Published online by Cambridge University Press: 01 September 2022
Flynn’s chapter argues for the crucial role of nineteenth-century French naturalism in the conception and evolution of Joyce’s Dubliners. Specifically, it argues that Joyce’s ambition to correct the development of his country through representing the debilitation of its capital city is modelled on Émile Zola’s aim in his naturalist, twenty-novel series Le Rougon-Macquart (1871-1893) to present and diagnose the pathologies of the Third Republic through representing several generations of a diseased family. However, in their indirection, Joyce’s stories expand upon an ambiguity intrinsic to naturalism – the subjectivity inherent in any would-be objective perception of reality – an ambiguity developed to comic effect by the second-generation naturalist, Guy de Maupassant in the story “Auprès d’un Mort” (Beside Schopenhauer’s Corpse). The chapter argues that the first story of Dubliners, “The Sisters,” is inspired by this minutely observed, disenchanted, and enigmatic story. The chapter closes by looking at the final scene of “The Dead” to argue that Joyce turns the dead end of naturalism into a test for an Irish readership.