floats over my stories."  However, an author's stated intent is not to be taken as the final word, and certainly each reader will have to decide whether the stories reveal an ironic dislike for these characters or a criticism that is sympathetic. (The tenderest account of these Dubliners is in "The Dead," a story written a few years after the others when Joyce was living in Rome and had, among foreigners, begun to appreciate Irish warmth and hospitality.)
In these stories Joyce exposes the sentimentality of his characters, and he employs a bare style that sets itself off from nineteenth-century writings; indeed, T. S. Eliot observed that Joyce "destroyed the whole of the nineteenth century."
What does it mean to be a modernist?
First of all, whereas many previous writers had celebrated the developments in civilization that accompanied the rise of cities, the modernist is hostile to city life, finding that it degrades and demeans its citizens (see, for example, that essential modernist poem, The Waste Land, by T.S. Eliot). Note, among many other features, that brown is the most frequently used color in Joyce's Dubliners. Indeed, the modernist finds culture itself to be drab and shallow, and this attitude prevails in Joyce's stories. Examples from just the first four stories illustrate this:
The modernist contends that we live in a world that offers no meaning or purpose to existence, one in which we feel alienated from self and others, in which there are no clear moral standards. Modernist writers consider that twentieth-century society makes self-recognition and self-knowledge impossible. In "The Dead," Gabriel illustrates powerfully that even an intelligent, educated, sensitive man can deceive himself about his own nature and that of his family. Indeed the most devastating critique of this society is that it is one in which love is absent: in "Two Gallants" and "The Boarding House," lust has taken the place of love; in "A Little Cloud" love -- if it ever existed -- has vanished from the family scene; in "A Painful Case" there can be no love in a world where society condemns it.
Joyce's Dublin (read: the twentieth-century) is a place where true feeling and compassion for others does not exist, where cruelty and selfishness lie just below the surface. Examples run throughout the stories: from the mothers in "The Boarding House," "A Little Cloud," and "A Mother," to the men in the world of business in "Counterparts," through the religious life in "Grace," and into the world of politics in "Ivy Day in the Committee Room." So many of the characters we encounter here are paralyzed in both thought and feeling; indeed, when Joyce began writing "The Sisters" he stated that in the stories he planned to write he would portray the "soul of that...paralysis which many consider a city." 
The modernist is a revolutionary not only in content but in style. Although Joyce's major innovations in style come in his more mature works, Ulysses and Finnegans Wake, his style in Dubliners is marked by two distinct elements new to English prose: the narrated monologue and patterned repetition of images (chiasmus).
There are a number of terms for narrated monologue: free indirect discourse, empathetic narrative, stylistic inflection, or, in Hugh Kenner's phrase, the "Uncle Charles Principle" (see Kenner , ch. 2). These are all ways of indicating that the prose style changes depending upon the nature of the character that the narration is about; another way of putting it is to say that the fictional character begins to make authorial choices, that the character "infects" the prose style of the writer.
As an example from Dubliners, let us look at the first sentence of "The Dead":
"Lily, the caretaker's daughter, was literally run off her feet."
Now, a precise stylist would want to change this to "figuratively run off her feet." But the use of literally in this context is one that uneducated people, such as the housemaid Lily, frequently employ. What has happened here is that Lily, the character being written about, has, shall we say, literally taken the pen from the author and begun to use expressions that would come naturally to her; in other words, she has infected the author's style with her own personality. To continue, the third sentence of this opening paragraph reads:
"It was well for her she had not to attend to the ladies also, ... "
The expression "well for her" is the kind of language a Dubliner of her economic and social caste would use; here, it becomes part of the author's style. Indeed, we can see that the authorial voice of the nineteenth-century writer, which was that of the distinct character of the writer, has become multilingual rather than monolingual. This becomes evident at the opening of the second paragraph:
"It was always a great affair, the Misses Morkan's annual dance. Everybody who knew them came to it, members of the family, old friends of the family, the members of Julia's choir, any of Kate's pupils that were grown up enough and even some of Mary Jane's pupils too. Never once had it fallen flat."
Now, this is no longer Lily's voice. The topic has shifted to the opinions of middle-class Dubliners, the typical party guests at this event, and so they have grabbed the pen of the author and are using their own Dublin speech in the choice of words and in the rhythms of the sentences. Hugh Kenner uses the phrase "Uncle Charles Principle" to describe this technique, because one critic attacked Joyce for the opening page of Part Two of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, where Joyce had written:
"Every morning, therefore, uncle Charles repaired to his outhouse...."
