In his book of short stories, Dubliners, James Joyce employs narrative ellipsis and epiphanies to create a story that teaches us about life in Dublin during the time. Two stories that seem to express these ideas are “A Painful Case” and “Clay.”
“A Painful Case” tells the story of a lonesome, middle-aged man, Mr. Duffy. When it comes to describing Mr. Duffy’s life Joyce is anything but ambiguous, for there is not much to be ambiguous about. Mr. Duffy is very simple. His apartment is relatively plain. He eats at the same eating-house everyday at four o’clock. He doesn’t have friends, nor does he have family. He “abhorred anything which betokened physical or mental disorder” (Joyce 104). His life remains unchanged until the day he meets Mrs. Sinico at a concert they are both attending. This is where Joyce begins his use of narrative ellipsis. Joyce introduces a new character, and tells relatively nothing about her. Mrs. Sinico is married. She has one daughter, and she is around the same age as Mr. Duffy. Mr. Duffy runs into Mrs. Sinico three times before he musters up the courage to ask her to meet him for their fourth encounter. This is the beginning of a new relationship; one of the first relationships Mr. Duffy has had in quite some time, it seems. Joyce describes the nature of their relationship in full detail, “little by little he entangled his thoughts with hers…she listened to all…she became his confessor…” (Joyce 106). However, in his description of Mrs. Sinico Joyce is more than just vague, he seems to purposely leave out basic facts about her life. We know almost nothing about this woman who seems to have captivated the main character, Mr. Duffy. Where does she work? What is her personality like? What does she look like physically? These are things that are left up in the air, up to the reader’s interpretation. Then just as the readers’ ideas about Mrs. Sinico’s person begin to develop, Mr. Duffy ends their relationship at the first sign of physical...
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