James Joyce’s Dubliners: an Analysis of the Exploration of the Seven Stages of Grief
The Seven Stages of Grief as Paralleled in Joyce’s Dubliners
James Joyce, born in Dublin in 1882, spent most of his life abroad, specifically on the continent of Europe (Gay 194). Joyce firmly denounced almost every aspect of Dublin life, from politics to religion to social expectations. A strong presence of Catholicism and Irish nationalism made life in Dublin excruciatingly disobliging for a liberal spirit such as Joyce’s. Benjamin Boysen, in an essay entitled “The Necropolis of Love,” eloquently explains Joyce’s distaste for the Dublin way of life as he states, “[h]e finds society repressive and suffocating, suppressing its subordinates socially and mentally in an unholy alliance with Christianity” (159). In addition to experiencing the strains of a conservative society on his own well-being, Joyce rather bluntly remarked that he blamed the death of his mother on the religious and nationalistic fervor of the time: “When I looked on her face as she lay in her coffin – a face gray and wasted with cancer – I understood that I was looking on the face of a victim and I cursed the system which had made her a victim” (Boysen 159).
It seems rather obvious that Joyce possessed a deep-rooted resentment concerning Ireland, specifically Dublin, and struggled during much of his life to cope with the damaging effects the region had on his psyche even after escaping its destructive trajectory. However, rather than avoiding the mental repetition of his experiences in Dublin and repressing psychological hardships, he contrarily made it the primary setting of several of his most famous works. Joyce’s character development throughout the progression of his novel Dubliners seems to impeccably parallel the Kubler-Ross Model, otherwise known as the stages of grief. The original Kubler-Ross model depicts five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Yet, in an attempt to be as thorough as possible, I will use this essay to call upon the modified version, which includes two additional stages of grief – shock and testing – which have proved useful in the field of psychology in terms of understanding and facilitating change. Certain characters’ demeanors and attitudes precisely mirror each of the seven stages of grief, which Joyce allows us to observe through his technique of stream-of-consciousness, in almost perfect chronology. Joyce utilizes his own fictional creations, whether consciously or unconsciously, to illustrate his own psychological journey towards reconciliation and represent his attempts to cope with the detrimental effects that Dublin life had on his own self-concept and sense of identity.
The first stage of grief in the adapted Kubler-Ross Model is shock. During this stage, an afflicted individual typically feels immobilized and in a state of paralysis. Processing of the trauma has yet to occur, and reactions and emotions are kept under the surface and may not be fully recognized. “An Encounter” in Dubliners is a prime example of this first stage of grief. The narrator of the story, an unnamed boy, is tired of the monotony of his life and plots a truant adventure with his friends to explore Dublin. However, on this adventure the boys encounter a questionable figure who settles next to them and initiates a conversation that would typically be deemed wildly inappropriate for children their age. As the old man speaks of whipping young boys with an air of distinct lust, the narrator begins to frighten and becomes inherently aware of the inappropriate nature of the discussion. Though he longs to rise from the ground and escape the man’s sadistic presence, he feels paralyzed and remains immobile, listening without eye contact to the unsettling discourse. The audience is given insight into the narrator’s inability to act on his fear as he explains “I continued to gaze toward the foot of the slope, listening to him…I was still considering whether I would go away or not when the man came back and sat down beside us again” (Joyce, p. 18). As the narrator is young, this is likely his first experience with pedophilia and the perverted mindsets that seem to, according to Joyce, plague Dublin. This story symbolizes a loss of innocence and a little boy’s inability to understand the gravity of a damaging situation. Before our very eyes, the narrator’s childhood has been tarnished. Yet the narrator is still processing the series of events as the story concludes, and it is likely that he is not yet aware of the potentially injurious effects the morbid experience may have on his developing psyche. Paralyzed with fear and confusion, the young narrator accurately portrays the first stage in the cycle of bereavement. Whether Joyce had a similar experience is certainly possible, yet it is unable to be proven. It is entirely conceivable, however, that this story mirrors the cognitive and emotional facets of Joyce’s first experience with the perverse and aggressive nature of Dublin life; unable to react or make a change, but newly cautious and aware.
As shock and paralysis are the initial reactions to traumatic news or events, the following stage in the cycle of grief is denial. During this stage, one may intentionally turn a blind eye to the reality of one’s situation. One may go to great lengths to ignore an issue and convince themselves that it does not exist. Though the denial we observe in “After the Race” may not – to our knowledge – be stemmed from any sort of traumatic incident, the protagonist Jimmy Doyle is wholeheartedly set on a life of ignorance. A trait inherited from his father, Jimmy Doyle is entirely concerned with the material aspects of life. Constantly attempting to fit into a higher social class and accumulating an abundance of wealth, Doyle actively denies the reality of his life and place in society. After competing in a car race in Dublin with some prestigious figures, Doyle is enrapt in a flurry of recognition and pseudo-fame. While engaging in a card game after dinner, he allows himself to be made a fool by his “friends”. Doyle wagers the small amount of money he does have, and tacks on additional “I.O.U’s” as he is unable to admit defeat and pull himself from the game. By the end of the tale Doyle is rendered penniless and in debt, yet he naively reassures himself that come the morning he will surely feel better about the night’s events. The irony in this thinking lies in the fact that as the cabin door opens, a grey shaft of light streams in; thus, signaling that tomorrow has already come, and the time to deny his foolish actions has come to an end. There are several potential realities when considering Joyce’s relation to this story. On one hand, he could be speaking to the denial of those who live and remain in Dublin; oblivious to the succubus nature of the individuals and their happenings, while continuing to strive toward unattainable goals. The converse could be a depiction of his own sense of denial at some point. It is possible that Joyce tried to conform to the norms of Dublin life, ignoring red flags and the potential for self-destruction, before finally gaining clarity and removing himself from the cycle. Whatever the author’s reasoning may be, the denial we observe in “After the Race” is palpable and clearly identifiable to anyone who has been on a similar path of coping with oppressive and detrimental situations.
After one makes the conscious, or sometimes unwilling, effort to confront the reality of an event or situation, the Kubler-Ross Model suggests that the following stage of the grieving process is anger. Upon reading Dubliners, the presence of rage as an overwhelming factor that exists in a healthy majority of the novel’s stories is blatant. During the anger stage, an explosion of emotion occurs. One may swing wildly into a fit of rage as the influx of emotional processing increases. Feelings that were previously concealed or repressed in earlier stages comes to the surface with a vengeance. Individuals in this stage may have questions such as “why me?” and “why not you?”(Smaldone, p. 426) For the purpose of providing a prime example of this enraged state of grief, I will stray slightly from the chronological progression of Joyce’s stories and call upon the character Farrington in “Counterparts”. Farrington, who is so full of rage he can barely control it, is a flawless representation of a psyche plagued by an intense and long-standing. Farrington faces a considerable amount of verbal abuse at work from his overbearing and disrespectful boss. He repeatedly takes breaks throughout the workday to have a drink, in a feeble attempt to collect himself in order to make it through his shift. Alcohol is without a doubt a coping mechanism for Farrington, though it proves wildly unhealthy and only heightens his deep-rooted rage. When his time at work has concluded, Farrington blows off steam by drinking excessively with his companions, spending all of his money and initiating multiple drunken altercations. When he finally decides to return home for the evening, he is met by one of his small boys who immediately receives the brute of Farrington’s rage. His poor boy, who merely attempts to build him a fire and prepare his dinner, receives a brutal beating that is a direct outlet for Farrington’s misdirected anger. Though his emotions are concentrated toward his lot in life and his discourteous employer, Farrington is aware that his family is the only opportunity he has to express his loathing for the aspects of his life which he feels he cannot control. The cycle of abuse is overwhelming in this tale, and the imagery depicts a vicious succession of mistreatment. It is highly probable that Farrington’s son will develop similar characteristics of an abuser, as he and many other citizens of Dublin are not likely to break out of such a forceful pattern. Joyce’s anger regarding his hometown is more than apparent, and the presence of Farrington’s tale is a mimicry of a similar rage he carried with him throughout his life, especially as he blamed the society of Dublin for his mother’s death. Though Joyce may have been on a path to healing and understanding, the wrath he felt toward those who had encumbered his life and the lives of his loved ones is impossible to overlook.
According to the Kubler-Ross Model, the following stage in the grieving process is bargaining. While in this stage of bereavement, an individual may feel the passion of fury dissolve and give way to sense of resignation. Yet this stage is not characteristic of total defeat, as one still feebly clings to a false promise of hope and the naïve idea that something may be reversed. In Joyce’s story “Two Gallants,” protagonist Lenehan finds himself in the business of scamming, with the help of his friend Corely, to make a living. While waiting for Corely to procure their next con, Lenehan becomes aware of his hunger and stops into a casual restaurant for a small meal. During this meal, we learn by way of interior monologue that Lenehan is painfully aware of his own poverty and lack of attainment. He wonders if he will ever come to his senses and secure a job and a home of his own. After he is replenished from his meal, he is in considerably better spirits and imagines a small glimmer of hope in his seemingly dismal future. Joyce illustrates this transitory desire for change as he writes “He might yet be able to settle down in some snug corner and live happily if he could only come across some good simpleminded girl with a little of the ready” (p. 46). If only he could marry rich, he thinks, then his slumming days would be over and he could finally experience happiness. Yet, as omniscient readers, we realize that this sort of hope is in vain. Lenehan does not wish to improve the status of his life through his own hard work and initiation, which would surely be a converse to the leech of a human he currently embodies, but rather expects to be simply handed a worthy life. His hope for a successful future is a fleeting illusion and we are solidified in our skepticism of his ability to make a genuine change come the end of the story. Lenehan catches up with Corely who, with a smile, flashes him a gold coin, signaling that the scam was successful. The story ends with the obvious conclusion that Lenehan will not, in fact, turn over a new leaf and pursue a more virtuous life; for the low road is often the easiest to travel. Joyce suggests here that the people of Dublin do not truly wish to prosper, for that would require a change of ethics and morality, but rather they choose to simply “get by”. When expectations and standards decline, so does the risk for disappointment. Joyce insinuates rather obviously that many of these stages of grief, in terms of the Dublin way of life, are never fulfilled or actualized. The people of the region are destined to orbit the same disobliging society generation after generation. Joyce’s way of bargaining, or avoidance, in his case resulted in escape. Rather than allowing himself to be pulled back down into the current of self-defeat, Joyce acted where others shrank in fear and fled the despotic region of Dublin.