The critic objected to the use of the archaic word "repaired" instead of the more contemporary "went," but Joyce's point is that this is precisely the word Uncle Charles would use. Uncle Charles has the pen in hand.
Since stylistic infection becomes such a considerable element in Ulysses, perhaps two examples from that work will help to illuminate the possibilities of the effect. The narrative rhythms of the waiter, Pat, in the "Sirens" episode (chapter 11), take on the automatic repetitive characteristics of someone who has spent his life waiting on tables:
"Bald deaf Pat brought quite flat pad ink. Pat set with ink pen quite flat pad. Pat took plate dish knife fork. Pat went."
And consider the opening sentence of the "Nausicaa" episode (chapter 13):
"The summer evening had begun to fold the world in its mysterious embrace."
It can truly be said that there is no single authorial voice in Ulysses, as each episode, even paragraph takes on the voice of the character that is the subject. Here Joyce has adopted the style of popular pulp women's magazines of the turn of the century, the kind that would have been read by the major character of the "Nausicaa" chapter, Gerty MacDowell, and that would have formed her way of expressing herself. The sunset is not being seen through Joyce's eyes but through Gerty's.
Joyce's other major innovation in Dubliners is his extensive use of chiasmus. Chiasmus is the repetition, and often the reversal, of images, particularly in distinct patterns. First, an example from the opening of the first story, "The Sisters":
"There was no hope for him this time: it was the third stroke. Night after night I had passed the house (it was vacation time) and studied the lighted square of window: and night after night I had found it lighted in the same way, faintly and evenly. If he was dead, I thought, I would see the reflection of candles on the darkened blind for I knew that two candles must be set at the head of a corpse. He had often said to me: I am not long for this world, and I had thought his words idle. Now I knew they were true. Every night as I gazed up at the window I said softly to myself the word paralysis."
Let us set out the key images in order of their appearance:
time Night night time window night night candles candles night window
Joyce achieves a number of effects through the extensive chiasmus, but primarily, since this is a story about death and the church, he provides the incantatory effect of the kinds of intonations of chants one would hear in a church. The effect is also numbing, and the personages in this story are numbed by the death of the priest; the images toll like a funeral bell through the passage. And, of course, since this repetitive section concludes with the sentence:
"Every night as I gazed up at the window I said softly to myself the word paralysis."
Joyce has also succeeded in communicating the sense of a lack of forward movement, of a passage turning in upon itself in repetitive images, of the essence of paralysis.
In this passage, as elsewhere, Joyce also makes effective use of two variations of chiasmus known as lengthened chiasmus and tightened chiasmus. In the passage above, note how in the first two instances of "night" the repeated word is separated by only one other word, whereas many words (even sentences) separate the final instance from the preceding ones; this is lengthened chiasmus. The reverse is the case with a shortened chiasmus: two images that have been more or less widely separated are brought closer together.
Reverse chiasmus, in which (as the term indicates) the order of images is reversed, can create moving melodic effects, as in the final sentence of the final paragraph of "The Dead," a paragraph that many consider to be one of the most beautiful in twentieth-century literature. After using the word "falling" five times in a short paragraph, Joyce concludes the passage by employing the image in a reverse chiasmus:
"His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead."
Joyce's major innovation, the stream-of-consciousness or interior monologue of a character, belongs to the world of Ulysses rather than to the youthful work. The closest he comes to it is in passages such as the following (from "The Dead" -- actually this is much more stylistic infection of narration than it is interior monologue):
"Gabriel's warm trembling fingers tapped the cold pane of the window. How cool it must be outside! How pleasant it would be to walk out alone, first along by the river and then through the park! The snow would be lying on the branches of the trees and forming a bright cap on the top of the Wellington Monument. How much more pleasant it would be there than at the supper-table!"
Who Was Joyce?
What kind of person was the author of Dubliners, the artist James Joyce? Although it is impossible to explain why someone grows into an artistic genius, it is possible to gain a fuller grasp of Joyce's works by knowing something of his life, especially since a great deal of his fiction is autobiographical. As we are here concerned with the short stories, this brief view of his life will focus on the basic aspects of his life up until his mid-twenties, when he completed "The Dead" (the last of the stories in Dubliners). 
