An Analytical View on the Themes of Dubliners ?>

An Analytical View on the Themes of Dubliners

Bhuyashi Pathak

Abstract:
James Joyce’s “Dubliners” published in 1914 comprising fifteen short stories exhibit the innovative skill of the writer. This collection was written at the time of the grim stagnation and paralysis connected with Irish Nationalist Movement, which sought cultural, political and economic liberation from the clutches of Great Britain. The stories centre round the characters of lower middle class – shopkeepers, tradesman, clerks, swindlers, bank officials, salesman etc. Dublin is presented as a prison in which characters are languished to suffer from poverty, dissatisfaction in job and loveless life. The population of Dublin was predominantly Catholic but the protestant minority composed the upper level of society on the pretext of having unquestionable loyalty to Britain.

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Introduction
James Joyce’s Dubliners contains fifteen portraits of life set in Dublin itself with correctness and precision that was innovative at time of the Book’s writing Dubliners peeps into the homes, hearts and minds of people whose lives connect and intermingle through the shared space and spirit of Dublin. The subtle connections in the stories create a sense of shared experience and evoke a map of Dublin life that Joyce would employ in his later works of fiction: A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Ulysses, and Finnegans Wake. Although the stories of the collection sketch daily situations, they present intricate dramas of life with simple plots. In Dubliners, he has not procured the techniques of mimetic narrative (feature of a Portrait) or stream – of – consciousness (ulysses) but he set at ease the way here for those technical break through.

The Stories of Dubliners are connected into a framework chronologically developing “Stages of man” for he has planned first three stories each to deal with younger protagonists and moves forward into stories gradually increasing in ages: adolescence, mature life, public life and married life respectively. The final story “The Dead” weaves together many of the previous themes of the book.

Objectives
1. To show spiritual as well as physical paralysis of the protagonists of “Dubliners”.
2. To present the inabilities of the characters of the collection to free themselves from
the imprisoned life of Dublin and move forward.
3. To highlight the negative impact of colonization and treachery of English brought out to
the cultural, political and economic development of Ireland.

Paralysis
James Joyce opinied, “my intention was to write a chapter of the moral history of my country and I chose Dublin for me the centre of Paralysis.” (James Joyce, letters, II 134) Ireland was ruled by Great Britain at the time and her cultural, political and economic development was controlled by the British. As a Second Nation, Ireland’s progress was hindered which exerted paralyzing effect upon the citizens of country? In Dubliners, the character’s paralysis is transmitted by their family life, catholism, economic situations and their vulnerability to political forces. The paralysis is psychological also. The theme of paralysis is introduced in the very first story that runs to the last story in the collection. In the story “The Sisters”, Spiritual paralysis becomes the cause of death of Father Flynn. His failure in complying with his responsibilities as a member of the Catholic Church, eventually lead him to death. Again the nameless boy, the narrator of the same story, illustrate his state of paralysis in his inability to verbalize his feeling about the death of Father Flynn with whom he had an intimacy; Poor Eveline in the story titled after her name is too scared to leave Ireland and sees her lover as a possible source of danger: “All the seas of the world tumbled about her heart. He [Frank] was drawing her into them: he would drown her. “But her paralysis is going to cost her a certain and bright future and may force her to repeat her mother’s sad life story. The main character in the story “Clay”, Maria is also unable to move forward in her life. She has to devote her life in tedious work for little money. Her selection of clay in Hallow Eve game presents pathetic state of Maria’s life, she is “dead in life.” The drunkenness of the uncle in “Araby” has a paralyzing effect on the boy. The protagonists of “A Little Cloud”, “The Dead” venture forward, but return home bereft of their paralyzing state of mind. Again corruption is closely related to paralysis as it is barrier to progress of Nation. Corruption is prevalent in Dubliners as paralysis. It could be defined as resulting from a kind of spiritual and moral death.

The themes of defeat, entrapment, powerlessness and stasis are weaved together to show the helplessness and pathetic condition of the citizens of Dublin, Ireland. British Colonialization had brought oppression and indignation that handicapped the lives of the Dubliners. In many stories, characters are so trapped by their conditions that struggling seems pointless. In “Counterparts”, for example, Farrington is allowed one moment of triumph when he publicly humiliates his tyrannical boss. But he is made to offer an “abject apology” to his superior at work and he certainly does so because he cannot take the risk of losing his job since so few are available. After this incident he becomes so frustrated that he gets violently drunk and wastes all the money in the evening. Finally he asserts his dominance at home by beating his son.
Perversity and depravity exist through stasis in all the stories of Dubliners. Stasis for instance plays a negative impact on little chandler of “A little Cloud.” Unrecoverable vaccum is created because of unrequited love in the life of the Protogonists as shown in “Araby” and “The Dead”.
Entrapment arised out of hesitation to proceed forward is dominant in the life of the characters of the Dubliners. The protagonists of “An Encounter”, “Araby”, the young women of Eveline and most of the character are in some way imprisoned. The entrapment is often caused by a combination of circumstances: Poverty, social pressure, family situation etc.
Poverty
Most of the character of Dubliners is on the verge of poverty. Poverty encompassed such a wide range that the characters fret about keeping even miserable jobs. For instance in “The Boarding House”, Mr. Doran fails to avoid the trap of marrying polly, although he knows the dread of such marriage in fear of losing his job in social disgrace. Maria in “clay” veinlessly spends a good chunk of money of her salary for a humble treat to make her evening fruitful. Lenehan, the swindler in “Two Gallants” is pathetically aimless in want of a job. In “counterparts” Farrington is unable to resign from his job even though he has grown violently furious regarding his boss” dominant behaviour. We get glimpses of proverty in “ragged girls” and “ragged boys” of “An Encounter” and the “rough tribes from the cottages” in “Araby”. Thus Joyce explores the negative affects poverty has on the character.