Following the succession of emotional processes in the Grief model is depression. This is arguably one of the most observable of the psychological stages. In the depression stage, an individual has fully accepted the nature of their reality and sinks into a state of deep despondency. It is in this stage that one may reject any attempt to rectify their cognitive patterns and become overwhelmed with hopelessness and begin the process of recognizing their own responsibility. In “A Painful Case” Mr. Duffy is the epitome of depression as he becomes a victim to the vacuum of his own despair. The unadventurous, monotonous nature of his life weighs down on him and he ponders his own shortcomings and missed opportunities. After learning of the death of a former lover, Mr. Duffy spirals into a quarry of self-pity and remorse. He becomes excruciatingly aware of the fact that he has denied himself of the only love he has ever experienced and embarks on and introspective journey of sorrow and regret. As he meanders around his city, he comes across a romantic couple in the park and has a crucial epiphany. Joyce illustrates this as he writes “He gnawed the rectitude of his life…no one wanted him; he was an outcast from life’s feast” (p. 98). It is at this point in the story that Mr. Duffy becomes all too cognizant of his own failures. He is aware that he has not lived a life of fulfillment and he has only himself to blame for his stagnation. Joyce’s own experience with depression is tangible throughout Dubliners and with Mr. Duffy’s tale it seems to come full circle. “A Painful Case” is symbolic of the crushing weight of Joyce’s own self-doubt. As Joyce, himself, traverses the journey of grief, his sense of loss and lack of vigorous development become unable to refute. He lends his character to the depiction of his own emotional and cognitive state and accepts responsibility for his own pain.
Upon entering the stage of depression, one may remain there for a considerable amount of time; wallowing in a pit of despair. Yet, most individuals come to the realization that one cannot possibly succeed in healing in such a masochistic state. The desire to rekindle one’s own spirit and proceed in a positive direction sparks the entrance into the next of the seven stages: testing. The testing stage is the second addition to the original five-stage model, in which the afflicted individual begins looking for novel ways to improve their mental health. Mr. Kenan’s character in “Grace” is inherent of this occurrence. After an incident in a pub, Mr. Kenan quite literally is deemed a “fallen man.” Upon reaching rock-bottom, Mr. Kenan allows a friend, Mr. Power, to assist him on a path to recovery. Though Joyce insinuates that his “help” is more of a conversion effort, Mr. Kenan attends the suggested church services and, skeptically, agrees to attend a religious retreat. Although it seems evident that Mr. Kenan is not truly capable of making a full recovery, as none of Joyce’s characters are allowed true redemption, the effort to seek a change is there. Mr. Kenan is at least half-heartedly committed to discovering a better path in life, a commitment that is characteristic of the testing stage in the cycle of grief. Mr. Kenan comprehends the notion that he cannot remain in a pit of darkness indefinitely and begins to experiment with realistic healing processes and healthier coping mechanisms. Though Joyce clearly denounced the institute of religion, specifically the Catholic church, in order to deal with the destruction of his past he, too, was forced to explore less self-deprecating outlets. It is possible that the whole of Dubliners is indicative of his own testing stage, and the novel itself is a reflection of his healing process and progression towards resolution.
Once the decision has been made to investigate positive outlets and step out of the darkness of depression, the concluding stage of the bereavement process may finally be actualized. This final stage of acceptance is characterized by a shift toward stability. The afflicted individual has been through the motions of shock and denial, as well as anger and depression, and is now ready to move forward in life. Gabriel from “The Dead” is a beautiful example of peaceful acceptance. Perhaps the most hopeful of Joyce’s tales, Gabriel is one of the very few characters in Dubliners to experience a genuine awakening. After learning of his wife’s late lover, Gabriel finds he is actually able to relinquish his feelings of envy and rage and embrace a state of understanding. As he surrenders his need for control, Gabriel is able to adopt an objective perspective and he becomes aware of the interconnectedness of all aspects of life and death. He wisely accepts the truth that he has never actually known love as he previously assumed he had, and that his whole life has been merely a show for others; a façade he created for himself to hide behind the intimacy of existence. Again, Joyce expertly utilizes the stream-of-consciousness so that the audience can physically observe Gabriel’s spiritual transformation. This renovation of self is apparent as Joyce illustrates “His own identity was fading out into a grey impalpable world: the solid world itself which the dead had one time reared and lived in was dissolving and dwindling” (p. 194). Regardless of what Gabriel’s final resolve is – whether he chooses death or to pursue an improved, more actualized existence – he has made the conclusive decision to progress. Gabriel makes the verdict to move forward in a newfangled state of awareness and self-actualization that is only possible when one accepts the reality of factors that one cannot control. With this final story, Joyce has reached the final stop on his own journey to reclamation. It is here that he displays wisdom and understanding and accepts the daunting facets of his past.
By way of interior monologue and the depiction of the self, Joyce uses his characters as a vehicle for the expression of his own tormented psyche. Although his characters and the actual living inhabitants of Dublin society may never have the opportunity to break free from the constraining cyclical nature of their existence, a psychoanalytic introspection at the progression of Dubliners suggests that Joyce has indeed completed his own tiresome seven-step process and, ultimately, gained the sentience necessary to reconcile with his troublesome past.
How James Joyce Explores Religious and Moral Connotations in Dubliners
James Joyce and the Epiphany: An Exploration of Religious and Moral Connotations
James Joyce revolutionized literature and ushered in the era of modern fiction. Joyce became famous for his revolutionary use of stream of consciousness narrative along with his abstract snippets he used to represent his different characters. His stories usually take place in Dublin and are centered on moral, theological, and political issues of the time. As Joyce himself struggled with his own religious beliefs, he searched to find a way to find the divine in the ordinary. This is most apparent in Dubliners, where Joyce uses “epiphanies” in order to help his characters realize different “truths” about society through seemingly unimportant moments in their lives. Joyce stated, “For myself, I always write about Dublin, if I can get to the heart of Dublin I can get to the heart of all the cities of the world. In the particular is contained the universal” (Ellman 505). By having his characters experience an epiphany, Joyce was able to expose truths in Dublin, and connect this back to the larger picture of all big cities in the world. This, along with Joyce’s unique narrative style, is why his writing is still relevant today, although his stories do not always come to a satisfying conclusion. Not to be confused with the normative liturgical epiphany, Joyce uses these revelations to create a deeper connection between the character, reader, and society. An epiphany, in literature written by Joyce, is intended to “inform the protagonist, the readers, or both, much in the manner of Plato’s forms, which epitomized a purer truth than his world of appearances “(Bowen 103). Although Joyce’s works may seem like simplified narratives that portray a snippet of a characters life, they actually represent a much deeper meaning. He uses these characters to showcase the moral paralysis rampant throughout Dublin. Throughout Dubliners and A Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man, Joyce use the epiphany to showcase theological, social, and moral issues within Dublin in order to highlight tribulations within society as a whole. By doing so he also highlights his own struggles with religion in his process to reveal what an epiphany truly is. Is it only within the realm of the divine? In answer to this, Joyce counters that as the force of religion begins to wane, society must find the “divine” in everyday life.
Epiphanies in Joyce’s writing have strong religious connotations. This is a result of Joyce’s own conflicting experiences with religion. Some may say that he had forsaken his catholic roots and that his manifestation of the divine within his characters was only a mockery of religion. It is a valid argument that Joyce was trying to make the statement that Catholicism was no longer relevant to society and was a gimmick, just as the lives of his characters. Although a sound argument, a stronger argument can be made that he wished to find the divine in the ordinary, in a society where religion had lost much of his power. As a catholic growing up, it can be inferred that Joyce never truly lost sight of the divine; instead he tried to redefine the connotations of the Godly in a modern society. Joyce highlights his struggles with religion through his semi-autobiographical work, A Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man.
Joyce often deviated away from the typical liturgical epiphany in his writing; however there are still echoes of Christian epiphany in his works. “Christian period epiphaneia developed a religious denotation as a visible manifestation of a hidden divinity either in the form of a personal appearance, or by some deed of power by which its presence is made known. It also refers specifically to the feast of the Epiphany, 6 January” (Walzl 436). In A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Stephen experiences a religious epiphany after a mass where he is taught about the suffering he will endure if he goes to hell. As a result, Stephen “never consciously changed his position in bed, sat in the most uncomfortable positions, suffered patiently every itch and pain, kept away from the fire, remained on his knees all through mass except at the gospels, left parts of his neck and face undried so that air might sting them and, whenever he was not saying his beads, carries his arms stiffly at his sides like a runner and never in his pockets or clasped behind him” (Joyce 410). Shortly after this spell of Godly Piousness, Stephen begins to recognize himself as an artist and experiences his most moving epiphany of the work. “Yes! Yes! Yes! He would create proudly out of the freedom and power of his soul, as the great artificer whose name he bore, a living thing, new and soaring and beautiful, impalpable, imperishable” (Joyce 432). In this way Stephen moves away from God; something his mother feared he would as a result of attending University. Joyce struggled with faith throughout his own life, something that is exhibited in his character’s epiphanies, which oftentimes have religious connotations.
Joyce uses epiphanies to show spiritual moments for his characters that reveal how the characters are paralyzed and therefore are unable to change their living situation in Dublin. Joyce stated to his brother in a letter, “I am writing a series of epicleti- ten-for a paper…. I call the series Dubliners to betray the soul of that hemiplegia or paralysis which many consider a city” (Walzl 437). In this way Joyce’s epiphanies are a double-edged sword. In A Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man, Joyce’s pseudo biography, Joyce’s “alter ego” Stephen Dedalus undergoes many spiritual epiphanies. Stephen’s epiphanies are much more uplifting in juxtaposition to the epiphanies suffered by his characters in Dubliners. This is a result of Dubliners representing the moral paralysis within Ireland, whilst A Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man represents Stephen’s journey to becoming an artist and in effect—leaving Dublin. In Joyce’s literature, “liturgical epiphany in its meaning of a manifestation of divine power offered Joyce a term which, placed in a literary setting, could signify both revelation in its usual technical sense and spiritual illumination in psychological and symbolic senses” (Walzl 450). Joyce’s epiphanies generally offer both of these conclusions to an epiphany; however, his spiritual enlightenments do not always reveal satisfactory conclusions to the lives of his characters.
