The Theme of Paralyzation in James Joyce’s Dubliners

June 7, 2022 by Essay Writer

Dubliners, by James Joyce, is an assortment of short stories that all touch on the idea of maturity and coming of age. Joyce’s main idea for all the short stories that have been placed into the novel show a moment where the character has a life-changing and self-understanding experience. The four short stories, “Eveline,” “After the Race,” “Two Gallants,” and “The Boarding House” all share a common theme of paralysis. The theme of paralysis is shown through the character’s development throughout each story. Joyce uses this to show the change from juvenility to maturity in each different story.

One of the first short stories from James Joyce’s Dubliners is titled “Eveline”. This story is about a girl that is of the age nineteen. She lives with her father and is fearful of him. The character named Eveline meets a man named Frank, who was completing a job near her home. The two fell in love and he asks her to marry him as well as move to Buenos Ayres, where he had a home for the two of them. She was terrified of what people would think of her, and thought about how different people would react to her leaving the country with a man. The thought of leaving behind everything that she had ever known was horrifying. When Eveline was about to leave with him on a boat, she withdrew and refused to join him. Frank called for her and she felt like, ¨All the seas of the world tumbled about her heart. He was drawing her into them: he would drown her.¨ SHe believes that following Frank to a different country will be This displays the theme of paralysis because of the way that Eveline is restricted and unable to leave her home due to memories and her fear of change. Eveline referred to what would have been her new home as ¨a distant unknown country.¨ All of these factors point this story toward the idea of paralysis.

The story following ¨Eveline¨ is titled ¨After the Race¨. This story is launched by the image of cars flying past crowds. A race has just finished and and the placings of each of the cars have been revealed. The German-Belgian car places first while the French place second and third. The French were still very pleased by their placing in the race. One of the French cars held Jimmy Doyle and his fellow rich friends named Charles Ségouin, André Riviére, and Ségouin’s Canadian cousin. Jimmy’s father has a considerable amount of money do to his career. He depends on his father to provide for him. Jimmy uses his father’s money for gambling and to party. The text states that his father “had made his money many times over.” He is very immature and depends on everyone that provides for him. He tends to make reckless decisions and is very arrogant. Jimmy believes that he is inferior to most people because he has more money than they do. When Jimmy went to college he, “did not study very earnestly and took to bad courses”. This story reflects the theme of paralysis because Jimmy does not have much that will come of him in life and has not done much with himself so far. Thus, Jimmy’s character agrees with the idea of paralysis.

The story ¨Two Gallants¨ is surrounded around two characters of the names Lenehan and Corley. The two men are taking strolls down the streets of the town after spending most of the day drinking at a bar. Corley speaks to Lenehan about a girl that he has been seeing. He tells his friend that he has plans to meet the women later that night. The women spoils him with very good cigars and cigarettes that she takes from the wealthy man that she works for. The men come up with a plan and he decides that he will try to persuade her to take money from the man’s house. The men do not seem to care for the women at all. Corley was only worried about the things that she would get for him. The two men went to the corner in which she was supposed to meet Corley. Corley and Lenehan are relying on the maid to provide for them. This will not allow the two men to grow and provide for themselves. Therefore, Corley and Lenehan fit the theme of being paralysed because they are not focused on bettering themselves and purchasing the things that they want by themselves.

The final story is titled “The Boarding House”. This story is about how Mrs. Mooney opens a boarding house so that she can provide for herself and her children.Mrs. Mooney is very strict while running the boarding house and is known to the lodgers as “the Madam.” Her daughter Polly develops a relationship with one of the lodgers. The gentleman that she begins a relationship is named Mr. Doran. Her mother does not interfere with their relationship although, she is aware of it. She waits until the right time to speak to the two of them. Mr. Doran has to decide between marrying her or running away. He decides that he does not want to marry her because of her bad manners and unimpressive family. Polly threatens him with her life and he is still unsure of his decision. In this story Mr. Doran is offered promise by marriage or loss of his good reputation. Mr. Doran thought to himself, “All his long years of service gone for nothing! All his industry and diligence thrown away!” The way that this story helps to finalized the theme of paralysis is by allowing this man to make a huge decision about what to do with the rest of his life after being given two completely different options.

Given these points, the four stories chosen from the novel Dubliners by James Joyce, follow the theme of paralyzation. In “Eveline”, she is faced by the decision of leaving everything she has ever know and choosing to stay. “After the Race” is about men who are very arrogant and have everything handed to them by others. The story “Two Gallants” talks about two men that use a women to provide them with money and other items that them desire. Lastly, “The Boarding House” is about a man who has an affair and does not want to deal with the consequences of his actions. Anne Frank once said, “the final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands.” When maturing and coming of age, everything you do and work for will show in the end.


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