Personal Paralysis In Dubliners By James Joyce

1968 words - 8 pages

Personal Paralysis in Dubliners by James Joyce

Imagine being paralyzed; unable to move freely. Most people when they think of paralization, it is connected to the physical. However, paralysis takes on more than one meaning and goes way beyond physicality. There are three definitions from Webster online:

1. Complete or partial loss of function especially when involving the motion or sensation in a part of the body
2. Loss of the ability to move
3. A state of powerlessness or incapacity to act

The first and second definitions are primarily about physical paralysis, however in the first one, “loss of function,” could be any kind of function. The final definition cuts deep because it goes beyond the physical and begins to dip into the psyche. Similar to losing a function, the power lost is ambiguous. Paralysis is weaved in and out of Dubliners through the various plots and characters in each short story. The stories of “The Sisters,” “An Encounter,” and “Eveline,” all portray characters who are stuck within Dublin in their own personal paralysis relative to each individual, either struggling to overcome it and escape, or recognizing their paralysis for the first time. Many readers however, would argue that the characters in these stories are all weak and powerless, and do not try hard enough to fix their problems which is expressed in “Eveline.”

The first story sets the tone for the entire book especially in the beginning paragraph, as James Joyce paints a picture of paralysis:

If he was dead, I thought, I would see the reflection of candles on the darkened blind for I knew that two candles must be set at the head of a corpse. He had often said to me: I am not long for this world, and I had thought his words idle. Now I knew they were true. Every night as I gazed up at the window I said softly to myself the word paralysis…It had always sounded strangely in my ears…But now it sounded to me like the name of some maleficent and sinful being. It filled me with fear, and yet I longed to be nearer to it and to look upon its deadly work. (3)

Immediately a dark and eerie mood is cast with speech of death, darkness, corpses, yet the most intriguing part is that the speaker is familiar with it. Here we have our speaker face to face with his paralysis for the first time. The veil has been lifted from what was once blurred by an ideology. The speaker is now out in the open and out of his cave exposed to the world he thought he identified with. Now begins the mental anguish, and the speaker obsesses over what was once a mere word, that now holds a significance to him personally. He fears the unknown, yet instead of avoiding it, he craves to know his paralysis more. The first time reader would not know why this person is in such a state, and whom the speaker is referring to in this opening paragraph. The experienced reader, however, already knows the plot and can make new connections with...

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