Joyce’s epiphanies all display similarities. It can be concluded that the selections from Dubliners as well as A Portrait of an Artist as a Young as a Young Man, are all taken from Joyce’s personal experiences within Dublin. Most of the heroes are “lonely, sensitive boys dissatisfied with their home and cultural environments and vaguely aspiring to something ideal” (Wazl 444). All of the boys within his story seek meaningful relationships and are disappointed. They also usually seek theological virtue only to be presented with a distorted or “delusional” view in faith, hope, and love (Walzl 444). This is because Joyce himself lived through the moral, religious, and political paralysis within Dublin. As a result, Joyce had to depart from Ireland in order to extricate himself from the “moral paralysis” and become “the artist” he aspired to be. In “Eveline”, Joyce embodies the inability for most people to escape their paltry lives in Dublin and aspire to be more. In her story, Eveline is repressed and treated poorly by those close to her. She has a chance to escape. However, upon the dock, she is consumed by an epiphany: “No! No! No! It was impossible. Her hands clutched the iron in frenzy. Amid the seas she sent a cry of anguish!” (Joyce 51). This is symbolic of the paralysis is Dublin: people were unable to extricate themselves from the poor life situations they were consumed with. Joyce, on the other hand was able to accomplish this.
In “Eveline” the character Jack, has his own epiphany as well when he sees Eveline standing on the dock. He describes her as “passive, like a helpless animal” (Joyce 51), Readers who accept this last epiphany must do so at the risk of ignoring or discounting Eveline’s epiphany. However, there is little evidence other than the reader’s predisposition to suggest the truth or falsity of either. (Bowen 107). Thus, Joyce writes in A Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man that Stephens final epiphany he is consumed with is that he must escape Dublin in order to become the artist he aspires to be. Without doing so he can never break from his various disappointments: his family’s poor financial situation, his loss of faith, his lack of fervor for the political climate in Ireland, and the letdown of university life. He would have ultimately suffered the same fate as Eveline. Only by departing Dublin are Stephen Dedalus and Joyce himself able to live the life “they” desire as exposed in A Portrait of An Artist as a Young Man, however numerous characters in Dubliners are less fortunate in that regard.
In regards to his writing, Joyce was concerned with “reproducing both the reality of an event and its symbolic or spiritual meaning” (Wazl 436). He achieves this in “Araby” where he writes a seemingly miniscule event, which implodes into a serious religious and moral epiphany within the young narrator’s life. The story paints a frightening picture of the descent from childhood to adulthood and reveals “A boy who must begin to free himself from the nets and trammels of society. That beginning involves painful farewells and disturbing dislocations. “The boy must dream no more of enchanted days. He must forego the shimmering mirage of childhood and begin to see things as they really are” (Stone 376). When Araby does realize the “trammels” of society, his epiphany is a terrible revelation that exposes the darkest parts of both his self and human nature. The narrator declares “Gazing up into the darkness I saw myself as creature driven and derided by vanity; and my eyes burned with anguish and anger” (Joyce 46). On the character level, this represents a terrible manifestation for the narrator as he grapples with the manifestation of materiality and the self as opposed to faith and God. On a larger level, it represents the fallen world of Dublin as a whole. The whole adventure serves to only disappoint the narrator and reveals the “fallen world” of Dublin society. Furthermore “the images suggest Ireland, as a country traditionally personified in Irish literature as a beautiful girl who is worshipped with mystical fervor “(Stone 388). This passage explains the images constantly replayed of the girl that the narrator worships. In a way she is a foil to Ireland, the narrator worships her, however once the veil behind her “mystical fervor”, is lifted the narrator is left with nothing but a frightening revelation as to the truth behind both his crush and on a larger scale—Ireland. In some ways “Araby” is “A Portrait of the artist as a young boy” because he experiences similar struggles, at an earlier stage, to Stephen. Both experience personal experiences that change their opinion on the world and alert them to the darker side of Dublin, and both experience religious epiphanies.
The narrator’s epiphany reveals another thematic issue brought up time and time again throughout Dubliner’s and that is the imagery of blindness within Dublin. Eyes play a huge role in many of the stories in Dubliner’s as the characters are often “blinded” and thus unable to see the significant moral issues within their society. Blindness carries religious connotations as well as Jesus was known for curing the plight of a blind man, the story goes: “One Sabbath day when Jesus Christ and His disciples were in Jerusalem, they saw a man who had been blind since birth. “He [Jesus Christ] spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay, “And said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam. … He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing.” (John 9:6–7.). Religion throughout Dubliner’s and A Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man are fully explored in both negative and positive connotations, much of the political issues tracing back to the rift between the catholic and protestant churches. Araby exhibits many examples of blindness imagery, “the street is blind this feature is given significant emphasis in the opening phrases of the story, this suggests that blindness plays a role thematically. It suggests as we later come to understand, that the boy also is figuratively blind, as he has reached a dead end in his life” (Stone 380). This theme plays alongside the premise of paralysis as it often disallows the character from seeing the socio-economic, political, or religious problems within society which are essentially paralyzing them.
In “Eveline”, Blindness plays a roll thematically as well; the narrator states “Her eyes gave him no sign of love or farewell or recognition” (Joyce 51). Although it is plain to the reader that Eveline could potentially seek a better life outside of Dublin, she is unable to perceive this fact. As a result, she is ultimately paralyzed and fails to escape her dismal life style. This is similar to An Encounter, where it is apparent to the reader young protagonist is in a poor situation with a dangerous and perverse old man, however at first the narrator is blind to the man’s wayward intentions. By the time he realizes this he is unable to make an escape as he is paralyzed with fear. Paralysis is another important thematic issue within Dubliners.
Paralysis plays a role in another Dubliners story “The Dead”, the main protagonist Gabriel is blind to his wife’s thoughts and mistakes her signals for engaging in an intimate encounter. However, it is revealed to Gabriel that he has been blinded by his own misconceptions, and is sorely wrong about his wife’s thoughts and intentions. This leads to Gabriel’s epiphany in which he realizes that “he was conscience of, but could not apprehend their wayward flickering of existence. His own identity was fading out into a grey impalpable world; “(242). In summation “All of the epiphanies of the previous stories anticipate Gabriel’s “vision” of his own ludicrousness prompted by his relationship to Gretta and Michael Furey” (Bowen 108). In A Portrait of an Artist of a Young Man, Stephen recognizes the blindness and paralysis rampant throughout Dublin. As a result he must extricate himself from society in order to “envision” the city from an outsider prospective, and shed the “paralysis” of Dublin in order to become an artist. He also must shed his religious piety in search for a new, higher understanding of the divine as an artist. This is relative to Joyce’s real life as he had to leave Dublin in order to procure his works and thus reveal the divine within the ordinary of society.
In An Encounter, a coming of age story, all of the blindness and paralysis that Joyce believed to plague Dublin is exhibited. The epiphany that the narrator experiences is a result of an outing in the city of Dublin, which the narrator expects to be an exciting adventure. It instead turns out to be a horrifying glimpse of the city, which is far from the narrator’s fantasy. Within the first moments of the adventure the boy’s desire for escape is exhibited “When we landed we watched the discharging of the graceful three-master which we had observed from the quay” (Joyce 33). The boys continue to watch the vessel for a long period of time, however, the only adventure they are able to pursue is within Dublin—the ships are unattainable to them, such as they were to Eveline. The social and religious problems are made apparent immediately within the story. When the boys are faced with a poorer location of Dublin, they encounter a group of rag tag, boys and girls. The children accost them yelling, “Swaddlers! Swaddlers!” The narrator explains, “Thinking that we were Protestants because Mahony, who was dark-complexioned, wore the silver badge of a cricket club on his cap.”(Joyce 32). This situation presents the rift between rich and poor as well as protestant and catholic. The boys with money torment the less fortunate girls, chasing them. The poor also are guilty of discrimination against the main protagonist, as they turn against him and his friend as a result of the mistaken notion that they are Protestants. This portrays the prejudice on both side of the spectrum and highlights the socio-economic rifts in Dublin society, which serves to paralyze and divide the city. The story takes an even more sinister turn that highlights the boy’s blindness and paralysis. The boys come upon an old man who exhibits sexually charged fantasies of “whipping” (35) the young boys. His treacherous nature is out of the young narrator’s frame of reference at first; however the reader can ascertain that the boys are in imminent danger. The boys never do complete their journey, but it is clear that the adventure that they had imagined—carefree and wild, transformed into something much darker. The boys dream of a care free escape, however there attempt at temporary escape only puts them in a dangerous situation, and highlights the socio-economic problems present in Dublin at the time. Thus Joyce is able to twist a seemingly ordinary situation into one that reveals a deeper truth—the “divine” within the seemingly unimportant.
“The Dead” concludes Dubliners and touches on theological, moral, and social issues within Dublin within the time period. The name of the main protagonist, Gabriel automatically brings to mind in the form of the angel Gabriel—patron saint of revelations. Joyce’s character, Gabriel undergoes an epiphany after he misinterprets his wife’s actions for desire. Gabriel’s “epiphany” reveals that he is basically one of the dead as a result of his lack of emotional fortitude and social anxiety. On the surface, as stated, Gabriel’s epiphany could appear to simply serve the purpose of dovetailing his life with that of the dead as the emotional quality of his life was unsatisfactory. However on another level “Dubliners ends as it began with darkness, paralysis, and death. Nonetheless, in Gabriel Conroy’s final epiphany Joyce seems to affirm the conditions for rebirth for all the Dubliners, conditions that recall the three great liturgical epiphanies celebrated on 6 January, the light of mature self-understanding, the baptismal death of ego that brings new life, and that charismatic love which is the essence of spiritual union”(Walzl 449). This presents an optimistic parable to Dubliners and brings Joyce’s intentions to light—to manifest the “Godly” in ordinary, everyday life. This revelation sheds a religious light on the entire Dubliner’s collection in his suggestion of rebirth for his characters and relates his epiphanies back to the great liturgical epiphanies. In A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man Stephen Dedalus, struggles with his religious identity. However, ultimately he uses his outsider status as an artist to portray the positive and negative connotations of religion in society. Although religion may not hold power over Joyce anymore, he still recognizes the need for the divine in society—for him, as an artist, this comes in the form of the ordinary. Although the conditions are undesirable in Dublin society, through the Dead, Joyce concludes Dubliners with a picture of rebirth, and hope for those stricken by blindness and paralysis in society.
