Formalistic Analysis Dubliners Essay, Research Paper
In James Joyce s Dubliners, we are introduced to a number of themes and symbols through a variety of short stories. One such theme that makes Dubliners a highly unified literary work is that of paralysis. This unity can be seen in many of the stories, but this paper will look specifically at “A Painful Case, “Eveline, “A Little Cloud and “The Sisters.” Through the images and emotions he uses in his characters, Joyce shows us that at least one main character, from each of these four short stories, experiences some sort of paralysis in their respective lives.
To begin, in “A Painful Case Mr. Duffy is paralyzed in a sense with the fear of actually being with someone who loves him because he feels that every soul must be lonely. He is so used to being lonely that when he meets Mrs. Sinico he doesn t realize how truly good she is for him. He is struck with a feeling of paralysis because he has been alone for so long that being with someone else doesn t feel right. Mr. Duffy is too cowardly into enter a committed relationship with a sensitive woman, and condemns her and himself to a life without love. He doesn t realize that being lonely is no way to live life because loneliness is all that he knows. He chooses to be alone for whatever reason, thus there are no outside pressures driving him to the feeling of paralysis. He, in essence, shouldn t feel any sort of paralysis because it is ignorance that dominates his life. One element that marks this story as different, however, is the fact that Mr. Duffy himself chooses to reject the given escape; he is not driven, like in Eveline, by uncontrollable pressures, but simply by a kind of prudish reserve.
In Eveline, we see a young girl struggle with the obligations that she has towards her family as well as her yearning to leave those obligations and escape. Eveline s mother, when on her deathbed, made Eveline promise to take care of her family and for many years that is exactly what she tried to do. The pressure of her obligations leaves Eveline constantly wanting to escape and, in Frank, she finds that escape is possible. Frank promises to take her away to Argentina and take care of her, but in the back of her mind she is always thinking of her promise and what she must do. When Eveline backs out of her marriage to Frank, at the last possible moment, she feels it is her “duty” to remain with her tyrannical father. She is essentially paralyzed with fear at the thought of escaping from her duties to her father and her family. In the end, Joyce uses the image of Eveline griping the railing, hard, and not letting go. This imagery shows that she is obviously paralyzed with fear because she grips the railing and not even Frank can get her to let go. When paralyzed with fear, Eveline decides that she would rather stay with a father who treats her like a slave then go with Frank who represents, to her, the unknown. She sees, in him, all that she wants to have in life, but succumbs to the paralysis. Her life will never amount to anything more than that of a slave and she will never see her life as being worthwhile or good. In most respects Eveline is like Chandler from A Little Cloud. This is true except Chandler viewed his life as good in the beginning and worthless in the end where as Eveline could have had a good life in the end, but chose the bad life she had in the beginning.
In A Little Cloud, we see a different sort of paralysis in Little Chandler. The type of paralysis that he experiences is one of feeling that his life is inadequate. After the meeting that he has with his old friend Gallaher, Little Chandler is filled with discontent and frustration at the thought that his old friend
made it” in London and Paris and that he rubs it in Little Chandlers face. When Chandler returns home he has a feeling of paralysis when he sees his wife and child. His previously comfortable home seems now to be shabby. He feels that his life isn t good enough because he compares it to Gallaher s life, but fails to take in to account how lonely Gallaher must be. Little Chandler, up to this point in his life, has been happy and thought of a his life as a good one, but the feeling of paralysis in terms of his life s inadequacy makes him forget how happy he was. His new perceptions cause him to neglect his weeping child and his wife s inevitable anger serves as a revelation to him. The image of him holding his baby and not trying to quiet or soothe her cries shows his paralysis because he can t hear her cries or can t grasp the concept that she is crying. He is too paralyzed with the thought that his life is inadequate and thus he neglects his child. His wife, in a sense, re-opens Chandlers eyes as to how good he has it with her anger because he realizes that he is being thoughtless and insensitive. After this revelation the feeling of inadequacy and paralysis subside and we can only assume that he resumes his life with a positive outlook. In Joyce s stories, A Little Cloud and The Sisters we see an indirect or unexplained feeling of paralysis through characters he creates.
In The Sisters, the paralyzing effect of the Catholic Church is shown graphically in where Father Flynn, the dead priest has, perhaps, been paralyzed for some time before his death. Maybe it is suggested because “the duties of the priesthood were too much for him. On the other hand, there can be many different interpretations to what the boy meant when he said, Every night as I gazed up the window I said softly to myself the word paralysis. By the boy saying this one can be lead to think that he, quite possibly, was afraid of the priest or that the thought of the priest still being alive paralyzed him due to some fear of the man. Unlike in the other stories in Dubliners, the meaning or, as a matter of fact, the paralysis itself is unclear in The Sisters. Joyce uses the image of the boy standing on the street under Father Flynn s window saying the word paralysis, but Joyce doesn t go into any detail as to who has the feeling of paralysis or who is literally paralyzed. Either way, someone feels paralyzed whether literally (Father Flynn) or figuratively (the boy).
Joyce weaves the theme of paralysis throughout most, if not all, of the short stories contained within Dubliners, which makes the work, as a whole, more unified. These are just four examples of stories in Dubliners, where paralysis or the feeling of being paralyzed for whatever reason plays a significant part in the story. Joyce uses the imagery of his characters to convey the concept that they feel paralyzed by jealousy, fear, obligations, or even being literally paralyzed. Whatever the case may be, paralysis is one of many key themes that makes Dubliners a more unified work of literature.