“Dubliners,” a collection of 15 short stories, is Joyce’s second work. In these stories he deals progressively with crucial episodes of childhood, adolescence, young adulthood, maturity, family life, and public life in Dublin. From the short stories in “Dubliners,” it can be seen that there are similar symbolization of Dublin life appearing throughout each of the stories. We will look up what kind of symbolization of Dublin life was made and ultimately what Joyce intended to show us with this. Firstly, Dublin is a dull place to live.
In “Eveline,” a man from Belfast buys a field, which Eveline used to play in as a child, and builds houses on it. However, the houses he builds are unlike the “little brown houses,” and they have “bright bricks with shining roofs. ” (20) The houses symbolize the dullness of Dublin whereas this man from Belfast is more “colorful” and “exciting,” which is symbolized by the houses he builds. The boys in “An Encounter” want to escape their monotonous lives.
By means of escaping, they read books about the “Wild West” and play games like “Cowboys and Indians. The summer holidays are approaching when the boys make up their minds to “break out of the weariness of school-life for one day at least. ” (9) The boys plan a “day’s miching” to escape their dull lives and strict teachers. They go on an “adventure” across the Liffey and watch the ships as they dock and the sailors on the ships. Other characters use different means of escaping their mundane lives. In “Counterparts,” Farrington is bored with his job as a clerk: “His body ached to do something, to rush out and revel in violence. ” (58)
He is not satisfied with his job and his home-life and despises his boss; he feels the need to do something to vent his frustration. His way to solve this is drinking, and he finally has to pawn his watch-chain to finance his escape-route. Now we know one of symbolization of Dublin life is dullness. When we retrospect our own lives, there has always been something dull, monotonous and mundane that we could not resist. With this approach to practical use of literature, it can be said that Joyce was not only talking about Dublin life but also impliedly talking about everyone’s real and present life.
Secondly, another symbolization of Dublin life is poverty. Most of the characters in the stories are poor. Polly in “The Boarding House” is poor. Although her mother owns a boarding house, she will not be able to support Polly forever. We can notice that Polly is not well educated; she had a job as a typist but had to be taken away because: “A disreputable sheriff’s man used to come every other day… asking to be allowed to say a word to his daughter… ” (39) Polly’s mother and Father are separated, and Mrs. Mooney takes her home and sets her to housework at the boarding house.
It seems that she will never make anything of herself, and she needs a man to “keep her” in order for her to survive. Because of the poverty of Dublin, Polly seduces Mr. Doran – possibly because he would become a good husband. Polly’s mother, Mrs. Mooney said nothing about the affair until she judged it to be the right moment when Mrs. Mooney intervenes and talks to Mr. Doran about marrying her daughter. The “right moment” is when Mr. Doran would have no choice but to ask Polly to marry him. It can be seen that there is much pain and suffering in Dublin, which may be caused by the poverty of the characters.
Eveline suffers at the hands of her father: “Latterly he had begun to threaten her and say what he would do to her… ” (21) It is mainly because of money that Eveline and her father “squabble”; she needs to buy foods while he does not want to give her his “hard-earned money. ” Farrington’s son in “Counterparts” suffers at his hands. Due to Farrington’s frustration and drinking, at the end of the story he lashes out at his son and strikes at him “viciously” with a stick: “The boy uttered a squeal of pain as the stick cut his thigh. ” (63) He is drunk and frustrated because he nearly got fired from his job.
His wife has gone to chapel, and his son has not lit the fire. He is furious at this and lashes out at the nearest thing to him. Poverty, not specifically meaning the poverty of Dublin, is closely related to our real lives as well. Poverty does not necessarily mean desperation but also means hope. Basically, the poor manage to get along dreaming of an idealistic life. Whether we are poor or not, we also dream of a better life than the one we have now. However, we never realize if we really reach the life we have dreamt of and eventually dream of another better life.
This seems really ironic, but Joyce tried to show us that it always happens in our real lives. Namely, the real poverty is in our minds. Thirdly, Joyce paints a very negative picture of Dublin life for the characters that live in. The city itself and religion paralyze them. Joyce actually says of “Dubliners”: “James Joyce calls the series ‘Dubliners’ to portray the soul of that hemiplegia or paralysis, which many consider a city. ” (“An Introduction to James Joyce’s Dubliners”) It is a theme, which is introduced right at the beginning and runs throughout the book.