Joyce’s epiphanies effectively portray the amalgamation of religion and moral realizations to both reveal the ills within society and most importantly—the Godly in the ordinary. His characters within Dubliner’s all experience some form of spiritual awakening which either alerts them of their paralysis within society or reveals a hidden truth of life within society to the reader. Stephen Dedalus in Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man delves deeper into the religious connotations of Dublin society, and only by removing himself from Ireland is Stephen able to become “the artist” he aspires to be. In The Dead Joyce concludes Dubliners with the rebirth of Gabriel this represent that although his characters have fallen, there hope that they have the power to transcend there moral paralysis in order to mend society. Through Dubliners, Joyce explores his own moral and religious values whilst showcasing the paralysis and blindness within Dublin. He uses epiphanies to explore the disillusionment in the Dublin community and also as a commentary on religion. Joyce’s overarching opinion being that although Catholicism may not play a large role in his “Modern” society, the divine still had an important role to play—in the lives of the everyday, the ordinary.
Dubliners by James Joyce: Thematic Examination of Paralysis in Eveline and Clay
Themes of Paralysis in “Eveline” and “Clay” from Dubliners by James Joyce
As a high school student who has compulsory schooling and required classes there is sometimes a sense of being stuck that I have felt. This sense of being stuck is also known as paralysis. Its not just high school or the 21st century where the feeling of paralysis is present, James Joyce refers to this sense of hopelessness in his book Dubliners about primarily adults and children in the early 1900’s in Dublin, Ireland. The themes about paralysis that appear in James Joyce’s Dubliners can be identified in the story “Eveline” and the story “Clay”. These stories both focus on the way that women felt paralysis based on social status, the way that Dublin isolated its inhabitants, and the way that marriage was viewed as a way to escape. The paralysis theme is applicable to people in their daily lives who feel stuck in their current occupation or position.
In “Clay” and in “Eveline” there are female characters who are the primary focus of the story. Both of these characters feel like they have to depend on men. In “Clay” Maria feels that she is dependent on Joe who is her son figure. He invites her to come live with him because he feels like he can provide for her better than the laundry that she lives at. In this particular situation its likely true that he life would be improved by moving in with Joe. In “Eveline” the main female character feels that she is dependent on her father and tries to get married. She blames her father figure for a lot of the bad things in her life. These attitudes are representative of the attitude towards women in Dublin. These women have in common that they cannot provide for themselves and that they believe they need a strong male figure in their lives. The difference is that Maria would like a husband figure but has prospects for a son like figure and Eveline has a father figure who she wants to avoid and a prospect for a husband. The situations are different for both of these women but they both have the same mindset about how women are less than men.
Another reason that both of these women feel paralyzed is because they live in Dublin. More than other cities Dublin had an air of being trapped. People from Dublin longed to live on the continent or were advocates of Irish nationalism. Additionally Dublin was not a very wealthy community. This lack of resources is one reason that people could not leave. It physically took a lot of money to move from Dublin. The Irish nationalism aspect comes in to play when you think about Eveline deciding if she should leave her homeland, and the only father she’s ever known for traveling the world. This is just additional proof that for even those who want to leave they still have a sense of tradition to Dublin. Dublin’s physically geography also made it difficult to leave. It is a part of Great Britain and is surrounded by water on one side. This didn’t make it easy to pursue a career or education in France or Germany.
In both “Eveline” and “Clay” the main characters aspire to be married. Eveline has the chance to get married but she instead chooses to stay with her father and not leave to travel. The fact that she wants to get married though represents that she feels like she has no other options. For Maria it’s a bit different. She sees marriage as a goal for life that she has failed on. She does not think that she will be able to get married. Marriage is a goal that she has held her entire life an by the end of the story she ahs come to the realization that it will never happen for her. The way that marriage is viewed among these women is a huge example of paralysis. No woman would be expected to get married in order to live.
Light as Evil, Dark as Good in “Araby”
Despite the often automatic preconception in literature that darkness and negativity are inextricably linked, darkness is first a protective and natural force of childhood on North Richmond Street. The narrator first mentions darkness when describing the sunset, naming the children’s time of play as beginning in dusk. While the darkness flows into the street, “the space of sky above…was the colour of ever-changing violet,” and the streetlamps ineffectively endeavor to bring light back by casting “their feeble lanterns” (Joyce, 1). This powerfully romantic image emerges as the first signal that Joyce’s contrast between light and darkness will not be a traditional, bland one. And describing the sky at sunset as “ever-changing” establishes that the coming darkness cannot be responsible for or indicative of the stuck and paralyzed Dublin that Joyce repeatedly illustrates in both Araby and Dubliners. Instead, light appears as potentially negative, intruding into the darkness, attempting to destroy even the beautiful sunset. The children then roughhouse in this darkness, “[running] the gauntlet of the rough tribes” (1). Joyce uses several details defined by darkness to describe their play, which lend a mysterious and magical air to the night. The children run around in “dark muddy lanes” and “dark dripping gardens” and can hear a stable boy “[shake] music from [a] buckled harness” in the stables, all of which are beautifully wild images. Joyce does not pretend that such play could be perfectly sweet, highlighting strange odours and ashpits, but the scene appears childish and wild and innocent, free of any misery or suffering.
In sharp contrast, light comes to represent corruptive effect of Dublin’s society on its children. While the children delight in their night games, they escape from the harshness of the world, avoiding adults and “[hiding] in the shadow” (1). When Mangan’s sister steps out to call the children inside, they only agree when she “remain[s]” outside the door for a while and then they do so “resignedly”, torn from their comforting shadows into the cruel adult world of Dublin (1). Mangan himself “[teases] her,” but even he has no choice but to go into the light (1), emphasizing that all children are eventually forced into the adult world. And it is only once in this light that the boy first describes his attraction to Mangan’s sister, underscoring that darkness, or anything it might represent, is not the cause of what he later describes as “vanity” (5). He says that “her figure [was] defined by the light from the half-opened door”, reducing her to a representative of the light and virtually nothing else (2). The boy’s only descriptions of her are aesthetic, detailing “the soft rope of her hair” and “dress sw[inging]” (2), which only increases the importance of her figure as defined by light. In his only conversation with Mangan’s sister, the boy focuses primarily on “the light…the lamp opposite our door [catching] the white curve of her neck, [lighting] up her hair…and hand” (2). Only in the light does the boy feels any attraction towards Mangan’s sister, an attraction purely superficial and without basis in anything meaningful. All signs indicate that light, despite any preconceptions to the contrary, is a force that children would rather avoid and should not be one in which they spend time.
Joyce uses the motifs of light and darkness to stress the repressive and harmful Dublin society and the comforting freedom of childhood, respectively. After the boy is yanked into the light of the adult world, he acts in a manner unhealthy for a boy of his age. When he aids his aunt in the marketplace, the boy describes a scene best described as vulgar and one typical to Dublin society. Tellingly, Joyce describes the marketplace as “flaring”, an indication that this perverse scene is another part of the cruel Dublin society represented by the light (2). The boy only can escape from this horror when he returns to the safety of the dark. On a “dark rainy evening”, the boy kneels in the back room and feels “thankful that [he] could see so little” (2). But through a “broken [window] pane” that lead to the outside world, where “some distant lamp or lighted window gleamed”, even the rain serves to bother the boy (2). He describes the seemingly innocuous raindrops as “[impinging]…incessant needles…playing in the sodden beds”, using both violent and sexual imagery (2). The boy later states that the “gloomy rooms liberated me and I went from room to room singing” while waiting for his uncle to return home , indicating that darkness not only protects but actually saves him (3). But the moment he looks outside at Mangan’s sister’s house, he remembers the image of her “curved neck” bathed in light and “may have stood there for an hour” (3). Even the memory of light, this hint at Dublin’s cruel society, figuratively and literally paralyzes the boy in place.
Given this understanding of light and dark’s meaning in Araby, it becomes clearer that the story, in keeping with the rest of Dubliners, is more of an exposure of the harmful effects of Dublin society than a sign of any hope of change. A common explanation of Joyce’s use of light and dark in Araby claims that the narrator finds himself stuck in the horrible gloominess of North Richmond Street, develops a crush on Mangan’s glowing sister, and ultimately realizes, in the face of the darkened and bleak bazaar, that he was “a creature driven and derided by vanity,” foolishly focused on the immaterial and unimportant (5). But this theory, no matter how simple, ignores Araby’s role in the Dubliners collection both chronologically and thematically. Joyce ordered his stories to follow the progression through “childhood, adolescence, maturity, and public life”, and as Araby is only the third piece in the collection, it seems likely that Araby belongs to the classification of childhood. A simplistic interpretation of the light and dark motifs would have no choice but to posit that a young boy of maybe twelve is truly is nothing more than a creature.
Throughout all of Dubliners, Joyce carefully uses the last line of his stories to either stress an earlier theme or to highlight an entirely new point. But if the last line is a true epiphany, then Joyce gives great hope for the future because the boy understands the error of his ways and will presumably change himself, better himself. This stands in stark contrast to the theme of a paralytic Dublin that Joyce consistently portrays. Joyce would certainly not write so sloppily as to unintentionally offer major counterexamples to what he considered the “offal” of Dublin. Rather, the boy’s epiphany was a false one, an ironic realization. The boy believes that his vanity was the problem when Joyce really means to demonstrate that any society which would make a child consider himself a creature is repressive and harmful. Once again, the reader sees that Dublin’s paralyzed society as a whole is to blame, not just a few individuals. Without the motifs of light and darkness, this fullest comprehension of Araby might be very difficult to glean.
Dublin Through the Little Boy’s Eyes in “Araby”
In James Joyce’s “Araby”, readers are taken on a young boy’s quest of discovery. The beginning of the short story paints a picture of Dublin, a place described as rather dark and lonely. This is a ‘coming of age’ tale, peering into the mind of a young boy teetering on the edge of boyhood and adulthood. The main theme of this story shows readers the struggles of a young boy on a journey of discovery of reality versus fantasy, as well as darkness versus light. The story, being mostly pessimistic or indifferent, shows a shift from darkness to light as Mangan’s sister enters and exits the picture. This is a journey of a young boy seeking light, regarding its form, in an otherwise dark existence.