James Joyce was born in 1882 into a middle-class family who lived in the Dublin suburb of Rathgar. A few years later the family moved to Bray, a more fashionable location on the sea, and, when Joyce was six years old, he was sent to a superb Jesuit school, Clongowes Wood College, which was -- and is today -- forty miles from Bray.
It is difficult for us to imagine going through that experience when one is barely past babyhood, but we need not try to imagine it, as Joyce has presented it in vivid scenes in his Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Although the novel highlights the ill treatment this youngest boy received at the school, Joyce was the head of his class at one time, and engaged in athletics. For the rest of his life, in spite of his defection from the Catholic Church, he was to be grateful for the strict education he received at Clongowes Wood College and a few years later at Belvedere College. ("College" was used for what in the United States are elementary schools and high schools.)
In 1891, John Stanislaus Joyce, Joyce's father, due to his poor business sense, began the financial decline that was to result in almost complete poverty for the family. They moved to a less fashionable neighborhood, near to Dublin, and this was but one of the many moves they would make in future years (some of them at night in order to avoid their landlord). Joyce was enrolled in the Christian Brothers School -- an institution run by Catholic lay brothers and far inferior to the Jesuit education he had started at Clongowes Wood College. (See the opening of "Araby" where the unnamed boy, who goes to the Christian Brothers School, is obviously Joyce in an autobiographical story.)
Joyce's Ulysses contains many accidental meetings, including the major one in the book been Stephen Daedalus and Leopold Bloom. It was a fortunate accident indeed when Joyce's father ran across Father John Conmee, who had been rector at Clongowes Wood College when Joyce had been there. Remembering Joyce's academic excellence, Father Conmee arranged for the Joyce to be accepted at a fine Jesuit school in Dublin, Belvedere College, in 1893.
The large Joyce family -- four sons and six daughters -- moved to a truly lower class neighborhood in 1894, but in spite of the living conditions Joyce continued to be an excellent student. The Jesuits required that the students study another foreign language besides the required Latin and French, and so Joyce took Italian, which was later to be the language spoken by Joyce and his family in their home life. He excelled in the examinations, and the future of twentieth-century literature may have been decided when Joyce chose Ulysses as the character he would write about in the assigned topic "My Favorite Hero."
This young man, who was to leave the Catholic Church once he arrived at puberty, and had to choose between sex and religion, was deeply religious, if we can take as evidence that he was chosen as head of the Sodality of the Blessed Virgin Mary in 1896. But it was around this same time, when Joyce was fourteen years old, that he had his first sexual experience, and that with a prostitute. (See the conclusion of Part II of Portrait for a fictional account of this, and Part III for the representation of the actual retreat Joyce attended out of feelings of guilt and sin.)
Joyce's first readings of the naturalist Scandinavian playwright Henrik Ibsen, during his senior year at Belvedere, was to have a major influence on his writings as a corrective to the sentimental and romantic style of much nineteenth-century fiction that he had been reading. He was so impressed with Ibsen that he learned Norwegian in order to be able to write to him, a letter which Ibsen graciously answered.
In 1898 Joyce entered University College in Dublin, a Catholic university which had been founded in 1853 by John Henry Newman to provide a Catholic education for young men, as the centuries old Trinity College was a Church of England institution. It was during his undergraduate days at University College that Joyce developed his ideas about writing, politics, and art. And he made friends, which until then had been rare for Joyce; he was not a particularly friendly person, and tended to remain not only distant from others but to scorn close alliances. His only close friend for any length of time, other than John Francis Byrne, was Frank Budgen, whom he met much later in Zurich.
One of Joyce's closest friends during his time in Dublin was Francis Skeffington, an ardent supporter of equality for women at a time when such a stand was unpopular and even dangerous; after his marriage he legally merged his name with that of his wife, Hanna Sheehy, their last name becoming Sheehy Skeffington. He did not live a long life, as he was killed by British soldiers in the 1916 Easter Rebellion in Dublin; he died not as a fighter, but in an attempt to prevent fellow Dubliners from looting. Thomas Kettle, another friend at University College, was killed while fighting in France with the British Army a few months after Francis' death.
