James Joyce, the name synonym to Ulysses and with it, the fear to ever accomplish the task of reading it in one’s lifetime. I wanted to begin James Joyce’s journey with an easy step. Then, I found ‘A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man’ in one of the book fairs and was drawn towards the picture of this man on the cover.
It is quite intriguing how this man on the cover with a slightly tilted head looks as if he doesn’t care what you think. And, I knew I had to buy this book. Well, I bought it but it stayed unread on my bookshelf for a really long time. And, before I could venture into it, thankfully I got ‘Dubliners’.
Now if you are wondering why ‘thankfully’?
‘Dubliners’ is a collection of 15 short stories. And, just like the title, James Joyce goes easy with the stories setting them in the city of Dublin. The early 1900s was a time of religious and political turmoil in Ireland but Joyce keeps the stories simple. These 15 stories portray the aspirations of the common citizens facing hardships and yearning for a better future, probably somewhere in the West.
When I did read ‘A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man’, it took me a while jumping in and out of Stephen Dedalus’ conscious.
Book Cover Analysis
Before getting a copy of Dubliners, I had read the story ‘The Boarding House’ in a collection titled ‘500 Greatest Short Stories From Around the World’. Well, I had just watched ‘Knowing’ starring Nicolas Cage and was in awe of this movie. And, as bizarre as it may sound, I bought this thick book with 500 short stories for the love of that picture of Earth on the cover with the feel of ‘Knowing’ movie poster.
Years after that, I reached the section on Ireland in this collection and was bowled over by ‘The Boarding House.’ The story is about Mrs. Mooney, a single woman running a boarding house for working men and her endeavours at getting her daughter Polly married to a prosperous lodger.
As I closed the book, I couldn’t resist but get ‘Dubliners’. The cover of ‘Dubliners’ has a scene of the city in the early 1900s. But, I had a taste of Joyce’s story from the ‘The Boarding House’ so expected stories on similar lines. You may think, if it is more of Dublin or the people from the cover. I will say more of people and from normal walks of life, sidelining the top echelons of political leadership.
Possibilities for infinite Book Cover ideas
Being a short story collection, Dubliners opens up the possibility for 15 different book covers. I could list out a few. If nothing then I would include atleast illustrations for each of the stories as every story is so different and unique.
My favourite has to be a scene from the Araby Bazaar from ‘Araby’. In this story a young boy on the brink of adulthood and infatuated by a girl wants to buy a souvenir for her from Araby. The story ends in the Araby Bazaar. I had no idea that Araby Bazaar was one of the largest public spectacles held in Dublin in the late nineteenth century.
The second scene that comes to my mind after ‘Araby’ is ‘The Boarding House’, perhaps with huge windows and a big staircase. Or, Mrs.Mooney talking to Mr.Doran in a wake to settle her daughter in a reputed family.
A newspaper column on Mrs.Sinico’s death in an accident while crossing a rail track, read by Mr.Duffy. This story of loneliness and societal pressure in ‘A Painful Case’ makes for a poignant cover.
“She respected her husband in the same way as she respected the General Post Office, as something large, secure and fixed: and though she knew the small number of his talents she appreciated his abstract value as a male.”A Mother from Dubliners by James Joyce
There is a unique balance of male and female characters in Dubliners. You realize how perfectly James Joyce was able to bring out the agony in women in stories like ‘The Boarding House’, ‘Clay’, ‘A Mother’ and ‘The Dead’.
An important aspect of this collection is that the book begins with a story on death and ends with the same. And, with every story, the age of the protagonist progress from child to elderly. So, maybe, in the end, an eagle-eye shot of Dublin from the early 1900s is the perfect portrayal of the stories in this compilation.