From early on in the story, we see Dublin as a dark and somewhat isolated place. The first line reads, “NORTH RICHMOND STREET, being blind, was a quiet street except at the hour when the Christian Brothers’ School set the boys free” (Paragraph 1). The narrator goes on to say, “When short days of winter came dusk fell before we had well eaten our dinners. When we met in the streets the houses had grown sombre … the lamps of the street lifted their feeble lanterns” (Paragraph 3). A clear picture of what Dublin looked and felt like to the boy is portrayed throughout the story. The darkness and isolation he experiences lays the foundation for his yearning for excitement and adventure, which gets lost in what is reality and fantasy. The boy’s infatuation with Mangan’s sister pulls him even further into this fantasy. When describing how he would watch her, he says “She was waiting for us, her figure defined by the light from the half-opened door” (Paragraph 3). The interactions with Mangan’s sister, whether direct or indirect, begin the boy’s yearning for light in his dark world.
There are many figures of speech present in “Araby”. Alliteration can be seen with the text “… to the back doors of the dark dripping gardens” (Paragraph 3). This grabs the attention of the reader to focus on the dark images being described. Another example of alliteration is shown in “… a big hall girdled at half its height by a gallery” (Paragraph 17). When reading this line, the alliteration stops readers for just a moment to take in the description of the bazaar. As the narrator describes the dark stables the boys encounter, a metaphor is used as the coachman says he “shook music from the buckled harness” (Paragraph 3) of the horses. While describing his confused adoration of Mangan’s sister, he uses a simile when he says “but my body was like a harp and her words and gestures were like fingers running upon the wires” (Paragraph 6). Personification is seen in “All my senses seemed to desire to veil themselves” (Paragraph 6). Last, a hyperbole is used with the text, “After an intolerable delay the train moved out of the station slowly. It crept onward …” (Paragraph 16). Because of the boy’s strong desire and rush to get to Araby and the impatience he was experiencing, he felt as though the train was creeping along when, in reality, we know it wasn’t.
Keeping a rather solemn and dark tone throughout the story, the narrator deviates from this only when Mangan’s sister is introduced. As long as the narrator is focused on her, the mood stays optimistic and bright. She becomes his emotional escape from his dull existence; his journey to Araby becomes his physical escape. Once he arrives at Araby, he is greeted with disappointment and the mood of the story becomes once again dark. As the bazaar is coming to an end, so is his excitement for something different than Dublin, as well as his infatuation of Mangan’s sister. Irony is present when the narrator talks about the lights going out as the bazaar is closing. As the lights turn off, the figurative light in his head turns on. For the first time since his infatuation with Mangan’s sister, he is starting to see things clearly. He recognizes the unrequited obsession he has with her just and the fact that it took him all the way to Araby in an attempt to impress her. The first person point-of-view is interesting in that it goes back and forth between that of a young boy and that of a man looking back on a memory. A young boy wouldn’t have the ability to put into words, “Gazing up into the darkness I saw myself as a creature driven and derided by vanity; and my eyes burned with anguish and anger” (Paragraph 21). This portrays a much older, wiser version of the boy looking back on such a significant time in a young boy’s life.
The boy’s journey toward Araby and love represent his journey from boyhood to adulthood, and all the confusions and frustrations that entails. He gets lost along the way and is seemingly unable to distinguish fantasy from reality. In the last sentence of the story, the boy experiences an epiphany. He realizes that he has been foolish to pursue a girl he knew very little about and to think that he could buy her love with a gift from the bazaar. In being driven by vanity, as he says in the last line, his journey gave him more than he could’ve imagined: a taste of reality. He also experiences disappointment in getting to Araby and realizing it is not the exotic place he had in his dreams. He cannot merely escape Dublin or his life, for that matter. He must learn to accept where he lives and who he is as a growing adolescent boy. As readers, we see the narrator’s disillusionment of his quest as he takes in what Araby has to offer and realizes what it symbolizes: that just as North Richmond Street is a blind end, or dead end, so is Dublin.
Joyce, James. “Araby”. Dubliners. 1914. Project Gutenberg. 2012. Web. 26 January 2014.
Jimmy Doyle in “After the Race” by James Joyce
Just one of the many short stories compiled in James Joyce’s Dubliners, “After the Race” is an effective portrayal of the shame and misfortune that result from Jimmy Doyle’s efforts to become accepted by a wealthy group of men. His constant desire to present himself as an aristocrat, one who is consistently in the company of elitist individuals, undermines his ability to reason and make sound judgments. This weakness is exemplified principally by his reckless gambling and drunken speech. Jimmy’s obsession with advancing his social status leads to his demise as he ultimately finds himself in a state of desolation and poverty. The infidelity of Jimmy’s so-called friends further accentuates the malevolence of greed as the Frenchmen seem to accept Jimmy simply because of his investment in the motor establishment.
The success of Jimmy’s father promotes Jimmy’s desire to advance his own social status as much as it highlights Jimmy’s inherent naivety. Sharing his father’s principles, Jimmy comes to believe that being in the company of affluent Frenchmen will be quite advantageous and, to a certain degree, stimulating. Although the men are simply “acquaintances” (43) of Jimmy, he seems to find “great pleasure in the society of one who had seen so much of the world and was reputed to own some of the biggest hotels in France” (43). Jimmy’s criteria for choosing companions is strictly based on socioeconomic position, effectively alluding to his superficial character. Furthermore, Jimmy does not focus his energies on significant matters such as education as he “did not study very earnestly and took to bad courses” (43) but rather concentrates on presenting a seemingly noble image to the general public. Jimmy’s concerns seem to be chiefly centered on whom he is seen with in public, further elucidating his insecurities and self-doubt.
The Frenchmen do not display a genuine liking towards Jimmy but rather a strong sense of apathy towards him. Jimmy is “too excited to be genuinely happy” riding in the blue car as he unsurprisingly feels somewhat unwelcome. As an uninvited guest, Jimmy rides in the blue car and often has “to strain forward to catch the quick phrase” (44) in order to hear the “light words” (44) of the Frenchmen. Jimmy’s membership in the exclusive group is actually disingenuous, and the men simply tolerate Jimmy because he made a significant investment in Segouin’s motor establishment. Furthermore, Jimmy’s choice to deliver a speech, though well-received by his companions, emphasizes his foolishness and disillusionment. Jimmy “must have [delivered] a good speech” (47-48), but he, in fact, cannot even recall the topic on which he spoke as he is so miserably drunk. Jimmy’s disgraceful condition further contributes to his portrayal as a foolish and drunk individual attempting to impress his ‘audience’ and gain approval.
Jimmy ultimately realizes the futility of his situation but simply ignores it. Having drunk a substantial amount, Jimmy is unable to sensibly engage in a game of cards. However, he refuses to let his condition stop him from gambling and eventually “knew that he would regret in the morning but at present he was glad of the rest” (48). Though Jimmy has lost a great sum of money, he attempts to cover up the situation and ignore it, essentially denying the inevitability of shame in his eternal quest for wealth and acceptance. The irony inherent in the situation, however, occurs when Jimmy loses all of his money. Hoping for a “dark stupor that would cover up his folly” (48), Jimmy finishes the game promptly at daybreak, allowing for no time to mourn and grieve over his heavy losses. Though Jimmy consistently finds himself in a state of hopelessness and despair, he continuously ignores the harsh reality of the innate regret and misfortune that result.
Jimmy’s father changes his political views with the sole interest of accumulating more wealth. To him and Jimmy alike, integrity can be sacrificed for wealth. Such is the case for Jimmy’s father who “had begun life as an advanced Nationalist” (43) but “had modified his views early” (43) in order to open shops in Dublin and make a fortune. Jimmy’s father also proves to sacrifice his Irish nationalism in securing police contracts supporting the British, displaying far greater concern for his own self-interests than the wellbeing of the state. This egoism is not confined strictly to Jimmy’s father but is also exhibited by Jimmy, thus portraying the materialism and superficiality exemplified by the Doyle family.
As unfortunate as Jimmy Doyle’s demise is, he must be criticized for his self-centered and naive character as his disillusionment of befriending wealthy people propels him into a state of shame and poverty. “After the Race” is an effective portrayal of the consequences of greed and excessive ambition.
Deconstructing the Old Style of Writing in “A Mother”
James Joyce’s A Mother is a short story based around the life of Mrs. Kearney, a strong-willed woman whose breach of convention results in the destruction of her acclaimed reputation. Joyce’s linguistic use of naturalism, modernism, and feminism, exemplifies the “paralysis” of Dublin’s rigid societal conventions. It further reiterates the gender divisions that existed. The abstract use of language offers the reader different interpretations of the story without disclosing Joyce’s intended meaning. However, it also adds a layer of complexity for readers when analyzing simple interactions between characters, or trying to understand the characters themselves. Despite this, it is clear that Joyce’s use of the above linguistic styles are effective in making makes the reader’s interpretation of the story, their own.
Joyce’s use of modernist techniques means that the language used is never absolute. He aims to deconstruct previous styles of writing, by manipulating the normal narrative structures of stories. This means that the reader is prevented from making an immediate judgment of Mrs. Kearney until after the story’s end. For example, Mrs. Kearney is described initially as a “Lady” – a title that evokes respect and good breeding. Through this title she is free from the restraints cast upon other women, and indulges in privileges like organizing the talent show. Yet, in gaining these privileges, it appears that Mrs. Kearney had to succumb to the patriarchal society of the time, by marrying. Joyce describes this action as “silenc[ing] them [society] by marrying”. The use of such language makes it difficult for the reader to ascertain whether Mrs. Kearney is repressed in her identity as a woman, or whether she has gained greater freedom in society through marriage.
In helping the reader reach a balanced judgment of Mrs. Kearney, Joyce provides the reader with various examples for each of the above roles. In some ways Mrs. Kearney has become trapped in her role as “A Mother” – she can no longer fulfill her dreams and must live vicariously through her daughter. In other ways, one could perhaps infer that she has been liberated, as she is able to take on a more active role in society whilst commanding the respect of the Committee (initially). This contrasts with the character Polly in The Boarding House, who is assigned one identity only – a mere sexual object – by her mother and Mr. Doran, because she is a woman. Unlike Mrs. Kearney, Polly does not have an option of “rights” and thus submits herself to societal conventions. However, Joyce shows Mrs. Kearney as obsessed with “asking for [her] rights,” such that her passive-aggressive behavior eventually leads to her downfall.
