Symbols And Symbolic Language In The Sisters By James Joyce

1656 words - 7 pages

James Joyce is not so much a writer as he is a painter of words. His works appear simplistic at first glance, but under scrutiny they reveal the inner world of a character and the reality of the common man through symbols, metaphors, and sensory analysis. Something as simple as "...the sunny side of the street..." can open a whole new door to one of Joyce's plots. For instance, his short story "The Sisters" in the collection The Dubliners appears to be and innocent and unassuming account through the eyes of a nameless boy of his dealings with the life and death of his friend and informal tutor Father James Flynn. But with subtle hints, visual images, and word play Joyce spreads before the reader the lost hopes of a man who can longer believe in what he, for so long, has held as his purpose in life.To the naïve reader, the story lacks an obvious plot. The first part of the story deals with the broken conversations surrounding Flynn's death and the boy's thoughts on the matter. The middle begins with a dream sequence the boy has and then leads into a day of reminiscence for the boy of the looks and habits of the dead father. The last part takes place at his aunt's house where she and the boy pray over the dead father's body and discuss with his caretaker how the father came to this untimely demise due to a stroke-induced "paralysis." The monosyllabic language and broken thoughts that are the writing style of the story are typical of a young child. In the writing and the usage there appears to be none of the common trappings of a short story plot such as a build-up of events, a climax, or a resolution.Joyce relies heavily on the reader's abilities to infer the meanings of symbols and symbolic language. The priest is mortally ill with what the characters call "paralysis" which was brought on by a series of three strokes. In a more physical sense is body failed him due to the physical "paralysis." This however does not begin and end the plot, or as one understands it the reasons behind the death of Father Flynn. The story's plot lies within the deeper meaning of his "paralysis." That is to say the priest's "paralysis" is more of a spiritual plague than a physical ailment.That this condition should be taken to have a meaning beyond this is indicated to the reader by the association in the boy's mind, of the word "paralysis" with the two other words, "gnomon" from his Euclid, and "simony" from the Catechism. In geometry, a gnomon is that part of a parallelogram which remains after a similar (as opposed to a congruent) parallelogram is taken away from one of its corners. So in this sense the reader is meant to realize that something has been "subtracted" from the priest and left him stagnant. Also gnomon brings to mind geometry, a form of pure math, pure math being what most physicists and mathematicians like to believe is the building blocks of the universe. Thus we can conclude, when these thoughts are connected with the priest's situation that...

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