As a short story collection, Dubliners showcases a range of literary styles. Indeed, no two stories have the same stylistic profile, and it is often the case that individual stories feature stylistic variations. In “A Little Cloud,” for instance, the presence of contrasting styles underscores the emotional force of the story. Whereas Little Chandler’s internal thoughts echo the lyricism and melancholy that characterized some of Ireland’s best poets, such as William Butler Yeats, the reality of a screaming baby and an angry wife is depicted with a fierce realism that subverts Little Chandler’s cultivated melancholy. Other stories follow a similar pattern with regard to style. In “Eveline,” the protagonist’s emotional visions of a new life suggest literary sentimentalism, but these hopes are dashed in a fit of very real, almost animal-like fear. Likewise, the romantic fantasies of the young boy in “Araby” crash when he arrives at the dark and decidedly unromantic bazaar. At every turn in Dubliners, optimism succumbs to defeat, and this pattern is reflected in the way various styles explored in the stories inevitably give way to naturalism and the harsh reality it reveals.
Joyce describes his characters’ lives and environs as realistically as possible. His narrators refuse to look away from difficult subjects and desperate situations. But by the same token, these narrators also avoid embellishment and exaggeration. The representation of speech provides one clear example of naturalistic style in Dubliners. All of the stories capture the nuances of how actual Dubliners spoke at the turn of the twentieth century. These nuances also indicate socioeconomic class and education. Thus, the slang that peppers Old Jack’s speech in “Ivy Day in the Committee Room” reveals his lack of education, as does the way Lily pronounces Gabriel Conroy’s surname with three syllables instead of two in “The Dead.”