A collection of short stories published in 1907, Dubliners, by James Joyce,revolves around the everyday lives of ordinary citizens in Dublin, Ireland (Freidrich166). According to Joyce himself, his intention was to “write a chapter of themoral history of his country and he chose Dublin for the scene because thecity seemed to be the centre of paralysis” (Friedrich 166). True to hisgoal, each of the fifteen stories are tales of disappointment, darkness,captivity, frustration, and flaw. The book is divided into four sections:childhood, adolescence, maturity, and public life (Levin 159).
The structure ofthe book shows that gradually, citizens become trapped in Dublin society (Stone140). The stories portray Joyces feeling that Dublin is the epitome ofparalysis and all of the citizens are victims (Levin 159). Although each storyfrom Dubliners is a unique and separate depiction, they all have similaritieswith each other. In addition, because the first three stories The Sisters,An Encounter, and Araby parallel each other in many ways, they can be seen as aset in and of themselves.Order now
The purpose of this essay is to explore one particularsimilarity in order to prove that the childhood stories can be seen as specificsection of Dubliners. By examining the characters of Father Flynn in TheSisters, Father Butler in An Encounter, and Mangans sister in Araby, I willdemonstrate that the idea of being held captive by religion is felt by theprotagonist of each story. In this paper, I argue that because religion playedsuch a significant role in the lives of the middle class, it was something thatmany citizens felt was suffocating and from which it was impossible to get away. Each of the three childhood stories uses religion to keep the protagonistcaptive. In The Sisters, Father Flynn plays an important role in making thenarrator feel like a prisoner. Mr.
Cotters comment that “. . . a young ladshould run about and play with young lads of his own age. . .
” suggests thatthe narrator has spent a great deal of time with the priest. Even in death, theboy can not free himself from the presence of Father Flynn (Stone 169) as isillustrated in the following passage: “But the grey face still followed me. Itmurmured; and I understood that it desired to confess something. I felt my soulreceding into some pleasant and vicious region; and there again I found itwaiting for me”. The boy feels the need to get away from the priest, but thisproves to be impossible. When he ran away into his “pleasant and viciousregion”, the priest was still therehaunting him.
In fact, even before thenarrator is thoroughly convinced that the priest is dead, he is worried thatFather Flynn will haunt him (Stone 169): “In the dark of my room I imaginedthat I saw again the heavy grey face of the paralytic. I drew the blankets overmy head and tried to think of Christmas”. These passages convey the idea thatthe boy was afraid of the priest and felt somewhat freed by his death. This isfurther proven when the boy, after having seen the card announcing the death ofthe priest, thinks it “strange that neither he nor the day seemed in amourning mood and he even felt annoyed at discovering in himself a sensationof freedom as if he had been freed from something by Father Flynnsdeath”. This feeling of freedom suggests that the boy understood that he was acaptive of Father Flynn, and thereby, also a captive of the church.
With theFathers death, perhaps the death of his captivity came as well. The idea ofreligious bondage can be seen in An Encounter by examining the relationshipbetween the boys and Father Butler. When Leo Dillion is caught reading TheApache Chief in class, “everyones heart palpitated” as Father Butlerfrowns and looks over the pages. Shortly thereafter, the narrator claims that”this rebuke. .
. paled much of the glory of the Wild West. . .
But when therestraining influence of school was at a distance he began to hunger again forwild sensations. . . “. This passage demonstrates the control the church has overthe opinions and thoughts of the narrator. In addition, if Father Butler isconsidered a symbol of the church, the fear felt by the students at the prospectof his disapproval and the freedom they feel when the “restraininginfluence” of the church was at a distance prove the suffocating nature ofreligion.
It is from this stifling existence that the narrator yearns to escape. This is further illustrated when Leo Dillion doesnt appear for the ditch daybecause he worries that they “might meet Father Butler or someone out of thecollege”. Even though Father Butlers influence on the boys thoughtsdwindles when school lets out, he is always in their minds. His presence intheir thoughts, especially at time when they are planning an activity for whichthey could be punished, is a parallel to the feeling of a sinner who worrieswhat Gods punishment will be. These passages prove captivity because thepurpose of ditching class was to escape the rigid and stifling world and to findexcitement in the unknown.
However, even in the midst of the possibility offreedom, the boys cant help but think of what would happen if Father Butlerfound them. In Araby, although there is no clergyman, the theme of religiouscaptivity is still present in Mangans sister, who is a symbol of the VirginMary. Just as a statue of the Madonna is lit from behind, on a pedestal, anddefined in shadow, Mangans sister is lit from a lamp behind a half-openeddoor, while she waits on the steps for her brother to come inside, in theshadows of dusk. Just like the Virgin Mary, Mangans sister is worshiped bythe narrator and therein lies the prison. “Her image accompanied me even inplaces the most hostile to romance”.
The protagonist in Araby is obsessed withMangans sister and can not escape seeing her image everywhere he goes. Thisis further illustrated in the following passage: “I chafed against the work ofschool. At night in my bedroom and by day in the classroom her image camebetween me and the page I strove to read”. In addition the religious imageryconjured by Mangans sister, the bazaar itself is also a religious symbol.
This is shown in the following excerpt from Harry Stones explanation ofsymbolism in Araby: The interior of the building is like a church. The greatcentral hall, circled at half its height by a gallery, contains dark stalls, dimlights, and curtained, jar-flanked sanctuaries. Joyce wants us to regard thistemple as a place of worship (Stone 175). In fact, even the narrator proves tounderstand the religious symbolism when he says “I recognized a silence likethat which pervades a church after a service”. The narrators trip to thebazaar is journey, but even here he can not escape the images of religion.
Evenhere he can not escape the image of the Virgin Mary. He sees a young salesladystanding at a door of one of the stalls, flirting with two men. This isparalleled by the image of Mangans sister standing in her doorway flirtingwith the narrator. When he realizes the parallelism, he experiences an epiphany. His worshiped angel is only a girl, just like the ordinary girl who standsbefore him now (Stone 175). When he realizes how he has been deceiving himself,his “eyes burned with anguish and anger”.
When the boy realizes the hold thechurch has had on him, he feels enraged and disgusted. Religious imagery and theuse of religion as a captor from which the protagonists yearn to escape can beseen in each of the first three stories of Dubliners. Just as Father Flynnhaunts the boy in The Sisters, and the boys in An Encounter can not escape thepresence of Father Butler, the protagonist of Araby is obsessed with Manganssister and can not escape seeing her image everywhere he goes. All threecharacters are haunted and all three desire freedom.
In The Sisters, thisfeeling is articulated in the protagonists feeling of freedom that came withthe death of Father Flynn. In An Encounter, it is expressed with his desire to”break out of the weariness of school-life for one day at least”. In Araby,this craving for freedom is not realized until the narrators epiphany when hefinally understands the hold the church has had on him. Because the threestories use religion as a prison, they can be seen as a set.
BibliographyFriedrich, Gerhard. “The Perspective of Joyces Dubliners. “Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism: Volume 35. Ed. Paula Kepos. Detroit: GaleResearch Inc.
, 1990. 166-169. Levin, Harry. “James Joyce: A CriticalIntroduction. ” Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism: Volume 35.
Ed. PaulaKepos. Detroit: Gale Research Inc. , 1990. 159-164. Stone, Harry.
” Arabyand the Writings of James Joyce. ” Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism: Volume35. Ed. Paula Kepos. Detroit: Gale Research Inc. , 1990.