Reading a modernist novel entails bearing in mind a whole new world of ideas, a quite different perspective of giving life to those ideas than other written works and certainly a new aspect of accepting those ideas as a reader. It is not easy to pinpoint modernism's roots and it is also difficult to say exactly what it expresses. However, one thing that is clearly proved in a modernist novel is the fact that there is a change in the understanding of the human self and the interaction between characters and events. Perhaps the easiest way of understanding the ideology of modernism is to focus on a novel written by one of the most famous modernists concentrating on the techniques and the basic general ideas that are applied in it.
Such a famous modernist that contributed to emphasizing modernism as one of the major movements of the 20th century is considered to be James Joyce. His modernist novel Dubliners offers a tremendous possibility of pinpointing the elements of modernism through analysing its basic themes, narrative devices, structure, imagery and language. Joyce chose to name this collection of short stories Dubliners as its scene is set in Dublin. The title leads the reader to presume that it is a book about life and that it describes it as it is; but this novel regards life from one aspect only. James Joyce often presents the protagonists' motives as unworthy and their minds confused and he also tries to convince the reader that his people are as he describes them. It could be characterized as a group of short stories but a novel too, in which the separate stories of its protagonists compose one essential story, that of a human soul, which is confused and has damaged its relation to the source of spiritual life and cannot restore it.
To begin with, the reader of Dubliners immediately becomes aware of the unexpected change from the first three stories, which are told in the first person narrator by the protagonist of the story, to the twelve following stories which are narrated in the third person. In the first short story of Joyce's novel, The Sisters, the author probably wanted to present the child as an innocent narrator of his own tale, which later gives way to stories of adults. In The Sisters the boy seems to be very intelligent as he can realise what has happened, when he finds out that the priest had his third stroke. From the opening sentences of the story "There was no hope for him this time." the boy becomes conscious of the death of the priest and he feels that the action is completed and that consequently no prognosis is necessary. He actually expects the priest to be dead and as soon as he gets home his suspicion is confirmed.
The fact that this story begins with the death of a priest, shows Joyce's views on Catholicism in that period. In the whole novel he presents his priest characters in an ironic way. On the other hand, with the appearance of the priest in The Sisters an ambiguity emerges, as it means different things to different characters, even to the little boy. He was considered by people of Dublin to be a fallen, failed priest. The boy's uncle says to Old Cotter: "The youngster and he were good friends. The old chap taught him a great deal, mind you; and they say he had a great wish for him." And Old Cotter responded: "I wouldn't like children of mine to have too much to say to a man like that." So, it is obvious that the priest was a good friend to the boy; nevertheless he was not considered as a successful and good priest to society. Moreover, the boy's feelings are also very interesting as they seem to be quite complex. On the one hand, the priest seems to represent to the boy a world of knowledge and authority and he seems to be sad about his death. When he hears Cotter's comments about the priest's relationship with the boy, he gets angry: "I crammed my mouth with stirabout for fear I might give utterance to my anger. Tiresome old red-nosed imbecile!" On the other hand, he later...
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