Joyce's friends and acquaintances became characters in his stories and novels, either as barely disguised fictional creations or by their real names. One of the most touching is George Clancy, who became Mayor of Limerick and was killed by the Black and Tans (the British military unit). Clancy was a roughhewn athlete and ardent nationalist from a rural area, exactly the type of person that the somewhat arch intellectual Joyce would not usually have taken to; nevertheless they became close and trusting friends and Clancy is immortalized as the honest but naive and trusting Mat Davin in Portrait. Another significant college friend was John Francis Byrne, the Cranly of Portrait. (See Part V for a subtle portrayal of that friendship.)
That Joyce had developed an artistic credo is evident from an essay he wrote, early in 1900, reviewing Ibsen's new play When We Dead Awaken, and which he read in a college classroom on January 20th; one might say that twentieth-century fiction begins in this first month of the new century:
"Still I think that out of the dreary sameness of existence, a measure of dramatic life may be drawn. Even the most commonplace, the deadest among the living, may play a part in a great drama. It is sinful foolishness to sigh back for the good old times, to feed the hunger of us with the cold stones they afford. Life we must accept as we see it before out eyes, men and women as we meet them in the real world, not as we apprehend them in the world of faery. The great human comedy in which each has share, gives limitless scope to the true artist, today as yesterday and as in years gone." 
In those sentences the teenager Jimmy Joyce had announced his lifelong artistic credo.
From 1900 to 1903 Joyce wrote a series of short prose sketches which he called "epiphanies". The word comes from the Biblical story of the journey of the Magi to visit the Christ child and means a "showing forth" -- in that case, of the divinity of the Christ child. Joyce strips the word of its theological meaning, and applies it to those transient and seemingly unimportant moments of reality (or even overheard snippets of the dialogue of strangers) where, in Joyce's words, we grasp the "revelation of the whatness of a thing" and "the soul of the commonest object...seems to us radiant." The artist, according to Joyce, discovers these "sudden spiritual manifestations" in "the vulgarity of speech or of gesture or in a memorable phrase of the mind itself." 
Ezra Pound's "method of luminous detail" (see Pound , pp. 21f) is very much the same kind of operation, in which the poet selects from a contemporary scene (or, particularly in the case of The Cantos, an historical period) a seemingly insignificant detail which he feels illuminates essential truths about that society. For example, to show the individual nature of craftsmanship in medieval and renaissance times as opposed to twentieth-century mechanical production, he includes in a Canto the inscription "Adam made me" (in Latin) carved by a worker at the base of a column in a church.
Epiphanies have become a frequently used device in twentieth-century fiction, and they usually involve positive experiences, moments of illumination, of a heightened showing forth. Although many of Joyce's epiphanies concern ordinary moments, the most memorable are those which occur at peak points in the life of a character; as, for example, when Stephen sees the "bird girl" on the beach in Part Four of Portrait and is reborn an artist; or, when, in the concluding sentences of that book he sets out to embrace the world.
Joyce's other artistic credo was written during his senior year. His essay was rejected by publications, as was an essay on equal rights for women by his friend Skeffington, so the two of them went to a stationers and had the two essays privately printed in one pamphlet. Joyce's was called "The Day of the Rabblement," and he attacked contemporary Irish writers, important ones such as Yeats and George Moore for playing down to the Irish masses. Joyce stood aloof from his peers, and he felt that the artist, if he is to accomplish truth and beauty and honesty, must reject the multitude, the rabble.
After graduation, Joyce plunged himself into the literary society of Dublin, getting to know the outstanding figures of the day: George Russell, George Moore, Synge, Lady Gregory, Padraic Colum, but most of all the thirty-seven year old William Butler Yeats, who read and praised the work of the twenty-year old Joyce.
One of the more surprising elements in Joyce's early life was his decision to go to medical school! Joyce had no abilities in science whatsoever, and he never succeeded in chemistry courses. Moreover, he foolishly decided to study at a University in Paris, where the difficulties of medical school would be compounded by lectures in French. He left Dublin on December 1, 1902, and, before going on to Paris, spent a day in London with Yeats. That evening, Yeats took him to visit Arthur Symons, one of the most significant explicators of symbolism in literature and the intellectual bridge between Paris and London.
Joyce was only a few weeks in Paris before he returned home for the Christmas holidays, where he met Oliver Gogarty at the library. Gogarty was a young man without money problems, a medical student, a would-be literary artist, who went on to become a successful physician. The rivalry between these two young men was intense, with Gogarty envying Joyce's literary talents, and Joyce envying Gogarty's worldly success. Gogarty, of course, became the Buck Mulligan of Ulysses.
