Paralysis and Entrapment

January 14, 2019 by Essay Writer

Even though money can’t buy happiness, the lack of money is usually the cause of sadness. Poverty is, in fact, a widespread problem that can sometimes restrict and even imprison a person to the point that struggling seems pointless. In Dubliners by James Joyce, the author reveals how money problems, family responsibilities and other social pressures can paralyze characters and prevent them from fulfilling their dreams. In fact, the harsh conditions they live in make them unable to escape, even if fleeing just means leaving the country, not marrying, writing poetry or getting drunk. The entrapment caused by paralysis is shown in “Eveline,” “The Boarding House,” “A Little Cloud” and “Counterparts.” Through symbolism and imagery, Joyce reveals the realistic meanness of life for the Dubliners.The stories in the Dubliners are ordered chronologically based on human life, moving from a childhood prospective to an adults’ awareness of life. Therefore, the protagonist in Eveline, being the 4th story, is somewhere between a child and an adult, who struggles with poverty and the difficulties of supporting her family. Throughout most of the story, this 19yr old girl sits at the window watching the avenue while reflecting on her life and her future. Her mother is dead and she now takes care of her unappreciative father and younger siblings alone. Eveline is burdened by the promise she gave her mother of keeping the family together as long as she could. Her mother’s last wish paralyzes Eveline from looking for a better life, thus she is entrapped by her family responsibilities. In fact, the window she looks out from symbolizes freedom and her house symbolizes imprisonment. Even though Eveline works hard outside and inside the house there always seems to be a money shortage. Thus, in a way, poverty also paralyzes Eveline into living a miserable life in Dublin.Escape for Eveline comes in the form of physically running away with her lover Frank. He is the only one that treats her like a person. Yet, as she wavers on the topic of escape, Eveline remembers her mother who lived a life “of commonplace sacrifices closing in final craziness.” Her mother is basically a symbol for all the women who are forced by family constraints to live a meaningless life and in the end gain nothing but madness. Realizing this truth increases her resolve to escape. Yet, when the time actually comes to let go of the life in Dublin, Eveline is physically paralyzed and is unable to move forward. She even feels a kind of numbness at the station, with the boat of freedom ready to leave. Hence, Eveline lacks the courage and the strength to make that leap that will free her of her oppressive future and even accuses her lover of trying to drown her. Uncertainty and fear of the unknown are also a form of paralysis. She rather suffers a certain miserable life, than live an uncertain hopeful future. At the end, she realizes that there is no hope for her.Though marriage in “Eveline” presents the possibility of escape, marriage in “The Boarding House” is exposed as a social convention and a trap. In this story, Mr. Doran, a respectable Christian man, is forced into a marriage because of social pressures, mainly fear of losing his job. He had been having an affair with a 19yr old girl, named Polly, while staying at her mother’s boarding house. Even though her mother, Mrs. Mooney, knew about this affair the whole time, she did not immediately intervene so that their relationship can get deeper till she could force Mr. Doran into marrying her daughter. Surprisingly, the least of her concerns was her daughters honor. Like all mothers, she merely wanted to see Polly get married. Yet, at that time marriage was difficult because men did not relish the idea of tying themselves down to a woman. Thus, Mrs. Mooney used trickery in order to achieve her goal. When the time comes to confront Mr. Doran, she manipulates him into proposing to her daughter using his concern for his job and fear of scandal.Though it is clear that Mr. Doran does not favor this marriage, his job, his reputation, and his Catholic guilt paralyze him from committing any action to try to stop it. When Mr. Doran is introduced in the story, he is found shaving, which is a symbol for cleansing or scrapping off the unwanted. Yet, it turns out that he is having great difficulty because it is not easy to cleanse himself from this sinful affair. Also, he works at a great Catholic Wine-merchants office and if his affair is made public, it would mean losing his job. Though, he may not be a very poor man, the process of making money definitely affects his decisions. Thus, the need for money also