But there is hardly a short story, which is untouched by this theme. Basically, the paralysis is physical, but he deals with many other types of paralysis. At the beginning of “Eveline,” he writes: “She sat at the window watching the evening invade the avenue… She was tired. ” (20) This is physical paralysis. Eveline is sitting at the window, and she is not moving but watching because she is tired. In “A Little Cloud,” Little Chandler is professionally paralyzed. He works in the King’s Inns, a law office, and he is bored with his job: “He often turned from his tiresome writing to gaze out of the office window. (44) When Little Chandler thinks of life “he became sad, as always. ” (44) Due to the boredom of his job, Little Chandler gets bored with his own life and begins to think, which paralyze him from doing what he wants to do. Another character that is professionally paralyzed is Farrington in “Counterparts. ”
Like Little Chandler, Farrington is also bored with his job as an office clerk in a law office. Farrington believes that his boss does not like him, and this is another reason why he does not like his job: “But they had never pulled together from the first, he and Mr. Alleyne. (59) The boy in “The Sisters” is verbally paralyzed. The adults around him tease and taunt him about the death of his friend, the priest, to get a reaction. However, the boy does not wish to satisfy them by saying anything about the priest and is forced to be quiet. “I crammed my mouth with stirabout for fear I might give utterance to my anger. ” (2) The boy has to fill his mouth with something so that he does not give in to his anger and say something that he would regret and therefore he becomes verbally paralyzed. Mr. Duffy in “A Painful Case” shows romantic paralysis.
He has no companions, friends, church, and creed, and his life is “an adventureless tale. ” (71) That is until he meets Mrs. Sinico, and they become very good friends However, when Mrs. Sinico takes things too far by passionately pressing his hand to her cheek, Mr. Duffy rejects her. He avoids going to concerts for fear of meeting her, and he falls back into his old routine and has no companions or friends. After all, the reader gets the feeling that he will go through the rest of his life with no one because of his romantic paralysis; he does not seem to have the ability to have a romantic relationship with anyone.
Religious paralysis is another type of paralysis that can be seen in “An Encounter. ” The boys are prevented from having fun because of religion. They attend a Roman Catholic school and are taught by priests. The Priests are regarded as people who want to force the children from having fun and adventure; they are a constraining force and symbolize the church: “Everyone’s heart palpitated as Leo Dillon handed up the paper… ” (9) The boys try to escape their lives through books on the “Wild West” because of the paralysis of religion. Needless to say, paralysis apparently exists in our lives.
Joyce shows us a variety of paralysis that could exist in every part of a real life and that could negatively affect our daily lives. Paralysis is various; likewise, there are also various ways to get rid of it. As we can see each character in “Dubliners” has his or her own way to deal with paralysis, it is crucial to know what kind of paralysis we carry on and how to get rid of it in our own ways. Joyce might want the readers to know that by showing a variety of paralysis that could possibly exist and each character’s cumbersome process to get over it.
Overall, Joyce’s characters try to find ways to escape their everyday mundane lives like the boys in “An encounter” through books about the “Wild West”; Farrington in “Counterparts” escapes his life and the job that he hates through drinking alcohol like Little Chandler in “A Little Cloud. ” Eveline tries to escape with Frank to Buenos Ayres, but when it comes down to it, Dublin and her life have such a strong hold on her that she cannot leave. This seems to be true for all the characters in these short stories. Actually, none of them gets out of Dublin, and they all carry on with their mundane lives.
What does all this implicate to us? Lastly, we get to know Dublin is not the glamorous and spectacular city that we thought and expected, and Joyce shows us the real Dublin. In other words, Dublin life represents the real life we live in. Joyce tried to make us realize that there is neither Utopia nor Heaven in our real lives and that we must deal with our real and present lives because even though we do reach the idealistic life we have dreamt of, we cannot realize we are already there. Our lives always try us out in many different ways – physically, professionally, verbally, romantically, and religiously.