Joyce returned to Paris in January of 1903, but gave little time to his medical courses, spending most of his time in libraries reading literature and aesthetics. He met other Irish expatriates, traveled briefly in France, went to the theater and, of course, to brothels. His writings mainly consisted of fictional sketches. (For a moving account of his time in Paris, see the "Proteus" episode, chapter 3, in Ulysses.)
He was in Paris only a few months: in April he received a telegram informing him of his mother's illness. He returned home to be with his dying mother, but refused her request that he attend communion and confession. She died in August. His refusal to conform to his mother's wishes is the source of Stephen's guilt in Ulysses; it pervades the novel, from the accusations of Buck Mulligan in the opening chapter, through the nightmarish scene with the ghost of his mother in "Circe" (chapter 15), when his guilt is finally overcome.
In addition to his usual Dublin life of drinking and seeing his friends Gogarty and Byrnes, Joyce began a new course of study, this time in law (!); he also attempted to resume his medical career by once again studying the impossible: chemistry. He even made an unsuccessful attempt to start a literary magazine. His true vocation asserted itself again when he wrote a sketch he called "A Portrait of the Artist." This was to turn into "Stephen Hero," and that was to become, in the course of the next ten years, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Portrait takes the stylistic infection of "The Dead" to a more complete realm, as the style of each period of Stephen's life, from infancy to graduation from college, takes on the vocabulary and rhythms of his intellectual and emotional life:
"Once upon a time and a very good time it was there was a moocow coming down along the road... " (Joyce , p. 7. Infancy.)
"And the air in the corridor chilled him too. It was queer and wettish. But soon the gas would be lit and in burning it made a light noise like a little song." (pp. 11-12. Early childhood)
"He became the ally of a boy named Aubrey Mills and founded with him a gang of adventures in the avenue." (p. 63. Boyhood)
"He had wandered into a maze of narrow and dirty streets. From the foul laneways he heard bursts of hoarse riot and wrangling and the drawling of drunken singers." (p.100. Early adolescence)
"Disheartened, he raised his eyes towards the slowdrifting clouds, dappled and seaborne. They were voyaging across the deserts of the sky, a host of nomads on the march, voyaging high over Ireland, westward bound." (p. 167. Adolescence)
"The formula which he wrote obediently on the sheet of paper, the coiling and uncoiling calculations of the professor, the spectrelike symbols of force and velocity fascinated and jaded Stephen's mind." (p.191. Late adolescence)
Joyce continued into 1904 his way of life: drinking, writing, and the brothels. He considered a singing career, though he was not able to read music; Joyce had a fine tenor voice and some consider that he could have been a success as a singer. He began teaching at the Clifton School in Dalkey (see the "Nestor" episode, chapter 2 , of Ulysses for a fictional account of this experience) and, on June 16th, 1904, the day he was to immortalize in fiction, he first went out walking with Nora Barnacle, a young girl from Galway, in the west of Ireland, who was working as a maid in a hotel in Dublin. On that day, Joyce was to write to her later, "[you] made me a man" (Joyce , p. 159).
There is every indication that James and Nora remained faithful to each other for life, although they remained unmarried until the early thirties, when Joyce was becoming increasingly ill and they feared that the two illegitimate children, Georgio and Lucia, would have legal difficulties with inheritance had they not been married.
A few days after meeting Nora, Joyce got into a fight in St. Stephen's Green, was knocked down and was lifted up and cared for by a man he had met only once or twice: this was Alfred H. Hunter, a Jewish Dubliner who was rumored to have an unfaithful wife; Hunter was to become the inspiration for Leopold Bloom in Ulysses.
Joyce's destiny as a writer of fiction began also that summer when George Russell asked him to write a short story for the newspaper, Irish Homestead. Russell would pay him one pound if Joyce would write a simple story that would have popular appeal. The story he wrote, "The Sisters," became the first story of the collection and inspired the tones, attitudes, and subject matter of all the other stories. Joyce's letters and comments at the time show clearly that he had arrived at some of his major ideas about what his fiction should do:
"I am writing a series of epicleti -- ten -- for a paper. I have written one. I call the series Dubliners to betray the soul of that hemoplegia or paralysis which many consider a city." 
