Epiphanies In Dubliners Essay

2240 words - 9 pages

Dubliners begins on a dismal note. The first story, “Two Sisters” opening sentence begins with: “There was no hope for him this time” (9) referring to the dead Father Flynn and through the course of reading the fifteen stories in Dubliners the reader discovers there is no hope for any of the characters in any of the stories. The lives of Joyce’s Dubliners and Ireland itself has been defined by the Roman Catholic influence on the people, English rule and the Irish’s own struggle for political and cultural independence and self- identity. The characters in James Joyce’s Dubliners have all been weighed down and caught up not only in the oppression of these external institutions but also by the oppression within themselves and their families. Joyce’s Dubliners, as they go through the routine of their everyday lives, have these moments, these glimpses into themselves and their lives that Joyce defined as “epiphanies.” These epiphanies occur in the normal course of daily life, usually as a result of an incidence where the character suffers some type of disillusionment or disappointment. In all of these instances the character sees his or her life and the futility of it. This moment produces a clarity and recognition that this misery, pain and sadness are their existence. Joyce creates characters that desire someone or something and then sets up challenges for them that they have to overcome in order to break free from the routine and sadness of their lives. It is in these moments, these epiphanies, when for the first time, the truth of their lives is revealed to these characters and to the reader. However, instead of seizing the moment, breaking away and out of the frustration and despair of their lives, they are seized by it. The power of that instant, the power of what it would take to change, to break free of the oppression, renders each of them into various states of paralysis. They lose the moment, unable to move or change their lives and go on to continue living lives of darkness and drudgery. In describing Dubliners, Joyce wrote to his publisher that it was his intention:
“to write a chapter of the moral history of my country and I chose Dublin for the scene because that city seemed to be the centre of paralysis…I have written in for the most part in a style of scrupulous meanness....”
Joyce structures the stories chronologically, following the lives of these Dubliners from childhood into adolescence, adulthood and finally into what he calls public life. This chronology allows him to establish the various phases of disillusionment, disappointment and ultimately paralysis in the lives of Dubliners and ultimately Dublin itself. Joyce’s characters are disappointed and disillusioned children who go on to become paralyzed adults living lives of isolation, anger and disappointment. An example of disappointment, disillusionment and ultimately paralysis is seen in his childhood section in the character of the boy in “An Encounter”. The...

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