Religion in James Joyce's Dubliners

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English Literature

Dubliners essay

"Discuss Joyce's treatment of religion and it's importance within the collection of short stories."

Dubliners is a collection of short stories in which the author, James Joyce, presents the lives of several individuals from all ages living in Dublin during the Victorian era. Among several themes that are treated throughout the story, one that we find really often is religion. Indeed, religion played a significant part in the lives of the people at the time, but not in a positive way: religion is often described as suffocating, corrupted, and keeping the characters from escaping their situation. Especially with the priests figures, Joyce presents a strong criticism of religion, and the way it was used in society at the time to control the people.

The first appeareance of religion takes place in the first story, The Sisters: here, the religious figure is Father Flynn, an old priest who just died. We learn that he turned mad because of breaking a chalice: one of the sisters describes finding him: "sitting up by himself in his confession-box, wide-awake and laughing-like softly to himself". Yet, the boy in the story seems unable to break free from the way he was trapped by the priest by religion: even if he feels relief when the priest dies, Flynn's figure follows the boy in his dreams: But the grey face still followed me. It murmured; and I undestood that it desired to confess something. I felt my soul recieding into some pleasant and vicious region; and there again I found it waiting for me." Here, we can see that not only the priest is haunting him, but there also is a sense of perversion and sinisterness; we feel that the relationship between the two characters is unhealthy. We also see how incompetent is the priest here: while he's suppose to bring the boy guidance, the priest is the one who asks for confession.

In An Encounter, there is also a notion of religion, represented by Father Butler: he's the one who...
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