"Don't you think there is a certain resemblance between the mystery of the Mass and what I am trying to do? I mean that I am trying...to give people some kind of intellectual pleasure or spiritual employment by converting the bread of everyday life into something that has a permanent artistic life of its own...for their mental, moral, and spiritual uplift." 
"Do you see that man who has just skipped out of the way of the tram? Consider, if he had been run over, how significant every act of his would at once become. I don't mean for the police inspector. I mean for anybody who knew him. And his thoughts, for anybody that could know them. It is my idea of the significance of trivial things that I want to give the two or three unfortunate wretches who may eventually read me." 
"The Sisters" was published under the pseudonym "Stephen Daedalus" in the Irish Homestead on August 13, 1904 and was revolutionary in its straightforward, bare-boned realism and its freedom from excess verbiage or flowery sentimental language. But the critical reception of the story was hardly enthusiastic. Ireland was not ready for Joyce, as it was not to be for many decades -- as late as post World War II, copies of Ulysses were not displayed in bookstores, but were kept under the counter and sold in plain brown paper wrappers.
Two other stories followed quickly: "Eveline" in September, and "After the Race" in December. Joyce was on record, in fiction and non-fiction, as being opposed to the romantic view of the Irish peasant and the shadowy mysticism of the Irish revival of literature headed by Lady Gregory and Yeats, among others. (The attack was formulated in an essay, "The Holy Office," which was turned down by the editor of a University College magazine.)
The remainder of the summer and fall of 1904 saw Joyce's increasing love, both physical and spiritual, for Nora, and consequently he was totally honest with her about his own personal life, embarrassing as some of that might have been. He was fairly homeless in August, staying a few days here and there, and on September 9th he moved into a Martello tower, a short distance from Dublin. These formidable barricaded towers were gun defenses ringing the coast of Ireland, built by the British beginning in 1798 when it was feared that Napoleon, because of sympathies shown him by the Irish -- they hoped he would free them from the English -- would invade. An area of this particular tower had been converted to living quarters (a combined kitchen and sleeping space), and had been rented from the government by Oliver St.John Gogarty, who invited the homeless Joyce to stay there. The tower, of course, is the setting for the famous opening episode of Ulysses. Joyce stayed at the tower for less than a week; following a nightime episode at which another guest having a nightmare fired a gun, Joyce walked back to Dublin. (See the fictional treatment of this in the first chapter of Ulysses.)
Joyce was promised a position as a teacher at a Berlitz school in Europe, and in October, he and Nora left Dublin. After arriving in Trieste, they found that he would be teaching in Pola, a city 150 miles south of Trieste on the Adriatic Sea.
In January of 1905 he finished the short story "Clay," but was by that time mainly working on Portrait. His aesthetic theory is presented in Part V of Portrait, especially the famous passage about the objectivity of the artist:
"The artist, like the God of the creation, remains within or behind or beyond or above his handiwork, invisible, refined out of existence, indifferent, paring his fingernails." (Joyce , p. 215)
Joyce's belief that the purpose of art, particularly fiction, is to present emotions, rather than incite them in the reader, is further explored in the following passage:
"The esthetic emotion (I use the general term) is therefore static. The mind is arrested and raised above desire and loathing." (Joyce , p. 205)
In March of 1905 was invited back to Trieste to teach at the Berlitz school there. Trieste, where their first child, Georgio, was soon born, was to be the home of the Joyces for the next ten years. 1905 was the major year for the completion of Dubliners: Joyce had finished rewriting "A Painful Case" by May 8, the "Boarding House" was finished July 13, "Counterparts" on July 16, "Ivy Day in the Committee Room" on September 1, "The Encounter" on September 18, "A Mother" in September, and "Araby" and "Grace" in October. He wrote a letter to Grant Richards (previously quoted) stating that he had written in "a style of scrupulous meanness" and also wrote of "the special odour of corruption which, I hope, floats over my stories." At this time he had written all the stories with the exception of "A Little Cloud," "Two Gallants," and "The Dead."
Joyce was specific about the sequence of stories:
"The order of the stories is as follows. The Sisters, An Encounter and another story [Araby] which are stories of my childhood: The Boarding-House, After the Race and Eveline, which are stories of adolescence: The Clay, Counterparts, and A Painful Case which are stories of mature life: Ivy Day in the Committee Room, A Mother and the last story of the book [Grace] which are stories of public life in Dublin. When you remember that Dublin has been a capital for thousands of years, that it is the second city of the British Empire, that it is nearly three times as big as Venice it seems strange that no artist has given it to the world." 