Isolation
The outcome of mundane routine of the Dubliners is isolation. In most of the times isolation is the result of unrequited love and self-deception. For example, in “A painful case” Mr. Duffy Cowardly repels his own inpulses by breaking his committed relationship with a sensitive woman Mrs. Sinico and ultimately finds himself into a sterile life. In “The Dead” Gretta Conroy has enraptured listening a song toward the last of the party. This makes her husband Gabriel Conroy to feel proud of his happy married life thinking her emotional outpouring is for none other but to him. But Gretta’s confession to her husband about her first love make the later realize that he has little grasp on her life and his marriage lacks true love.

Isolation
The outcome of mundane routine of the Dubliners is isolation. In most of the times isolation is the result of unrequited love and self-deception. For example, in “A painful case” Mr. Duffy Cowardly repels his own inpulses by breaking his committed relationship with a sensitive woman Mrs. Sinico and ultimately finds himself into a sterile life. In “The Dead” Gretta Conroy has enraptured listening a song toward the last of the party. This makes her husband Gabriel Conroy to feel proud of his happy married life thinking her emotional outpouring is for none other but to him. But Gretta’s confession to her husband about her first love make the later realize that he has little grasp on her life and his marriage lacks true love.

The Define for Escape
The longings of the many of the characters for escape and adventure in other countries is one of the dominant themes of “Dubliners”. The protagonists are however incapable to actualizing such longings. Bored with the drudgery of lessons, the school boy of “An Encounter” dreams of the American Wild West to escape from the Dublin tedium. When imaginary games fail to fulfill his longings, he moves out to explore Dublin with his friend Mahony only to encounter fear. Little Chandler in “A Little Cloud” aspires to be a poet after hearing the exciting and envious account of Gallahar’s Career in London and Paris. He imagines freedom from his domestic restraints but feels ashamed about his thoughts and resumes his situation.

The Intersection of Life and Death
Death is another theme a natural consequence of Joyce’s stages –of-life three. The stories of the collection focus on the meeting point between life and death. Conflict between the death and the living delineated in “The Sisters” and “A Painful Case”, explicity explore this meeting point showing what kind of aftershocks a death can bring for the living. Mr. Duffy for example in “A Painful Case” condemns himself for cutting his intimate relationship with Mrs. Sinico four years later when he learns about her accidental death (probably suicide), while the nameless narrator of “The Sisters” get confused how to expressed his feelings at the death of the priest. In the other stories like “Eveline”, “Ivy Day in the committee Room” and the “The Dead”, memories of deal haunt the living and color every action.

Betrayal and Colonialization
Deception, treachery mare almost every relationship in the stories of Dubliners. In “The Boarding House” Mrs. Mooney traps Mr. Doran, a successful clerk to marrying her unpolished daughter which he could not refuse to purse. In “Two Gallants”, both the swindlers Lenehan and Corley suspect each other of cheating and scheming, though Lenehan assists the later to dupe innocent housemaids for their livelihood. Gabriell feels betrayed at his wife’s intense recollection of a former lover.

The impact of British Colonialization is perceived by Joyce in “After the Race” in indirect way. Jimmy the protagonist of the story is thrilled with European sophistication and tries to bask in its reflected glory. In “Ivy Days in the committee Room” many Irish held the British responsible for the downfall of Charles Steward Parnell, the leader of the Irish Nationalist Movement. This movement failed when Parnell was betrayed by his own countrymen.

Conclusion
The stories of the Dubliners yield insight into entrapment, frustration and psychological paralysis. Like Russain nineteenth century writer Anton Checkov, Joyce’s stories, although seem to be apparently plotless pierce deep into the untrodden aspects of human life. Joyce was the first to see such stories as epiphanic and the geographical and themetical link make them a single work of transcendental art. He considers Dublin, Ireland as a place of contamination, deterioration, perversity and depravity. These characteristics knit the stories together into a web of place time and meaning. Each successive story gains in momentum and weight by virtue of following those that comes before.

Bibliography
1. “Interpretations of Dubliners: A collection of Crtical Essays”, Peter K. Garret,
Englewood Cliffs, NJ, Prentice – Hall 1968.
2. “James Joyce: A collection of Critical Essays”, Ed. Mary T. Reynolds 1993.
3. “Suspicious Reading of Joyce’s Dubliners”, Norris Margot Philadelphic university of
Pennysylvania Press 2003.
4. Internet.

The writer is the Assistant Professor, Bhuyashi Pathak, Department of English, U N Brahma College Kajalgaon

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