Indeed, her unbending nature and desire to win even small triumphs can be seen when she desperately orders Mr. Holohan “I’m not done with you yet”. However, her attempt to break free from the chains of female repression leads to her portrayal as someone without “decency”. This is similar to the story Clay, where the character, Maria, disregards reality in favor of appreciating the small (but meaningful) aspects of life. As such, what Joyce portrays, is a woman who is unaware of just how limited her rights are as a woman. Although Mrs Kearney demands rights because she is a “Lady”, she is ultimately trapped in the sexist social order existing in Dublin for centuries. It is this contradictory view of Mrs Kearney as both aggressive and vulnerable that makes it difficult for the reader to view her in one light.
Furthermore, Joyce’s naturalistic writing style prevents the reader from providing conventional responses to Mrs. Kearney’s character and situation. He adds a complexity to her character – she is neither good nor bad, nor feminine nor masculine; and yet she harbors traits familiar to all these concepts. What Joyce intends to do is create an authentic image of humans; they are complicated beings who can hold various identities at any one time. This means that all humans, like Mrs. Kearney, can exist in a state of paralysis. Moreover, the use of free indirect discourse allows the reader to explore various thoughts/feelings presented by the characters, and this is a cunning manipulation of normal narrative structures. It is through this that the reader is able to view Mrs. Kearney as both vulnerable and obstinate, as they are able to appreciate how her insecurities and zeal for power could possibly have arisen from her unfortunate situation of being a woman.
Further examples of Mrs. Kearney’s inherent contradictions are demonstrated when she admits that she would be treated better “if she had been a man”; this follows a perverse logic of feminism. Such a fight for independence is not truly independent, for Mrs. Kearney wishes to attain equality without raising a woman’s worth in society. To this end, the reader sees Mrs. Kearney assuming a more masculine role when ordering her husband, “Get a cab!” – this is a shocking power play for a woman in the nineteenth century. Moreover, Mrs. Kearney pressures her daughter Kathleen into fulfilling her own lost dreams. By doing so, she represses another female, just like the male-dominated Committee represses her. Certainly, Joyce makes this clear by only representing Kathleen’s voice in the story, once. Kathleen’s situation is similar to the stories Eveline and The Boarding House, where both Eveline and Polly try to break free from the fate of their mothers; ultimately they are overwhelmed by parental pressure. However, because of the stagnant societal conventions and Mrs. Kearney’s own quashed dreams, the reader is able to appreciate that her character’s power struggle primarily stems from her own disillusionment with society.
Ultimately, Mrs. Kearney’s character has been left for debate amongst Joyce’s readers, but one can infer that she essentially represents everything that she despises. She holds contradicting traits because she is a product of unfair treatment based on her gender. It is clear that Joyce’s use of different styles of language is deliberately and effectively ambiguous, so as to allow the reader to draw their own conclusions. The simplicity of his language and manipulation of narrative techniques by using free indirect discourse creates an observational and objective tone, so that the narrative does not restrict what is being conveyed to the reader. However, this naturalistic and modernist style contributes to a sense of ambiguity and passiveness, such that the reader is never fully confident of their judgments.
Sherill Grace, Rediscovering Mrs. Kearney: An Other Reading of A Mother Contradictions within Mrs. Kearney, P37-41, July 1988, Canada
Lukas G, Justin W, and Adam R, The Boarding House” and the Trappings of Expectations, 03/10/12, London
Maria Rodriguez Moran, Nationalism in James Joyce “Paralysis”, 1999-2000
James Joyce, Dubliners, A Mother, The Boarding House, Clay, Eveline, p146-148, p56-65, p95-103, p29-35, 03/02/2000 [Penguin Modern Classics], June 1914 [Original], London
Wandering Blindly: The Idea of “Araby”
Darkness and light are everywhere, and one cannot exist without the other. However, a combination of the two creates shadows in which a world can be altered into a form of dusk, twilight. It is in this shadowy light that a person may find themselves wandering blindly, much like the character in the short story of “Araby” written by James Joyce where a boy is, in a sense, blind throughout the story until he sees truth. In his short story, “Araby,” Joyce uses a combination of diction, imagery, and light/darkness to create the motif of blindness that conveys the narrator’s experience and journey toward enlightenment.
To begin, the diction in Joyce’s “Araby” brings forth a very present idea of blindness. He begins with “North Richmond Street, being blind” as an unusual description of a street, and he goes on to say “An uninhabited house of two storeys stood at the blind end” (Joyce 1223). Immediately an idea of being blind is established, and though it is curious why a street is being described as blind, it can be deduced that perhaps the street (or more the inhabitants of it) are blind to the outside world as well. As for the house standing at the blind end, it is detached from the rest of the neighborhood and blind to the neighbors. “The other houses, conscious of the decent lives within them, gazed at one another with brown imperturbable faces” (1223). To be conscious, one must have sight in some sort of way and be able to perceive some of the world around. These houses are also aware of their inhabitants and gaze at one another indicating that they are not blind in contrast to their detached, blind neighbor. However, these other houses are described as “brown,” which is a muddy, blind color. These first few moments in “Araby” immediately establish the concept of blindness that remains prevalent throughout the rest of the story.
The imagery in Joyce’s “Araby” is a fantastic combination of light and darkness that creates a dim and shadowy environment which also contributes to the concept of blindness. On page 1224, the narrator describes the state of appearance of the neighborhood “when the short days of winter came” and “when dusk fell” earlier in the day. Dusk is a shadowy time of day, a confusing in-between of light and darkness that can be disorienting if not sometimes blinding, and winter is a dark season where daylight lacks primary presence. It is also mentioned on page 1224 that the sky was “the colour of ever-changing violet,” adding to the imagery of the setting by creating a world of half-light and making it perhaps difficult to see, resulting in a contribution to blindness. Along with the sky and season, there are also “dark muddy lanes,” “dark dripping gardens,” and even “dark odorous stables” (1224). It is clear that darkness is dominant in the world of the narrator from these descriptions, and a world of darkness would yield a difficulty to see. This contributes to the concept of blindness as well because an inability to see is an attribute of blindness. Also, the narrator expressed that he “hid in the shadow” when his uncle came home and also watched Mangan’s sister from a shadow as well (1224). Not only is the setting and environment a dark, shadowy color of blindness, but the narrator also seems to embrace this shadowy world as well to the extent that he hides in it. Instead of seeking out the light, the narrator recedes into the shadows where it is difficult to see, causing him to be blind to reality and also to himself. The dim imagery and the darkness of the setting undoubtedly contribute to the idea that it may be difficult to “see,” thus adding to the motif of blindness.
The thoughts and feelings that are expressed by the narrator also contribute to the concept of blindness in the story. On page 1225 the narrator freely admits “I thought little of the future.” When a person is either blind or in darkness, it is difficult to see very far ahead of himself, especially into the future. The narrator could be so blind to the extent that he literally is not capable of seeing anything that might lay before him because of the vast darkness that shrouds him and because of his blindness. Even on a “dark rainy evening,” the narrator says “I was thankful I could see so little” (1225). This is rather striking in the fact that not only is the narrator blind in his ignorance and desire, but he is content and even thankful that he is blind to reality. Like previously mentioned, the narrator almost deliberately chooses to hide in the shadows and in a blinding darkness, yet he is blind about what this does to him. The narrator also admits “I could not call my wandering thoughts together” (1225). Perhaps the reason the narrator cannot control his wandering thoughts is because he may be blind in the shadows and darkness he chooses to hide in, and in this blindness, the narrator wanders in a confused disorientation. These thoughts that are expressed by the narrator indicate that he is somewhat lost or even blind to the world around him and is unable to find his way – he remains in the shadows, blind.
A contributor to the concept of blindness is Mangan’s unnamed sister. Her being unnamed alone fuels the idea that the narrator is blind to his childish desire for her. In fact, the narrator’s name is undisclosed as well which perhaps furthers the idea that the narrator is blind to even his own self, behaviors, and his own blindness. Not only that, but this is blinding to even the reader because these characters’ identities are hidden behind a curtain of darkness. Mangan’s sister is only scarcely described as a “brown figure” on page 1224, and again on page 1226 when the narrator stares at the “dark house where she lived” and sees nothing but the “brown-clad figure cast by his imagination.” Brown is, again, a murky and blind color that makes the girl seem mysterious, and the narrator is enchanted by this mystery to possibly the point of a dazed disorientation. In this disorientation it is difficult to see truth and reality, so through Mangan’s mysterious and unnamed sister, it is revealed that the narrator is blind in his desire for her.
At the end of the story, the narrator is left in the dark in a literal blindness that forces him to finally “see” himself and reality for what they really are. “Gazing up into the darkness I saw myself as a creature driven and derided by vanity; and my eyes burned with anguish and anger” (1227). In his failed attempt to attain a trinket at the bazaar to “win” the love of Mangan’s sister, the narrator is awakened from his disoriented daze, his blindness. The darkness blinds the narrator in a fresh way causing his eyes to burn, and it is in this blackness – this new sort of blindness – that he is finally able to reflect upon himself and reach an awareness of reality. This enlightenment allows him to see how blind he truly was regarding his behavior and desperate desires, and in shame his eyes burn with this realization of the reality of his shadowy world.
Throughout the plot as a whole, the narrator seems to wander further and further into a shadowy blindness in a futile attempt to win the heart of Mangan’s sister. He is so driven in his blindness that it begins to appear to be obsessive in nature, but the author is unaware of this at the time because he is so driven by his desires, and he is so blind to reality in his youth. However, through this journey of wandering in a dazed blindness in a darkened world of desire, the narrator finally achieves enlightenment when he is truly left in the darkness of the Araby bazaar. In this darkness, he realizes how futile and essentially pathetic his attempt was to impress Mangan’s sister, and he sees himself and reality as it truly is. In the continuation of the motif of blindness throughout the story, the author has ingeniously constructed the journey of a boy who, once figuratively blind, is enlightened when he finally realizes and sees the truth.
