Christian Symbolism in James Joyce's the Sisters

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James Joyce's "The Sisters" is full of Christian symbolisms. They play a very important part in the story because the symbolism accomplishes the story (by giving new meanings to things/behaviors) and most important-helps us understand it better. While reading "The Sisters" carefully and looking "between the lines" for things (with symbolic meaning) that are only hinted at and not said openly we can discover many interesting things that can bee seen only by understanding the symbols' meanings. One of the first symbols in the story is in the Father Flynn character (he is a priest). The Church is symbolized by the priest because he stands for all the clergy of the Catholic Church. He has followed the rules of the church, he has tried to "educate" young boys (the narrator tells that the priest had taught him a great deal as Latin, the different ceremonies of the Mass etc) he has sat listening to confessions, he has handled the chalice "…he had explained to me the meaning of the different ceremonies of the Mass…"(3). The mad priest has symbolic resonance, suggesting that the church itself become a senile and raving institution, with a dark past that that has yet to be answered for. -2-

The symbol of the broken chalice is one of the most important symbols in the story because it symbolizes the corruptive behavior of the priest. The chalice is the most important vessel in the Catholic Church used in the Eucharist and according to church dogma holds the blood of Christ. It is when the chalice breaks that priest's eyes got open to the truth about an institutionalized religion. "`It was that chalice he broke... That was the beginning of it" (7). The priest realized that it was empty, that like the chalice the entire religion was empty. "… Of course, they say it was all right, that it contained nothing, I mean. But still..." (7). From that moment his abnormal behavior and mental deterioration began. The boy later refers to this latter object as the...
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