Dubliners by James Joyce

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paralysis

In the opening story of James Joyce’s Dubliners we have The Sisters and the theme of religion and paralysis. Joyce looking at the relationship between Ireland and the Catholic Church and the state of paralysis between the two. The story tells the tale of a young unnamed boy and his relationship with an elderly catholic priest at the turn of the 20th century and the difficulties the young boy feels because of the priest’s death. The narrator of the story, the young boy who remains nameless, starts with openness which can be interpreted as innocence and finishes withdrawn, with not knowing how to react to the priest’s death. He introduces us to the story and eventually the narrative is taken over by one of the sisters Eliza, in the form of the third person. The effect achieved by Joyce by doing this (switching narrators) is that if gives a sense of detachment. This is deliberate as Joyce is highlighting the wide gap that existed between people at the time and the Catholic Church. Joyce alludes to the Holy Trinity several times in the story by way of numbers. The Sisters has three women, the narrators Aunt, Nannie and Eliza. It has narrative from three men, the boy, the uncle and Old Cotter. And the reader is introduced to three priests, Father Flynn, Father O’Rourke, and the third priest who helped Father O’Rourke search for Father Flynn in the church when he missed an appointment, only to be found laughing to himself in the confession box. There are also three people reading the R.I.P notice on the crape bouquet hanging on the shutters of the Drapery. Academically it has been suggested that Father Flynn had syphilis, that he was mad, but there are some critics who believe that what Joyce does in describing Father Flynn throughout The Sisters is describe him as an old fumbling man (the snuff incident and falling asleep with the breviary), symbolising the archaic and not useful role of the Catholic Church in people’s lives. A church led by old men. When Father Flynn is laughing to himself in the confession box Joyce is ridiculing the act of the confessional, how ridiculous he thought it was that absolution could be given by another human being. Though Old Cotter and the Uncle are only minor players in the story, both disapproving of the relationship between the boy and the priest, Joyce still gives them a voice. This angers the boy and he tells the reader that he thinks Cotter is an imbecile. Who are Cotter and the Uncle supposed to represent? If you look at the conversation between both men, it deals entirely with the body – the leg of mutton, the exercise, and not the spiritual or the philosophical. While Father Flynn and the other the priests represent the spiritual, Old Cotter and the Uncle represent the body. The symbolism of the chalice being broken and then having one in the priests coffin (empty) is Joyce highlighting to the reader the difficulty of spiritualism and symbolism within the Catholic Church. It is too lofty an ideal for an ordinary man and that is how Joyce describes Father Flynn throughout the story. He is described as a normal, ordinary and flawed man. He is not a saint, though the boy likes him he can see some of Father Flynn’s character defects; he is simply human like the rest of the characters in The Sisters. No one according to Joyce is worthy of the blood of Christ. No man can drink from this chalice. As a result of Father Flynn’s death the young boy is learning to think for himself, though these interpretive thoughts still have to mature. And though he is highly observant he is still too young to work things out for himself. Joyce cleverly using the young boy in The Sisters as symbolism for an Ireland without the Catholic Church. the sisters

In the opening story of James Joyce’s Dubliners we have The Sisters and the theme of religion and paralysis. Joyce looking at the relationship between Ireland and the Catholic Church and the state of paralysis between the two. The story tells the...
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