Illusion and Reality in “Araby” by James Joyce
Irving Howe, a literary and social critic, once noted that “the knowledge that makes us cherish innocence makes innocence unattainable”(Lifehack Quotes). Often depicted in the transition from childhood to adulthood, this loss of innocence is sorrowful yet eminent. A functioning society requires that individuals at some point transition from a world of illusion to a world of reality; a transition that’s catalyst is a loss of innocence. James Joyce, an Irish novelist and poet, highlights this loss of innocence in his short story, “Araby.” In his work, Joyce pits the innocent, childlike nature of his narrator against the strident realities of the world, forcing the narrator to reconcile his perception of reality. By questioning and inverting the practicality of romance and faith, Joyce expedites his narrator’s loss of innocence. Furthermore, Joyce suggests that optimistic ideals are limited to the world of illusion, thwarted in the real world by the selfish, materialistic, and corrupt nature of society.
Through his incorporation of autobiography in “Araby,” Joyce conveys the universal nature of the loss of innocence. For example, both the narrator and Joyce grew up on North Richmond Street and attended the Christian Brother’s School. Furthermore, Joyce’s critic, Harry Stone, suggested that historical documents verify the Araby bazaar came to Dublin at the same time Joyce’s family was living on North Richmond Street (346). However, Joyce also made strategic and purposeful autobiographical alterations. Literary critic J.S. Atherton suggested that Joyce’s father is actually portrayed as the uncle in “Araby” in order to make the narrator appear “lonely so as to stand out in contrast to his surroundings” (41). Although there are “grounds for considering that “Araby” is based on an actual event in Joyce’s childhood” the incorporation of autobiographical elements give Joyce’s work merit (Atherton 40). By entwining autobiographical strands into his thread of literature, Joyce ultimately yields a supreme work rife with genuine relevance and universal applicability rather than condescension and patronization.
Joyce uses personification and connotatively charged diction in the first paragraph to contrasts the initially innocent nature of the narrator with the lifeless world around him. In the first line of the text, Joyce describes North Richmond Street as “being blind” and with a “blind end” (15). Although the phrase “blind end” denotes a dead end street, the connotation of the phrase exemplifies the nature of the narrator: blind, unaware, and unknowing of the problems that pervade the real world. The boy has an “idyllic ignorance of the wider world,” as described by journalist Chris Power, which solidifies his initial state of innocence. Furthermore, Joyce notes that at the end of the school day the “school set(s) the boys free”, insinuating that the children are imprisoned by their education (15). This imprisonment is to an extent responsible for holding the boys captive in a bubble of innocence; it prohibits them to explore other, possibly dangerous or enlightening realms of the world. Joyce then contrasts the innocent nature of the narrator with the apparently lifeless state of the rest of the world which has lost its innocence. The houses, for example, are described as “uninhabited,” “detached,” “brown,” and “imperturbable,” adjectives which invoke a mood of hopelessness and despair (Joyce 15). By contrasting the innocent nature of the narrator with the corrupt nature of his world, Joyce suggests that the innocent narrator is oppressed by the outside world. In the end, Joyce reveals that the chasm between the narrator and world is too great to endure; ultimately the gap, Joyce foreshadows, will be mended through the narrators conformity, achieved through his loss of innocence.
By analyzing the practicality and possibility for romance in the real world, Joyce catalyzes the loss of innocence in the narrator. Joyce examines the role of romance through his depiction of the narrators relationship with Mangan’s sister. In the beginning, the narrator appears to have nothing more than an innocent crush on an older girl. While the narrator finds himself with “her brown figure always in my[his] eye,” he does not have the courage to speak to her as he always “quickened his pace” to pass her when they encountered (Joyce 16). This depiction, of a harmless, child-like crush, dramatically shifts as an undercurrent of sexual symbolism inhabited the later part of the text. The first instance of this transition, occurred on the evening when the narrator was alone in his home and entered the back room. In that moment, the narrator described that all his “senses seemed to desire to veil themselves” and he felt as though he was “about to slip from them”, while he “pressed the palms of his hands together” and murmured “O love! O Love!”(Joyce 16). As noted by literary critic Edward Brandabur, this scene is clearly one of “autoerotic displacement” and the fulfillment of the narrator’s sexual desire, which is more dominant than ever before (53). The shift of the narrator’s physical nature from one of boyhood to manhood, permeates the rest of text through “symbolic suggestion” such as the symbolically erotic objects for sale in the final scene at the bazaar (Brandabur 53). As a result of this transition, the reader is no longer able to view the intentions of the boy in his romantic quest as solely innocent. Instead, his actions must be considered at least in part to be a sexual conquest, thereby highlighting his loss of physical innocence.
While the narrator looses his physical innocence, he also experiences a loss of spiritual and emotional innocence. Via religious allusions and undertones, Joyce suggests even religion is corrupt and will fail as a cornerstone of strength for his narrator. Immediately, Joyce established a connection between religion and his narrator by stating that the narrator attended the “Christian Brother’s School” and resided in a home once occupied by a priest (15). However, these images are juxtaposed by their description, for example, with the clarification that priest had “died in the back drawing room” (Joyce 15). By aligning the spiritual with negative description, Joyce portrays his utter disgust for the “decay of the church,” also suggesting the eminent loss of the church, faith, and spirituality from within the boy (Atherton 44). This loss of spiritual innocence is foreshadowed early on, with Joyce’s inclusion of the narrator’s own garden of eden residing in his back yard: a “wild garden” containing a “central apple-tree” (15). On the day of the bazaar, which fell on the “night of Our Lord,” the narrator ignored his religious duties and instead engaged with the profane world (Joyce 18). This decision is what ultimately led to the “fall of the coins”, the fall of man, and the fall of the narrator from spiritual innocence (Joyce 19). By incorporating the religious construction of the garden of eden and original sin, Joyce was able to both symbolically depict his narrator’s loss of spiritual innocence while also describing his revulsion for the Church.
Although the narrator appears initially unaware of his own journey of revelation, Joyce uses vivid imagery and purposefully included details to convey the narrators original awareness of enlightenment. After receiving his duty of service to his lady – to bring her back a gift from the Araby bazaar – the narrator returns home “mounting the staircase” to watch his “companions playing in the street below” (Joyce 17). By including this vivid description of the narrator’s literal ascendance over and separation from his young friends, the narrator is no longer portrayed as a child, with the same child-like innocence of his playmates in the street. Furthermore, Joyce has the narrator go on to lean his “forehead against the cool glass” as he “looked over at the dark house where she lived” (18). This is one of the first moments of distinct revelation for the narrator who realized that in order to achieve his quest he “must escape the vivacious sounds and warmth of life” and instead inhabit a state “where passion freezes through the operation of intellect” (Brandabur 54). In this precisely described moment, the narrator reveals his new found understanding: in order to successfully achieve his romantic conquest he will have to forgo his previous state of innocent and passionate being embodied by his friends below, and instead be present in the real world. The narrator, at this point, is aware that he is neither who he was nor who he will be. Instead he is captivated in a realm of enlightenment where ignorance is dissolved and understanding gained.
The narrator’s epiphany at Araby finalizes his fall from innocence while also describing the inhibiting characteristics of the real world. The boy enters the bazaar to hear the “fall[ing] of the coins” in a darkening hall and “remembering with difficulty” why he had come (Joyce 19). The pairing of these phrases highlight the futility and meaninglessness of the boys fall from innocence; he has gone on a romantic quest only to arrive at a darkening, symbolic church to realize that neither romance nor faith have given him true meaning. He looks around the bazaar describing the overheard, flirtatious conversation between a saleswomen and two Englishmen. In that moment, the narrator appears to be second-class to the Englishmen, even though his journey has left him far more enlightened and wise than the other men; a disparity which exemplifies the unjust nature of the real world and his new “reality.” However, his final epiphany occurs after the narrator speaks to the dismissive saleswoman when, “gazing up into the darkness I saw myself as a creature driven and derided by vanity; and my eyes burned with anguish and anger”(Joyce 19). In this moment, the narrator is forced to look both into the literal darkness of the hall and the “sad darkness of self awareness” (Brandabur 56). The narrator is finally able to “glimpse reality unadorned” (Stone 362). He comes to understand that his new reality, grounded in the real world, is a place where “everyday religion…is based upon self deluding and mindless materialism” and where romance is simply a mode of self deception (Stone 356). However, the narrator’s mood regarding his revelation is two fold. This paradox of emotions is conveyed through Joyce’s construction of the closing sentence which is initially heavy, even burdening to voice with the alliteration of the words “darkness,” “driven,” and “derided” (Joyce 19). The later part of the closing sentence includes the alliteration of the words “anguish” and “anger,” which instead roll off the tongue, disseminating into a peaceful tonality. This precise and distinctive sentence structure mirrors the feeling of the narrator: dismal and depressed that “one portion of his lie, his innocent, self-deluding childhood, is now behind him” while also relieved in the sense that he has discarded his vail of ignorance and is now enlightened to the reality of the world (Stone 366). In the end, Joyce conveys life and the efforts of his narrator as pitiful and futile; for the real world is governed by corruption, valuing materialistic and shallow ideals rather than enlightenment and knowledge, therefore, leaving the narrator no better off than when he initially began his journey.
Society often stresses the importance of “growing up,” of assimilating and conforming to the expectations that govern one’s culture. Although this transition, from the world of innocence and illusion to the world of reality is essentially eminent, its not necessarily enviable or desirable. Instead, Joyce depicts the loss of innocence to be mournful through his narrator’s experience. The narrator’s initial zeal, passion and naivety towards life is obvious, appearing in stark contrast to the seemingly lifeless world around him. However, as the narrator begins his quest, Joyce catalyzes his loss of innocence, first physically and then spiritually, ultimately thrusting him into a state of unjust chaos — also known as the real world — where materialism and pessimism reign supreme. Joyce presents the world of illusion as white and the world of reality as black, with a small street in between: a one way street, connecting the world of illusion to the world of reality, whose toll requires the non-refundable payment of one’s innocence.
Atherton, J.S. “Araby.” James Joyce’s Dubliners: Critical Essays. Ed. Clive Hart. New York:
Viking, 1969. 39-47. Print.
Brandabur, Edward. A Scrupulous Meanness; a Study of Joyce’s Early Work. Urbana: U of Illinois, 1971. Print.
“Irving Howe at Lifehack Quotes.” Quote by Irving Howe. Lifehack Quotes, n.d. Web. 20
Oct. 2015. <http://quotes.lifehack.org/>
Joyce, James. “Araby.” Dubliners. New York: Dover Publications, 1991. 15-19. Print.