1906 saw the beginning of the controversy with the publisher Grant Richards, and later with other potential publishers, over some of the language and incidents in the stories which they felt would subject them to legal action. Writers such as Joyce and Pound were presenting situations and language that were new and shocking to contemporary audiences. Getting those works published was further confounded by the fact that the printer, the one who set the work in type, could be sued and imprisoned. Thus, even though a publisher was willing to take chances, he was frequently unable to find a printer for the work. (It was for this reason that Ulysses was set into print in France -- by French printers who made many errors, knowing little or no English.)
Some of the main objections were the exchange of money with a serving girl in "Two Gallants," in questionable circumstances, and the use of the word "bloody" in "Grace". Joyce even taunted Richards with the fact that the printers had not caught on to the underlying homosexual nature of "The Encounter," at which point Richards immediately questioned that story also.
The difficulties finding a publisher willing to publish these revolutionary stories continued for almost a decade and involved lawsuits, destroyed editions, consultations with lawyers, and considerable anguish. They were finally published by Grant Richards on June 15, 1914 in an edition of 1,250 copies, of which Joyce took 120; 379 were sold by the end of the year. Over the years there have been a number of editions of Dubliners, and these have presented textual questions and problems as various editors and printers felt free to add commas and spellings depending upon their own tastes. (One printing innovation Joyce fought for and won was the use of the dash instead of quotation marks to indicate dialogue; he found those inverted commas to be "an eyesore".)
The definitive text of Dubliners, in wide use today (and the basis for the text at World Wide Dubliners), is the one prepared by Robert Scholes (see e.g. Joyce ). Scholes worked with Joyce's biographer Richard Ellmann and with Joyce's manuscripts, as well as with Joyce's later corrections.
In 1906, the Trieste Berlitz school was in financial difficulties and Joyce answered a notice in a Rome newspaper for a position as correspondence clerk in a bank; the position required a knowledge of both Italian and English. Joyce and Nora, with their infant son Georgio, left for Rome in July of 1906.
Joyce hated Rome, finding it a dead city full of dead monuments. The position at the bank was demanding: Joyce wrote over 200 letters in an eleven-hour day. Joyce was never good at handling money and being paid by the month for the first time in his life was a disaster: he was broke soon after the beginning of each month and had to plead with his brother Stanislaus to send him money. This in spite of the fact that he took on extra work teaching English privately, as well as in a poor imitation of a Berlitz school.
Joyce drank heavily, the family was thrown out of their rooms for nonpayment of rent and they lived in squalor. During this time he rewrote "A Painful Case," and continued to write to his aunt in Dublin for factual information about locations and actual people and made plans for other stories which were to remain unwritten. One of these was to be called "Ulysses" and was about Alfred Hunter, the Jewish man who had served as his "orthodox Samaritan" (to quote from the novel Ulysses) after the altercation in St. Stephen's Green. (See the conclusion of the "Circe" episode, chapter 15, and the beginning of "Eumaeus," chapter 16, for the fictional account.) There was also a contract signed for the publication of a book of his poems, Chamber Music, although he wrote to Stanislaus that "a page of A Little Cloud gives me more pleasure than all my verses." 
It was during the winter of 1906-07 that Joyce got the inspiration to write "The Dead," partially out of an appreciation for Irish warmth, generosity, and hospitality, particularly when compared with what he was experiencing in Rome. In September of 1906, Joyce had written:
Sometimes thinking of Ireland it seems to me that I have been unnecessarily harsh. I have reproduced (in Dubliners at least) none of the attraction of the city for I have never felt at my ease in any city since I left it except in Paris. I have not reproduced its ingenuous insularity and its hospitality. 
In March of 1907 the Joyces returned to Trieste and the Berlitz school. He wrote articles on Ireland for an Italian newspaper which were acclaimed and he was invited to deliver lectures on Ireland at the University in Trieste. Chamber Music was published in May, and Arthur Symons, writing in the Nation, praised Joyces musical qualities. Joyce was seriously ill with rheumatic fever in the summer; Nora gave birth to their daughter Lucia while he was in the hospital. At home in September, Joyce finished "The Dead," dictating the final paragraphs to Stanislaus because of the illness. His great short story was completed on September 20th. It was to be the dividing line, the bridge between his early work and the two great novels that would occupy the rest of his life.