Essay Preview: Dubliners
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There are many themes through this series of short stories, and the theme that I would like to focus on is that of the paralysis the people in this book face while dealing with the circumstances of their lives. Each of the main characters that I will be discussing in this paper suffers with a decision, situation or circumstance which either inhibits their well being or self esteem, their ability to move forward, or causes them the distress over deciding how to move forward.
The first story “The Sisters” is about a young boys struggle to acknowledge and rationalize the death and insanity of an important figure in his life. The narrator arrives home to find that Father James Flynn, his educator and friend, has just passed away. This comes as no surprise to the boy, as Father Flynn had been paralyzed from a stroke for a period of a few months. Mr. Cotter, a friend of the family, and his uncle comment on the narrators relationship with the priest. The narrator is angered by their belief that hes too young to make his own decisions about who he befriends and that he should “run about and play with young lads of his own age.” Later that night, images of death haunt him and he attempts make light of the tormenting face of the deceased priest by “smiling feebly” in hopes of negating his dreadful visions. The following evening, his family visits the house of the old priest and his two caretakers, two sisters, where he lies in wake. There, the narrator must try and rationalize his death and the mystery of his preceding insanity.
Initially, the narrator represses the news of Father Flynns passing and checks his house the next morning just to confirm the truth of his passing. He seems to be paralyzed with the idea that what he has known for so long is now gone, and unable to accept what has happened and that he will no longer have Father Flynn in his life. He finally accepts the fact of the priests passing when he leans over his face, hoping to once again see his warm, friendly smile, but he sees a face of death and all of the energy and life has been drained from his dear friend. The chalice lying in the priests hands is a symbol of his insanity. The shattering of a similar chalice, months ago, was the beginning of Father Flynns abnormal behavior. Most of the themes, symbolism, and change in this short story could be drawn from the realization and acceptance the narrator must go through over the last few months of Father Flynns life, and also his death.
“Araby” tells the story of a boy with an adolescent crush on the sister of his friend, Mangan. The story begins as the narrator, who is also the main character in the book, describing his neighborhood. The reader gets the sense that the boy leads an unhappy life and has a great sense of hopelessness and feeling trapped by his surroundings. Every detail of his neighborhood seems designed to inflict him with the feeling on isolation. He describes his house as suffocating and “musty from being long enclosed.” The wild garden is described as being gloomy and desolate containing nothing but one apple tree and a few straggling bushes. The adults in his life dont pay much attention him and in the story not once is he referred to by his name. He has no choice where he lives or with whom, but yet his surroundings have such a powerful effect on him.
In one particular scene, it was winter and the sun had set before the boy and his friends had eaten dinner. They stayed out in the street as long as they could, however, playing until they were called home. They regularly tried to avoid those who would make them go inside, hiding in the shadows if they saw the narrators uncle or lurking out of sight by the doorstep where Mangans sister stood to call him home to tea. The boy paid close attention to the sister, noting how her braided hair and her dress would toss and swing as she moved, and became infatuated with her.
The narrator describes how he watched the door of Mangans house every morning from behind a nearly closed blind in his own house. He waited to see the sister come out on the doorstep. When she did, he would grab his school books and follow her. Close to the place where their paths diverged, he would hurry to pass her. He performed these same actions morning after morning, but rarely ever spoke to the girl. The narrator remembers how just the mention of her name made his blood rush.
The image of Mangans sister stayed on his mind even in places that were not in keeping with romantic thoughts. During the shopping trips when he had to accompany his aunt and help her carry things, he moved through the crowded noisy streets thinking about Mangans sister and feeling emotions and yearnings he did not quite understand.
Finally, Mangans sister spoke to the boy, asking him if he was going to go to the Araby bazaar. She told him that she wanted to go but she was scheduled to go on a religious retreat at the time the bazaar would be held. The boy promised her that if he went to Araby he would bring her a souvenir. In his mind, he was excited to be able to do something for the object of his desire, and hopefully it would be enough to impress her and take more notice of him. I did not gather, however, that the narrator would have had enough confidence in himself to sustain a relationship with the girl.
After making this promise to the girl, the boy could think of nothing else. His schoolwork and family chores became obstacles to his goal. He lost patience with all of his regular activities, which seemed childish to him and much less important than going to Araby and bringing something back for Mangans sister. After days of waiting and dealing with his uncle who forgot that he was going to the fair, he finally was able to begin his journey to get to Araby. Because of the late hour, he rushed to get to the train and endure a long ride to the bazaar. At ten minutes to ten, the boy finally arrived at the building housing Araby. By the time he arrived, almost all of the vendor stalls were closed, and much of the hall was dark. There were a few people looking at the merchandise of the stalls that were still open. The boy set out on his
mission to buy a gift for Mangans sister.
He went to one of the stalls where the sales girl was talking and laughing with two young men. He listened to the conversation and noted that they all had English accents. When the girl saw him, she came over to ask if he wanted to buy anything. The boy was not encouraged by her tone and so he told her no. The girl went back to chatting with the men but looked toward the boy from time to time. The boy stayed at her stall to show