Power, Chris. “Darkness in Literature: James Joyce’s Araby.” The Guardian, 20 Dec. 2012. Web. 20 Oct. 2015. <http://www.theguardian.com/books/ booksblog/ 2012/dec/20/ darkness-literature-james-joyce-araby>.
Stone, Harry. “”Araby” and the Writings of James Joyce.” Dubliners: Text, Criticism, and Notes.
Ed. James Joyce, Robert E. Scholes, and A. Walton. Litz. New York: Penguin, 1976.
“Dubliners” and “Kew Gardens”: Modernism in Woolf’s and Joyce’s Works
‘[T]he modern period […] begins really with the late nineteenth [century], when the sense of the passing of a major phase of English history was already in the air.’ Indeed, when we discuss ‘modern’ in terms of literature this tends to be a reference to modernism, which was a reaction in writing to sudden and rapid changes occurring across Europe in the late 19th and early 20th century; change most concentrated in metropolitan cities. Many in the modern period felt these rapid changes in technology, industrialism and social mobility to be negative, seeing the city as desolate and isolating, as demonstrated in Hornes’ reference to ‘crook-backed chimney pots’ and ‘broken-windowed houses.’ Modernist writers like James Joyce and Virginia Woolf, whose work I will discuss in this essay, attempted to encapsulate these changes through their writing with a departure from traditional forms and linearity; experimenting with more fractured and disarrayed style to reflect the changing world. Where the previous generations of writers had used the city as ‘the backdrop against which these writers’ characters acted out their lives,’ the city for the modernists played a more foregrounded role. Modernists such as Joyce and Woolf represented metropolitan city life predominantly through its impact on their characters as well as vice versa, personifying the city in an attempt to conceptualize and understand it with familiar characteristics. Through this method, whilst metropolitan life was in some ways vibrant and promising, modernist writers predominantly expressed the feeling of instability and anonymity that the ‘new’ metropolitan life represented for them.
Bobby Seal asserts in the article Woolf at the Door that cities in the modern period became ‘[M]ore than accidental meeting places and crossing points. They were generative environments of the new arts, focal points of intellectual community,’ or in simpler terms, the new city held great promise. Throughout Joyce’s Dubliners, characters frequently hope have ambitions or an epiphany which is almost never fulfilled or realized. For example in Araby, the young boy waits all evening to attend the bazaar, and upon arriving finds that it is closing, whilst in Eveline, Eveline considers eloping with her lover but at the close of the story abandons her lover Frank at the docks. This provides a perfect metaphor to represent metropolitan life. The new modern city promises to be progressive and exciting in its advancements, but in reality the rapid growth in the cities often left people feeling a ‘disconnection, detachment, even alienation from all local and particular ties.’ The best example of this metaphor is exemplified in Joyce’s story A Little Cloud. Little Chandler at the opening of the story is imbued with anticipation for his meeting with Gallaher:
‘Little Chandler’s thoughts ever since lunchtime had been of his meeting with Gallaher, of Gallaher’s invitation and of the great city of London where Gallaher lived.’
In the antithesis between the adjective ‘little’ preceding Chandler’s name and the ‘great’ preceding ‘London,’ Joyce contrasts the city and the man, setting up the promise of London for Chandler, which he hopes will raise him out of his uninspiring and unfulfilled life. The repetition of ‘Gallaher’ here also establishes Gallaher as an emblem of the city and all the promise it holds, later highlighted by the further ‘contrast’ Chandler feels between him and Gallaher. He states that ‘if you wanted to succeed you had to go away. You could do nothing in Dublin,’ again seeing the metropolis of London as a kind of Promised Land of opportunity. However, Chandler in fact already lives in Dublin, the largest city in Ireland, and the reader quickly gets the feeling that London will be equally as unfulfilling and disappointing; a conclusion affirmed by Gallaher’s actual presence in the story, where Chandler brushes off his sense of disillusionment towards Gallaher and the vulgarity he notices in him as perhaps a ‘result of living in London.’ Whilst Chandler here willingly dismisses this, the reader picks up on the fact that if his vulgarity is associated with London, the city cannot possibly hold all the promise Chandler hopes. Similarly, Gallaher’s opening dialogue is somewhat fractured and erratic, ‘well, and how have you been pulling along since I saw you last? Dear God how old we’re getting,’ leaving no space for Chandler to respond and presenting the man as unstable and fickle. Despite, or perhaps because of Chandler’s faith in him, we are disappointed by Gallaher as readers. His hurried manner and erratic dialogue make him seem insincere, and we are left wondering whether Chandler’s ‘tears of remorse’ at the close of the story are for his imprisonment in Dublin or his disappointment in Gallaher, who for him represented the promise of the metropolitan London. This story therefore provides a perfect metaphor for Joyce to represent the city through Gallaher; a man who in theory is exciting and successful, but in reality is superficial and disappointing.
One of the most notable features of modernist writing is in its style, which often rejected Victorian values of chronology and traditional narrative in mimesis of the new rhythms of metropolitan life. In discussion of Virginia Woof’s work, Seal states in his article, ‘Woolf evolved a new approach to the use of rhythm in her writing too; the pace of life in a modern city was disorientating and intense.’ Woolf represents metropolitan life by trying to mimic its rhythms and pace through her style and structure. Examining Kew Gardens for instance, the reader passes through the minds of a number of different characters in quick succession, disabling them from really knowing the characters before their attention is diverted to something else. Whilst Woolf does provide some specifics about the characters, ‘rosy-cheeked,’ ‘nimble,’ ‘in the prime of youth,’ these qualities are all superficial and to the reader these people remain simply people. In Misperceiving Virginia Woolf, James Harker comments that ‘cinema is recreated in the image of the city,’ and indeed Woolf here creates a cinematic effect of walking down a city street, an experience during which one only observes snippets of other people’s lives without any prior information about them. It should perhaps be noted here that by representing metropolitan life this way, Woolf does not impose a sense of judgement on the reader about city life, firstly as she believed in the removal of the author from the text, and secondly because her structural choice and rhythm mediated through her characters, merely reflects the pace of metropolitan life; presented to the reader who in turn makes their own judgement.
Horne’s depiction of houses ‘staring’ at each other is a personification which is symbolic of the modern fear of constant surveillance, and indeed Joyce employs a similar image in Araby of houses that ‘gazed at one another.’ Technological and industrial advancement in the modern period allowed people to travel to places with more ease, enabled telephone communication, and brought masses of people into the cities. Such advancement is something the modernist writers of the period could not ignore, and whilst one might anticipate these changes to be received positively, these writers often presented metropolitan life as suffering because of them; increased population ironically inducing feelings of anonymity and hindering communication. This is again something represented through Woolf’s characters in Kew Gardens, all of whom share a lack of communication with one another. This seems best exemplified in the married couple’s exchange, in which the two seem on entirely different wavelengths:
‘For me, a square silver shoe buckle and a dragonfly-‘ ‘for me, a kiss.’
Not only here are their minds turned to different subjects, but the dash here indicates an interruption, the wife not even pausing to consider what her husband has said. If this is indeed a metaphor for the lack of communication in metropolitan life, we must pause to consider why this lack of communication is apparent. Whilst Woolf’s story is set in gardens rather than the city streets, Kew Gardens are in London and are cultivated by man and could therefore be seen as a metaphor for the city streets. For instance, her opening description of the flowers in the garden is incredibly vibrant and bursting with color:
‘[F]rom the red, blue, or yellow gloom of the throat emerged a straight bar, rough with gold dust and slightly clubbed at the end.’
The description of the flowers here borders on garish, with a multitude of colors and shapes presented to the reader in quick succession. The intense and overwhelming properties of the flowers in the garden can therefore be seen as Woolf’s representation of mass media which grew rapidly in her era in the sense that they provide a distraction in the story, ‘the ponderous woman looked through the pattern of falling words at the flowers,’ just as mass media did in the city. As Rechniewski puts it, ‘how is the writer to compete with the siren call of the mass media?’ This potential metaphor for the city is a representation of metropolitan life which opposes Hornes’ apocalyptic and desolate image of the city; by contrast, the flowers are symbolic of life and excitement. However, what lies behind this image is in the implication that the flowers are the distraction at the root of the lacking communication in the story, again accentuating Woolf’s use of character to mediate on metropolitan life.
Character is not just presented in humans, however. In trying to encapsulate the city, modernist writers often lent human qualities to buildings and vice versa, presenting the modern city as uniform and bleak. This returns us to Hornes’ depiction of the city, ‘broken-windowed houses grow crazed with staring at each other out of countenance, and crook-backed chimney-pots in cowls turn slowly round with a witch-like mutter,’ which shares an affinity with some of Joyce’s presentations of Dublin. In A Little Cloud, for instance, Chandler describes a row of houses as ‘stunted,’ saying ‘they seemed to him a band of tramps, huddled together along the river-banks.’ In this instance, the personification of the houses as ‘tramps’ indicates that they are unwanted, or a nuisance; a quality which expresses the animosity and disgust towards the new cities. Similarly, qualities of the city are reflected in human character, where for instance in A Painful case, Mr Duffy’s face is described as wearing ‘the brown tint of Dublin streets.’ Immediately, we are given the impression that the city has affected the man, and not in a positive way, with the color ‘brown’ being indicative of uniformity whilst also the color of the bricks of the houses in the story. This merging of man with city has the effect of depersonalizing the characters and emphasizing the anonymity of metropolitan life, whilst simultaneously the personification of the city creates the impression of being under constant surveillance. These seemingly conflicting presentations of metropolitan life work in harmony because one can always be watched by a crowd in the city yet remain without identity and anonymous.
The metropolitan city was widely seen by many as a negative thing; ‘the pace of life in a modern city [being] disorientating and intense.’ In an attempt to stabilize what seemed so unstable, it was the task of modernist writers like Joyce, T.S Eliot, and Virginia Woolf to invent new ways in writing to attempt to embody metropolitan life and the rapid change of the city around them. Whilst literary techniques like stream of consciousness and disruption of chronology were a key way in which these writers achieved this effect, the metropolitan city is most effectively represented through character, a familiar outlet to every reader. The true reaction towards the metropolitan city in the modernist period can therefore be read in the behavior and actions of the characters in the period’s literature.