Dubliners is a series of short stories written by James Joyce. Joyce wrote these stories so that the can represent the people of Dublin and their paralysis during different stages of life. According to Joyce, the first stage is childhood, the second stage is young adulthood, and the final stage is mature life. In the childhood stage, the first three stories are told by different characters who are attempting to escape from their situation, but in the end they become trapped and are unable to leave the life of Dublin.
Joyce is able to enhance his theme of moral and spiritual paralysis by using; character development, symbolism, repetition and irony in his first three stories. To begin with there are many examples that illustrate how the characters in the stories change. For example, in “The Sisters,” Joyce demonstrates how the narrator’s character is very active in the beginning. For instance, when Old Cotter speaks poorly about Father Flynn, the boy is angry by this comment and calls Old Cotter a “tiresome, old red nosed imbecile! (Joyce 3).
The narrator’s remark shows that he is still a child but at the same time this remark demonstrates that he respects Father Flynn. Unfortunately, towards the end the boy withdraws from the story, he now only listens to the comments from his mother and the sisters but he doesn’t say anything. The boy’s inability to speak illustrates paralysis, which in part is due to the death of Father Flynn. Also, inn “An Encounter” Joyce shows how the narrator is paralyzed, which makes him unable to escape from a horrible situation.
In the beginning of the story the character is portrayed as “younger and more timid” (Joyce 12) when compared to Dillon and the other boys. Furthermore, the narrator is different when compared to his friend Mahony; this is because Mahony is able to escape the old man that the narrator is trapped with. While the old man is talking to the narrator, the narrator is envious of Mahony because he has the courage to leave. The old man turns out to be a pervert and robs the narrator of his childhood innocence by the way he talks.
Again, the narrator character remains the same because he lacks courage to break away from an uncomfortable setting. Similarly, in “Araby” Joyce once more demonstrates paralysis using the narrator’s character development. The story of “Araby” illustrates a boy’s struggle from childhood to adulthood. In the beginning of the story, the narrator appears to be shy and wishes to talk to Mangan’s sister, but all he ever does is secretly watch her from the window, longing to talk to her (Joyce 22). When the opportunity arises the narrator is ecstatic because he has a chance of loving if he brings back a gift.
Unfortunately, when the narrator reaches the bazaar he is too late because the bazaar has closed. At this point the boy’s change in character is visible. The boy’s character goes from a state of hope to a state of giving up. In other words, since he gave up on love, the narrator has become paralyzed, just like the characters became paralyzed in the other stories. Another literary tool that Joyce uses to illustrate that the characters are trapped is irony. In “The Sisters,” Joyce uses chalice as an object to illustrate irony.
The latter is because at one point Father Flynn dropped and broke the chalice. Now that he is dead he is unable to hold the chalice in his coffin. This indicates that religious rituals can lead to paralysis. Also, In “An Encounter” the narrator plans to ditch school and go to the pigeon house with some of his friends. When it is time to meet, it is only the narrator and Mahony who are there, their friend Dillion never arrived (Joyce 14). This is ironic because Dillon always appears brave because he always wins during their ‘Cowboy and Indian’ games.
Like the previous character Dillon is paralyzed, he is does not break his daily routine. Also, in “Araby” an example of irony is when the main character is at school and he can’t wait to leave to go to the bazaar “he hoped I was not beginning to idle. I could not call my wandering thoughts together. ” (Joyce 23). The word ‘idle’ illustrates a form of childhood paralysis because the main character is trying to characterize himself as an adult, even though he is still in school. Thus, Joyce’s use of irony demonstrates how each of the characters becomes paralyzed.
Moreover, in “The Sisters” the repetition of “light and dark” are mentioned throughout the story. When the boy visits the priest the lighting of the room is “suffused with dusky golden light”, the colors that he uses to describe the priest are all dark colors as well “his face was very truculent, grey and massive, with black cavernous nostrils” (Joyce 6). The description of the priest differs greatly because earlier in the story, when the boy finds out about the Father Flynn’s death he chose to walk on the “sunny side of the street ” he felt “freed from death” (Joyce 4).
Thus, through the illustration of lightness and darkness Joyce is able to show that the boy cannot escape paralysis. Again Joyce uses the same colors to in “Araby” to demonstrate paralysis and hope. For example, at the start of the story everything that the main character and his friends do is in darkness dark lanes, gardens, and stables (Joyce 21). The description of this activity shows that there is no hope for them even when they are playing. Then when the main character sees Mangan’s sister, her description is different, he always sees her in the morning, where there is light, a chance of escape.
Unfortunately, the reader becomes aware that the main character will become paralyzed because toward the end of the story darkness appears again. Furthermore, inn “An Encounter” when the pervert is talking to the narrator he repeats many words like ‘girl’ and ‘whips’. The perverts repetition and monotone voice show that he has done this same ritualistic behavior before, thus, he like the previous characters, is paralyzed and unable to escape from routine. The final literary tool that Joyce utilizes is symbolism. In “The Sisters” the influence of the church serves a symbol for paralysis.
For example, when the narrator and his aunt visit the sisters, the aunt is unable to finish her sentences when she is talking about Father Flynn (Joyce 7). This shows that the power of church stops people from saying what they think. Interestingly enough in the beginning of the story the narrator mentions the words ‘paralysis’ and ‘simony,’ which illustrate the corruption of the church. This is because the Catholic Church offers pardons in exchange for money. Consequently, corruption is closely related to paralysis because it prevents people from moving on with their lives.
Additionally, in “An encounter” many of the situations that are described are both descriptions of escape and paralysis. For example, when the boys are playing ‘Cowboys and Indians’, the narrators mentions that the “Wild West opened doors of escape. ” (Joyce 12) Thus, America serves as a symbol of an opportunity to escape and leave Dublin. Also, when the boys are near the loading dock, Mahony mentions that it would be fun to travel in one of those ships. As a result, the ships serve a symbol for freedom and adventure. Unfortunately, the images of freedom and escape are gone when an old man appears.
The old man turns out to be a pervert who constantly repeats words. Due to this, the narrator becomes trapped, all he does is stare at the ground while to old man continues to talk. Thus, the boy become paralyzed, his plan in ditching school and going on an adventure is stopped because on an encounter. Likewise, an example of symbolism in “Araby” is when the narrator describes his street as ‘blind’, this illustrates that the street was closed at the end of one side; due to this interactions with people that did not live in that street did not occur.
Thus, people trapped in the city unable to go anywhere, and this is what the narrator wants to get away from. Another example is the ‘apple tree’ which is very symbolic because it illustrates the narrator’s hope for love. But, since the tree is located in the ‘wild garden’ this signifies that the tree may not grow properly (Joyce 21). Since the ‘apple tree’ is not in a proper environment this implies that trying new experiences was not supported by the people of Dublin. As a result the use of these literary tools gives a deeper understanding of the first three characters and the paralysis that the people of Ireland experience.