Initially published in 1914, Dublin collects 15 short stories all Written by James Joyce. Virtually all the stories carry a bulky reflection of the middle class life encounters in the beginning years of the 20th century in Ireland around Dublin. Coincidentally, around this time Ireland was undergoing intensive process of nationalism awareness.
Consequently, the process of searching for a common national identity was at the peak. Various ideas coupled with influences afflicted the much-needed balance between culture and history. It is in these contexts that perhaps the Joyce’s perceptions of epiphany: a period within which some certain characters become illuminated, forms an essential trait of all the short stories contained in Dublin.
The initial stories in the larger extent reflect children protagonists. The latter stories, however, progress to address stories of gradually older people indicative of transitory stages of life: childhood, adolescence and later maturity. It is argued in the paper that stage of life of an individual is a key determiner of an individual’s perceptions of nationalism. The concern of this paper is, however, on children protagonist stories: The Encounter and The Sisters.
National symbols are significant for young people to ape from in pursuits of inculcation of nationalism spirit. However, reading The Sisters, from Dublin creates a different impression. In fact, The Sisters present tantalizing mysteries. As Benstock argues, the priest is in near state of mind breakdown as he is in the verge of losing the faith that he proclaimed in the church (32).
In this context, it stands out significant to argue that church give rise to a dangerous corrosive force. The short story provides a literary comparison of father Flynn and a boy whose name is widely not mentioned. The priest, having being relieved of the noble tasks of priesthood, acts as the mentor of the boy. The story onsets initiates by reflections of flashbacks of a boy who attempts to come into terms with illness and demise of father Flynn.
As Norris puts it, borrowing from the “flashbacks and memories scattered through the story, Father Flynn is shown to have been an intellectual priest strong religious vocation, but unable to cope with the mundane daily routine of being a parish priest – which finally led to his collapse” (Norris Suspicious readings of Joyce’s Dubliners 12).
The boy, being the narrator of the story, is an admirer of farther Flynn and closely profiled his traits and advices. However, the boy later feels immense pity coupled with guilt for not having checked on him as his days neared to end.
From the child’s environment, father Flynn is depicted in the short story as a hero and a likely vessel for propulsion of positive qualities of a real nationalist. Nevertheless in the adulthood environment: which is concealed from the narrator, father Flynn emerges as a complete failure.
As Benstock reckons, “his death is regarded with relief… considered to have been a miserable example from which the boy must be preserved” (33). His death consequently, widely curtails the extension and imitation of destructive influences to the society: erosion of religious values coupled with lose of faith.
The boy contemplates the word “gnomon” in relation to “paralysis” and “simony”. This depicts the story as reflective of priesthood approaches of the East from which father Flynn defers. In this context, “gnomon” stands out as, not just a symbol erosion of faith, but also forecast that young people under mentorship of people like father Flynn are likely to have Eastern influences (Norris Suspicious readings of Joyce’s Dubliners 104).
Joyce, despite being born in a strong Christian religious catholic family remained as a pessimist of religious hypocrisy. Through The Sisters, it is perhaps evident that Joyce advocates the replacement of religious values as they relate to the determination of peoples role models by liberal and intellectual mentors. This being the way forward to achievement of a subtle state of nationalism widely sort by Ireland in the early twentieth century.
Joyce extended the theme of religious battles to The Encounters from The Sisters. Somewhat similar to The Sisters, The Encounters” is also narrated a by a boy. The boy and his friend go to seek adventure in the shores. The boy claims, “The mimic warfare of the evening became at last as wearisome to me as the routine of school in the morning because I wanted real adventures to happen to myself.
But real adventures, I reflected, do not happen to people who remain at home: they must be sought abroad” (Bloom 38). In this context, the story brings into the lime light the people’s perception about external influences in the definition of their nationalism with what Ireland was battling.
The larger concern of the short story is based on a trip. Through the trip, the boy encounters numerous social events. Although he is at an early phase of his life, he can come into terms with some of the situations that involved segregation and subdivision of the national population into distinct groups. As a way of exemplification, some boys “are mistaken for Protestants by local children” (Norris Dubliners: Authoritative Text, Contexts, Criticism 258).
The boy narrator also appreciates that he notices that some children were enormously poor and “ragged”. Arguably, church retained hypocrisy by the fact that they acerbated the perception that by belonging to a differing religious denomination makes people different from their counterparts, yet they live in one nation. The feeling of oneness is also from another dimension impaired by the economic and social disparities in The Encounter.
While religious leaders in The Sisters are depicted as being insubordinate influences to young people, in The Encounters, on the other hand, old people who are supposed to act as the mentors of young people are pinpointed as being a real source of counterfeit influences. When the boy and his friend Mahoney decides to go exploring Dublin and fails to get anything funny they encounter an old man. As the story unfolds, the old man is an ideal sexual pervert.
The man exposes enormous sexual fantasies to the boy who does not know that such things existed. As a repercussion, the boy gets so frightened. “At one point, the man excuses himself, and it is implied that he touches himself before returning to the boys” (Norris Dubliners: Authoritative Text, Contexts, Criticism 301). However, there is no explicit textual proof provided to deduce that the man engages in masturbation. This perhaps extends the Joyce’s use of the gnomon as evidenced in many of her short stories.
In conclusion, Joyce’s short stories that utilize the children protagonists give the feeling that old people serve within the society as corrupt influences to the young people. Those who are supposed to mentor them introduce religious prejudices, hypocrisy and undue social behavior to children at an early age.
Dublin tales present a society struggling to establish a harmonizing environment for religious differences like protestant and catholic violence, blazing Irish poverty and other discriminatory perceptions. Arguably, these constitute substantial impediments to perceptions of nationalism by the virtue that they erode the spirit of national unity.
Benstock, Bernard. “The Sisters and the Critics.” James Joyce Quarterly 4.1(1966): 32–35. Print.
Bloom, Harold. James Joyce’s Dubliners. New York: Chelsea House, 1988. Print.
Norris, Margot. Dubliners: Authoritative Text, Contexts, Criticism. New York: Norton, 2006. Print.
Norris, Margot. Suspicious readings of Joyce’s Dubliners. Pennsylvania: University of Pennsylvania press, 2003. Print.