paralyzes him. The only way he could escape from this situation is by running away. Yet, Mr. Doran is unable to do that because of these social pressures and ends up becoming a trapped husband.In a similar way, marriage and family responsibilities also form a kind of imprisonment in “A Little Cloud”. Here, the protagonist, Little Chandler, is a journalist who hopes to publish poetry one day. Yet, his family’s needs, which are related to money, force him to stay in Dublin and remain in his steady money-supplying job. Thus, they paralyze him from fulfilling his dream and living his desired life. This paralysis and the inability to change is also shown in his physical appearance. As Chandler’s old time acquaintance Gallaher, who is a symbol of success, realizes after not seeing him for many years that he hasn’t changed an atom, which shows that Chandler is so oppressed he is unable to even grow and change physically. Furthermore, he still has never traveled, while Gallaher left Dublin a long time ago and became a successful journalist in Britain. Joyce juxtaposes the paralyzed Chandler and the successful Gallaher in order to show the great contrast between their lives and the extent of Chandler’s entrapment. Yet, the only reason for Gallaher’s success is that he escaped from Dublin. In contrast to the free Gallaher, many things restrain poor Chandler from gaining success. For one thing his wife is a spendthrift and it can be inferred that he has money problems, as he is still paying for their furniture. Once again, the need for money also entraps him.At the end, Little Chandler feels his imprisonment more clearly when he attempts to read poetry and is even deprived of that because of his child’s crying. Chandler finds escape by examining poetry. Yet once again, his fatherly responsibilities take away the only meaningful thing in his life. Like “Eveline,” he too realizes that there is no hope for him and he takes out his frustration on his baby. This is a form of epiphany where the character comes to a realization of an important truth, in this case that he is paralyzed and can never improve. Joyce uses epiphanies in the Dubliners to show how ordinary situations can reveal universal truths.Finally, in “Counterparts” poverty and the need for money paralyze Farrington and imprison him in a miserable job. Working as a scrivener in a legal office, Farrington is constantly abused by his tyrannical boss, Mr. Allyene. Besides the verbal humiliation, Mr. Alleyne also takes advantage of Farrington by imposing on him a large work load and a short amount of time for which it must be completed. Yet because Farrington needs the money and has no other options, he must endure this treatment and stays in a hateful job2E His paralysis gives him a sense of defeat and powerlessness. Even when Farrington is allowed a moment of triumph and in turn publicly disgraces his boss, this feeling of glory doesn’t last as he knows his job will now become more unpleasant. Thus, he is trapped in a dead end in which he can’t get out.Unlike the characters discussed before, Farrington finds escape by getting drunk. Thus, alcohol is a symbol of freedom because it makes him forget his miserable life for sometime. However, this form of escape also requires money and puts more pressure on Farrington. In fact, throughout most of the story, he is trying to acquire some money in order to get a good night of drinking. Yet, Farrington isn’t even allowed this temporary escape because the amount of alcohol he can afford isn’t sufficient enough to make him drunk. In the end, like Chandler, he also takes out his frustration on a person weaker than himself, which in this case is also his son. This shows the extent of his distress as a result of paralysis.The meaning of paralysis is the inability to move or feel as a result of a problem in the nerves. Each of the protagonists in “Eveline,” The Boarding House,” “A little Cloud” and “Counterparts” fit this description because they are unable to move from their miserable life. Their paralysis is brought about by poverty, social pressures, and their family which causes the characters to be imprisoned in a meaningless life. Each of the characters also has a different interpretation of escape. For Eveline escape was to flee from Dublin, for Mr. Doran it was to avoid a marriage, Little Chandler found escape through poetry, and Farrington found escape through alcohol. Yet in each case, their plan for escape fails and turns out to be a great disappointment. Through this collection of stories, Joyce shows that Dublin is, in fact, a prison and ultimately the only way any of them could escape is by leaving Dublin.

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